Search This Blog

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eleven Plus Scales

“He is a scaly individual!” implies that the person under scrutiny is of a questionable nature. Perhaps the word comes from the wet dripping feeling of cold freshly caught fish. Perhaps the link to scales is through the almost lifeless feeling of holding a lizard as it tries to escape. But scales are also used in music and to weigh quantities.

Scales in eleven plus terms could apply to comparing performances between children. Different papers could be compared and so progress can be monitored. This could be a very valuable tool if similar papers were compared. Imagine an earnest mother and daughter working on eleven plus papers. They work through a set of papers and reach the dizzy heights of 85%. “You are on the right route to pass dear. Well done.”

The two then buy a different set of papers and the marks drop significantly. Are the marks of the first set relevant? Should they believe in the marks of the second set?

A friend advises them to take the scales off their eyes. Nearly all eleven plus work is relevant. Different people will find different questions hard. Many children could go over:

Fractional values and fractions

A number of children have only a few days before their 2010 eleven plus examination. Now is the time to take the pressure off. Build confidence by revising key areas. Don’t suddenly start trying to cover vast areas of new ground. There may not be enough time to consolidate any thing that was too new.

Do you remember learning to play the recorder or the violin or piano? You had to go over your scales again and again. The constant repetition brought you to examination pitch. Opera singers rehearse their scales to warm their voices up. Try to be sensitive of your child’s needs and do not try to do too much over the next few days.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Crisp Eleven Plus Answers

It is just a year since my last visit to the Notting Hill Carnival. Put another way, it is a year since I last visited the Notting Hill Carnival. The sheer exuberance of the event, along with the unbridled joy and dogged perseverance of the performers, has the makings of good lesson for our eleven plus children.

There has to be planning of costumes, dance routines and the float.

The participants have to be fed and watered.

Back up vehicles have to be organised.

The dancers need to be shielded - yet be on display.

Most of all, all concerned need to put `their best foot forward'.

There was a long queue for the jerk chicken. The rice and mutton, which I had, made a very tasty meal. There was, however, some dissent. A young mother was trying to coax her daughter into sharing a tasty looking goat stew. The child wanted crisps.

No amount of bribery and pleading could change the child's mind. "I want my crisps!"

We all think about crisps being a thin potato based `food' we eat swiftly from a packet.

We also think about crisp as in `Deep and crisp and even.'

So in eleven plus terms does the word crisp mean brittle and crunchy?

After all most of us like roast pork to have crisp crackling.

The whole Notting Hill experience is designed to be a celebration of culture - yet there will always be someone who wants something different - as in the little girl who chose to reject all the tasty offerings and crave a familiar food.

If you want your child's mind to be crisp on the day of the examination take into account your child's personality. If your child is likely to be cheerful and positive - then rejoice. If your child is likely to want to be tearful and worried, then commiserate but just be glad that he or she has made it to the examination. Stick to the familiar and the tried and tested. Curried goat is not for everyone - but it makes wonderful meal.

In the days before the examination start taking the pressure off. Your child and you have done the hard work. You have done your best. The word `crisp' in eleven plus terms should not mean flaky but it should mean bright and alert!

Friday, August 27, 2010

An Eleven Plus Meander

Parents by now, as the eleven plus grows closer, are looking at commercial tests and papers with considerable interest. Do the tests reveal the strengths and weaknesses of their child? Will the test reveal misconceptions and misunderstandings? If an otherwise extremely bright child is still worried by codes, should the family call in the cavalry?

Some questions that could wonder through the mind:

How has my child done on this paper compared with other children?

What is a reasonable number of questions to answer correctly?

What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?

What common errors are made again and again?

Where do we need to work together?

Do these tests really reflect my child’s ability?

If my child is always achieving 90% are we testing him or her on the right tests?

Have we made the right choices about papers, tutors and internet based eleven plus tests?

How can I get my child to read even easy questions twice?

When can I relax?

Will I ever relax?

Do I deserve to relax?

Is there anything that I can do to relax?

