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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Teaching to the the Yesterdays of the Eleven Plus

Eleven plus children do not simply burst eager and willing on the scene. Neither do they unfold like awakening flowers. The eleven plus process, however, starts well before the ninth birthday.

It would be easy for most mothers and fathers to remember the early stages of development. Of course the candidate was able to raise his or her chest at two months. Naturally he or she was able to sit with support at four months. Standing with help? Why of course – around eight months. Crawling and walking too took place between ten and eleven months. (Some eleven plus children will have walked at seven months – but then some children who did not enter the eleven plus race will also have walked at seven months.)

This is possibly a little gap in fond memories up to the age of five years old. What is the significance of reaching five? For many years people used to think that reading readiness used to start at six years old. A five year old reader does not come about without input from mum and dad! A six year old brought up in a savage tribe does not suddenly become ready to read. Other elements of mental development must have taken place.

Some eleven plus children may have been able ready to learn to read at three or four years old. Parents would not have ignored these early signs of promise. Piles of books would have continued to grow at home. Television would have been controlled. The bed time story would have become much more complicated and convoluted.

The eleven plus process would be firmly under way.

If your child walked at seven months – does it mean that he or she was `more ready’ or `readier’ to start on eleven plus work?

If your child read before he or she started school, did this imply eleven plus readiness?

The only crumbs of comfort that the parents of eleven plus children could feed off were that early signs of readiness probably indicated possible potential.

If only eleven plus tests could look at the potential to development. Good marks on an eleven plus test do show that a child has the potential to do well in a grammar school environment. Passing the eleven plus means that a child is ready to learn in an academic environment.

Working towards the eleven plus does not, however, necessarily mean that a child is eager and willing.

There was a wise, old Russian psychologist – Vigotsky – who agreed that teachers could determine progress through tests. He maintained, however, that teaching to tests was teaching to the yesterdays of a child’s development.

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