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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Eleven Plus Patience

An important factor in verbal reasoning exercises is the ability to use language. My 1933 Pitman’s Progressive French Grammar (Part 1) was written by an Inspector of Schools for London County Council. Mr Frank A. Hedgcock maintained in the preface that the three main operations of language were:

1. to make statements
2. to ask questions
3. to give commands

He began all lessons with a series of examples illustrating certain definite points. He felt that this arrangement enabled a teacher to give their own lessons.

An important premise that he reiterated in more than one form was the need for practice. He wrote: “The exercises are long – practice, practice and yet again practice is the secret of learning a language.”

Mr Hedgcock also understood the need for communication – as he urged teachers to favour him with their criticism so that any defects could be removed.

There is no doubt that Mr Hedgcock had forthright views. It is possible that his musings may have some slight relevance to today’s eleven plus children. A reasonably typical eleven plus question could be:

Select a number between 1 and 10 that has the same number of letters when written in full as the value of the figure it represents.

How can you help your child to approach a question of this type?

You can make a statement: “Write down, in words, the numbers between 1 and 10. Look at the number 1.”

Now comes the question: “How many letters are there in the number one?”

Then the command: “Repeat this exercise until you find a number with the same number of letters.”

Naturally Mr. Hedgcock would have expected the teacher (the parent) to have offered a few examples before confronting the child with a challenging question. He could, for example, have asked: “How many letters are there in the word three? Are there seven letters in the number 7?” Exercises of this nature could make the task of the child easier.

The application for today? Before you give your child the task of working through a full and carefully timed eleven plus paper, make sure that you have offered at least a few examples of questions that could be both new and daunting. The Eleven Plus child needs practice, practice and more practice – but the eleven plus parent needs patience, patience and more patience.

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