(By now the mind is meandering, worn down by too much of everything. Oh well ….. )

Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Eleven Plus Conundrum

How likely is that some eleven plus children will land up with a work or examination related neuroses? It is not hard to imagine that intense pressure from a very small minority of parents could press their child to build negative feelings about the examination.

Neuroses about the eleven plus could develop from a number of sources:

Hostile teachers or parents

Unsympathetic teachers or parents

Unfair treatment (as perceived by the child)

School phobia

Work phobia

Eleven Plus phobia

I have just been working with a number of fantastic and highly able eleven plus children. Not one of them showed any evidence neuroses or phobia. That is not to say that the state of mind does not exist – but I saw remarkably little evidence. Most children appeared to revel in the quality and quantity of the work they did.

How can parents avoid building an inadvertent neurosis?

Demonstrate empathy and consideration

Prove over and over again that judgement has been suspended during the approach to the eleven plus

Listen to the side of the child. There may be a legitimate reason for only achieving 93%!

Enjoy the moment. You may never again have as close a working relationship. Some rather strangely phrased questions can bring the family together – even if all disagree.

Anyway the old saying is:

There is no such thing as problem children, only problem parents. You would need to look back to your own parents for an answer to this conundrum.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eleven Plus Success

As the eleven plus approaches, once again, we have to believe that success breeds success.

If the eleven plus child is offered continual negative statements, vibes and dressings down then it is possible that, in some cases, the child may become de-motivated. Of course some parents know their children very well and feel that it is essential to keep nagging.

There may have to be a balance between allowing the eleven plus child to approach the examination with a negative emotional state – and that of a parent offering unrealistic praise. It is likely that most children will keep working if they feel comfortable about the prospect of the examinations and if they feel that the expectations of their parents are realistic.

Praise probably offers a positive incentive to keep learning – while blame may inhibit a child.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Eleven Plus Stages

The Eleven Plus, once again, is growing closer. The tests have to cover a wider sweep – and can not focus sensibly on narrow areas. Back in 1956 Bloom, and some of his associates, worked out a taxonomy of educational objectives. Parents working through papers and exercises with their children will more than likely recognise at least some of these stages.

Knowledge – this is where you child can remember facts, methods of solving problems – and hopefully any advice you have offered.

Comprehension – this is the stage where your child understands what has been taught – and can understand the questions.

Application – your child begins to apply everything that has been taught

Analysis – where questions are broken down and analysed with good understanding and thought. (Wild guesses? What wild guesses?)

Synthesis – the stage where you hope everything jells together. All that work, all the heartache, all the effort and everything `comes right on the day’.

The final stage is evaluation. Your child is able to judge an answer. Your child is demonstrating good reasoning skills. Your child is a true eleven plus prodigy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Voice of an Eleven Plus Child

This is always an area of great concern to parents. What happens if the well prepared and highly intelligent child does not do well on the day? With good reason some parents may question the constitution of the eleven plus. Naturally the words: “It is not fair!” could resonate.

We all know that parents can enter the appeal system. This is a genuine attempt by the authorities to give parents every opportunity to present a case. The appeal is attended by parents and even, sometimes, representatives. Children are not welcome.

Could there be a case for a challenge to the system? Could parents argue that their child’s voice should be heard?

“What do you think you could offer to our grammar school?”

“Well I am a good swimmer, I like lots of music and I do lots of reading. I think I would join lots of clubs.”

“Why do you want to come to this school?”

“My mother and father both went to grammar school in this town. I also want to go to grammar sp that I can earn lots of money one day. I want to be a lawyer, you see.”

“Why do you think you found these examinations so hard?”

“To tell the truth I don’t think that I worked hard enough. I always found papers easy – with around 85%. I am top of the school in maths and English. My mum kept on and on at me to do more papers – and I rebelled. I told her `Enough’ – and we argued. Oh dear, I can see where I went wrong, I am only just eleven and think I need another chance.”

Saturday, August 21, 2010

An Eleven Plus Award

Some mums and dads need a medal. What about one called: `The Order of the Eleven Plus’? This is given for conspicuous gallantry in the face of overwhelming odds.

