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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Art and the Eleven Plus

Creative writing is part of the syllabus in some eleven plus examinations. Teachers and parents can all help children plan and write a story. Some children will be more successful than others at writing creatively.

We are urged from all sides to suggest to children that they will write better if they write about what they know and have experienced. Writing, however, is a rather complex matter to some children. It is easy to expect a good story to come from a child who reads a lot. Lots of exposure to good stories should, in theory, stimulate creative thoughts.

Other children may find it easier to `talk’ a good story than `write’ a good story. Some children, for example, have a degree of difficulty in communicating in writing where they have no such a problem with being able tell a good story.

Television, videos and the DVD can also provide rich and fertile sources of good story lines.

We are all taught to teach Eleven Plus children that a `story’ needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end. We need to show paragraphs. A story can show higher level thought with some reflection and analysis. Children should be made aware of how potent and effective dialogue can be. Quite simply bright Eleven Plus children can be guided towards writing a creative story strong enough to give pass marks in a competitive examination.

Creative writing then becomes a means to an end. The end is passing the examination.

But creativity is more than words on paper. Why not consider that painting and drawing could be part of the Eleven Plus process? This would force big changes in the way that children were prepared. Think of ten and eleven year old children being able to dip their fingers into paint and being allowed to be creative on paper.

Children could then use fairy tales, stories from T.V., and themes they have encountered in books. Painting could release fantasies that can not be described in mere words. Children could express them selves with symbols for love, fear, devotion – and delve in areas where the written story can not stray.

Visits to art galleries could become the norm – rather than `educative’ visits. Talented art teachers would be recognised and appreciated. Parents would be able to give painting sets for birthday and Christmas presents without any feelings of guilt.

There would be some drawbacks to art being an Eleven Plus subject – but think of the pool of talent that is being masked by questions like:

Select one word which is unlike the others:

Nation, country, tribe, race, people.

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