Mother’s Day is with us today. All round England children will have been thinking of ways to thank their mothers for everything they have done for them. The card they write is in effect a summary of the love they feel towards their mothers.
One advantage of including English in any Eleven Plus examination is that the whole scope of the examination can be extended. Verbal Reasoning looks at ability in a prescribed manner. Some authorities even have a set number of types of reasoning exercises. Most present forms of the eleven plus examinations are set in a multiple choice format. Adding English would require a whole congregation of qualified markers.
Eleven Plus English could include stating the writer’s arguments on a particular topic, giving reasons, commenting on differences or similarities and arguing a case. There may also be a good case for including a test of the ability to summarise.
The skill of writing a summary includes being able to use a broad vocabulary. Many of us will have read Dr. Benjamin Spock. He set out to write a book that took young mothers through a step by step stroll through the troubles they could meet. He included statements like: “All children are relatively self centred and eager for possessions.” This can be summarised in a variety of ways including the rather prosaic: `Children are greedy.’
Summarising can be taught. The eleven year old children would need to be taught to read the entire passage – and then read it again. On the third reading the children would then write a title, and jot down basic thoughts. The skill of summarising then includes using a wide vocabulary, omitting jargon, figurative language and illustrations.
The children would then write a draft in their own words, they would then count the words and then rewrite the summary to produce a polished piece of work.
Compare the intellectual processes involved in this exercise with the thought processes in: “Find the odd one out ….”
What about trying your children out with this Mother’s Day exercise?
Write a summary of the sentiments expressed in this anonymous epitaph in one word:
“Here lies a poor woman who always was tired;
She lived in a house where help was not hired.
Her last words on earth were: “Dear friends, I am going
Where washing ain’t done, nor sweeping nor sewing:
But everything there is exact to my wishes;
For where they don’t eat there is no washing of dishes.
Don’t mourn for me now; don’t mourn for me never –
I’m going to do nothing for ever and ever.”