Sometimes children opt to do some extra work at home. Their parents naturally want to help. Very often parents may feel hesitant because their much loved offspring will mutter the unwelcome words: “We don’t do it like that at school.”

Does that mean that a new form of teaching a hitherto familiar subject has been designed by yet another subject specialist? Does it mean that the teacher at school has simply shown an alternative method that some children may find easier? Does it mean that a poor and unsuspecting parent has meandered unwittingly into a minefield?

I met a family today where mum and daughter had worked out how to do pie charts. You know the type of question. `Twenty four children wanted to share a huge chocolate cake. Eight liked the cake without a top dressing, five wanted a chocolate filling, three only liked eating the top layer and the rest did not mind what they ate as long as there was some cake. Draw a pie chart showing the different proportions.’

Mum and daughter worked out a most ingenious method of solving the problem – along with a beautifully drawn chart. It was a work of art. Naturally I complimented the two.

Mum said: “But my husband is better at maths.”

The daughter said: “But my dad is better at maths.”

The award of `The Order of the Eleven Plus’ must go this week to the mum who took on the challenge and solved the problem without the help of her husband. The daughter will want to add a bar to the medal when all she had to do was ask her dad.

Could there be a group medal awarded to all eleven plus children and their parents for bravery in the face of adversity? Please write in for your award.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Value of an Eleven Plus Pass

At about this time of the year parents start giving shorter pep talks. They know that the examinations are growing closer – and deep in their hearts they know too that they can not put too much pressure onto their much loved children.

The pep talks won’t always be the two of you sitting across the table – there could be stolen moments. A father could catch sight of a little scrap of paper and say ever so gently: “You don’t want to go around picking up scraps of paper all your life, do you?”

Any bright and engaging eleven plus child will not hesitate to offer: “But Dad. That is from our lunch. The wind blew it away. We do need to pick it up. You have always told us not to loiter and not to litter.”

Another sort of pep talk could come while the evening meal is being prepared. “Well dear, I see the markets are down again today. Our investments are falling. We may need to re-evaluate. You know that good A Levels may not be enough to get into university. You know too that the job markets are shrinking. You need to take stock.

Passing the Eleven Plus may not be enough. You may need to get an A* pass.”

(Eleven Plus child sotto voce: “Not another pep talk. Leave it off.”)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Eleven Plus Power

We are experimenting with a combination of on line extra tuition and centre based extra tuition. Children are offered extra help on top of their lessons or courses. This allows children the opportunity of going over topics they may have struggled with.

(My English teacher, a rabid Welsh man, used to tell us, when I was eleven years old, never to end a sentence with a preposition. It has taken me many years to build the confidence to be able to cock a snook at him. I do know that the sentence in questions should have read: `This allows children the opportunity with which to cock a snook.”

Mr. Jones, however, only knew one way of teaching and that was by sarcasm and shouting. Enough of that, do you remember Mark Anthony? `The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.’) I am not sure if it is still necessary to avoid the use of a preposition at the end of a sentence – and would be grateful for some advice.

Every on line lesson can be recorded and played back over the internet.

This leaves no room for sarcasm and bullying. Parents have access to the entire lesson and can replay the interaction and course of the lesson. This gives power to Mums and Dads.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sharing Eleven Plus Ideas

I was listening to a live on line today with our highly experienced Charles working with a willing and eager pupil. They were doing harder averages. Bother were happy – and communicating in a lively and involved manner – even though a distance of some fifteen miles lay between the two.

I thought of Socrates. He had been a stone mason and carver by trade. He conducted his teaching through what we would call a `severe cross examination’. He questioned people, events and contemporary institutions. He questioned school boys, friends, critics and admirers.

He maintained first of all that he was ignorant – but he was so cheerful that he could keep a conversation going even when the other had lost his temper. He questioned and questioned until his opponent feel silent – helpless against a barrage of questions.

An online lesson sets out to provide communication over vast distances. There is give and take – added to the excitement of being able to use technology to provide the right teacher to the pupil. It could be difficult to entertain the idea that a gifted subject specialist would be prepared to travel to a child’s house to cover a special topic. If we, however, put the pupil and the teacher into a situation where they can talk to each other and share work and ideas though whiteboard technology – then we have a learning and teaching situation worthy of consideration.

