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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Eleven Plus Answers

Some eleven plus examination boards require a story.

If parents are asked to explain a simple punctuation rule then usually a straightforward and unembellished answer is all that is needed. Naturally a range of explanations will help to clarify the rule. All that parents will expect from that stage onwards is the hope, and expectation, that their child will remember the rule – and apply it when necessary.

Other explanations may require a broader elaboration of meaning. Suppose the eleven plus candidate is asked for a justification of the need for speed cameras. (Should speed cameras be outside all schools?) To explain this would demand a far more sophisticated answer. Parents would then need to try to relate their answer to their child’s current understanding of the rules of the road, different types of speed cameras and whether the word `outside’ means literally that or in close proximity.

I heard recently of a man with seven previous convictions for speeding – but had `gone straight’ after attending a speed awareness course. It is then up to the parent to rule on whether this is relevant to the question. It may be more desirable, however, for the child to make the decision – after having `talked it through’.

Questioning can be used to promote many different types of thinking. Indeed asking and answering question is usually regarded as a higher level cognitive skill. A question can be a quick check to make that the child is paying attention to the punctuation explanation or can be the starting point for real and sustained dialogue and discussion.

Question and Answer 1
“Have you completed your paper?”

“Yes thank you. I finished ahead of time too.”

Question and Answer 2
“Have you completed your paper?”

“Yes, thank you, but I had trouble with Number 34. That the type where FG is to RS as JK is to ….. You remember we did them together. I tried to count on in the way we said – but the answer book shows that I made a mistake. Can we go over them again, please?”

It would be wonderful if a simple question could lead to a higher level answer which displayed reasoning and evaluation. Some parents, however, may have to put up with an answer couched in more simple terms.

Question and Answer 3
“Have you completed your paper?”

“Yes. Can I have something to eat please?”

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