Children working towards the eleven plus may need, at times, to call on other disciplines for help. It is naturally of great interest to parents how the words are organised in the brains of their children. Parents are usually aware of the reach and extent of the vocabulary their children possess. But when children are working through some of the more obscure eleven plus questions, they need to know what words mean, how they are spelt and what they sound like.
Psycholinguists are able to use simple experiments to try to gauge the ability to distinguish between real words and nonsense words. A child is placed in front of a computer. A word is flashed onto the screen and the child has to make up his or her mind whether the word is real or otherwise. The psycholinguist can measure whether the word is correct and how long it took to answer.
We would expect a word like `love’ can be recognised very quickly while it might take a little longer to comment on olve. The longer time that it takes to process a word that is almost right is called the frequency effect. It takes longer for the brain to reject a word that is nearly right than a word which clearly can not fit into any dictionary.
A different way of looking at words is achieved through priming a word. We would expect a child to see a relationship between cat and dog much faster than between cat and flower. Words like may and say could possible be linked in the brain quicker than words like may and elephant.
When you expect your child to be able to find opposites he or she may be far more efficient in understanding the connection between familiar opposites even if the words are very different in shape and pattern than words which are clearly not opposite – but are remarkably similar to the correct answer.
Instead of a mother or a father throwing hands up into the air – they could take the time to look at the alternatives and help their child to recognise the pattern – and the intent of the question.