Plato was the pupil of Socrates. How Plato may have loved to have had the opportunity of sitting at home, with his headphones on, sharing ideas.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Standard Eleven Plus Papers

Many children are in the middle of eleven plus courses. Verbal reasoning plays a large part in many eleven plus examinations. Today children can work through verbal reasoning exercises through books, papers, DVDs, CDs and the internet. There is not one standard form of verbal reasoning paper.

Many years ago printing was introduced to the world by Gutenberg – who heralded a new revolution and did away with people having to rely on hand written manuscripts. Today anyone with aspirations can set themselves up as a verbal reasoning author.

Children with good verbal reasoning scores can pass the eleven plus and so reach the portals of the local grammar school. Once in the grammar school the children hope to be educated. Yet must all children who do not pass be considered at ill educated? This would be a very sorry tale.

We need to look back to the Education Action of 1870. Elementary school teachers were hired who spoke in an `educated’ manner. Some children became ashamed of the speech of their parents. As compulsory education spread through England more and more children began to use key words, speech and language. Educated English, however, is not the same as Standard English. Educated English is adopted universally throughout England. It is thus possible for children to be able to cope with a variety of eleven plus papers – even if they come from varied backgrounds.

Standard English is not the stuff of Eleven Plus papers. The term `Standard English’ seems to imply that all speak in a uniform manner. Standard English has distinctive features – but not unusual ones. In the end children sit educated English papers and not papers that are standard in certain areas or regions.

As children from many parts of the country read their verbal reasoning questions aloud, within the context of many dialects, accents and speech patterns, we know that the eleven plus is looking for children who have the potential to be well educated.

Monday, August 16, 2010

After the Eleven Plus

On the question of 11+ results – would it not be a good idea to receive a little more feedback than a single subject score? After all a computer is marking the work – and the answers are multiple choice – so some form of analysis must be possible.

Suppose there was a question on counting squares in area.

Answer 1: The right answer
Answer 2: Counted half squares
Answer 3: Confused area and perimeter
Answer 4: Followed the red herring and miscounted squares.

You would then receive a computer driven report telling you not only which questions were right and wrong – but also describing the incorrect answer.

After all most parents would like some form of diagnostic error analysis. Some children may enjoy it too:

“But Mum, you said that ….. “

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Eleven Plus and Speech

Speech is an important element of some aspects of the eleven plus. There must be many theories of the origin of speech – but they must all be speculative. One that could fit the eleven plus model is sometimes called the bow-wow.

A different name for the same theory is the `cuckoo’ – and here is it thought that early man made noises similar to animals or birds. We get `quack-quack’, for example, from the sound made by certain types of ducks.

Another type of common early sound could have been when ancient man felt pain or pleasure. `Ah’ and `ssh’ may play a part in many languages.

We could also look at the use of the tongue in speech. I can remember meeting Bushmen in Bechuanaland who use clicks of the tongue to communicate. If we lived in the bush we would not want to develop sounds that were alien to the environment.

But eleven plus language can not revolve around the sounds of animals or primitive language. It must be possible to answer some eleven questions with a restricted vocabulary. A good technique of answering multiple choice questions, however, must help. We all know that eleven plus children need an extensive vocabulary but carefully prepared children may enjoy some form of advantage.

Words that eleven plus children want to hear could include:

“Well done. You did your best.”

“We are very pleased with you.”

“We know you tried hard.”

And finally:

“Wow! That is fantastic!”

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Eleven Plus and the Environment

It has long been held, by some, that changes in environment can bring about the capacity to do well on intelligence tests. The evidence was gathered from studies of children, often twins, who were brought up away from each other.

In some cases the difference was 7.7 points but the range was 0 to 17 points. All this research took place back in 1946 – but these were the very years when the eleven plus was first postulated and promoted.

At one time a lot of work was done on the relationship between intelligence and the occupation of parents. Sociological influences on eleven plus parents may play a part but in the end their child has to sit in an examination room with other children and plough steadily through a slew of questions.

Imagine your child having to fill in a pre eleven plus questionnaire:

What is the occupation of your father?

What is the occupation of your mother?

Does your father do a job or enjoy a profession?

Is your mother a manager or does she have to take orders?

Are you the first born?

Do you have relatives at grammar schools?

Did either or both parents go to grammar school?

Positive answers, carefully weighted, could gain marks and help to secure a place in a grammar school.

We surmise that environmental and sociological influences will affect eleven plus scores. It would, however, be very difficult to apply a uniform weighting to any loaded questions.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Eleven Plus Pressures

Is it possible that very bright children have more pressures on them than less able children?

The bright child may have a wider range of opportunities.

The bright child may be able to analyse a wide variety of data efficiently.

The bright child may be able arrive at a thought out and rational decision.

The bright child may be prepared to discuss and listen – rather than argue.

Some bright children may respond to stimulation and go on to act in a responsible manner.

Most children, who `get through’ the eleven plus, are regarded as bright. Other children, however, who may not be as able, may be more proficient at passing examinations.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Eleven Plus and Premature Remorse

Do you remember those few words of W.B. Yeats when he was writing about `Remorse for Intemperate Speech’?

I ranted to the knave and fool,
But outgrew that school,
Would transform the part,
Fit audience found, but cannot rule
My fanatic heart.

I sought my betters: though in each
Fine manners, liberal speech,
Turn hatred into sport,
Nothing said or done can reach
My fanatic heart.

Would a measured discussion of the poem avert further bursts of intemperate speech? The eleven plus exams, for same families, are now weeks rather than months away. For most children the hard work has already been done. The final polishing is taking place. Parents are thinking now about technique rather than knowledge.

Little by little some parents will have to distance themselves from anguish and angst about what might have been. Realism will, by now, will have crept in. It is a little early in the eleven plus cycle for true remorse – because this is a sense of deep regret and guilt.

Should you have started earlier?

Should you have brushed arguments aside?

Should you have insisted more forcefully?

All eleven plus parents can do is the best they can. A fanatical approach to that elusive final five percent will probably be counter productive.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Eleven Plus and Probability

What would happen to eleven plus teaching if the tests were scored with a formula score where wrong answers incurred a negative mark and the right answers helped to build a positive score? We see this on `A Question of Sport’, in the final battery of questions, where a team can lose the lead through one or two wrong answers.

Multiple choice eleven plus tests give children a choice of answers. We offer the advice – eliminate the answers that can not be correct – and then take a guess. (But only when you are pushed for time.)

If the tests became true-false tests then the assumption would be that the eleven plus child would guess at the answer and had a chance of getting the answer right. The odds are 0.5 that the right answer will be selected.

If the multiple choice test has four choices then there is a 0.25 chance of success, with three answers we get a probability of 0.33 – and back to two answers where the probability is 0.5.

The whole formula becomes more of a problem if items are left out from the test. If a child lost marks for a wrong answer it may be better to leave out answers if the child was not absolutely certain of the answer.

The more difficult the test the more there is a need to have a policy that favours the eleven plus children. There could, for example, be a penalty for leaving an answer out. (“If you omit an answer, you lose half a mark!”)

W could then come up with a formula:

+ 1 mark for a correct answer.
- 0.5 marks for leaving out an answer.
- 0.25 marks for a wrong answer.

Would this focus the mind of some eleven plus children?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Can Eleven Plus Parents Ever Be Right?

Do eleven plus children ever play games with their parents? Some games may build out of an apparently innocent remark.

“You have done so well on this paper. I am very pleased with you. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Any resultant explosion is unwarranted and unwelcome. It could even be surprising.

Other children may harbour grudges.

“You have done so well on this paper. I am very pleased with you. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“You always say that. You are never satisfied with what I have done. Even if I get better marks on a paper, you always want more. It is not fair.”

“I am so sorry. I only want to help.”

“No you don’t. I go to a tutor on a Tuesday. Then you make me go to a different tutor on a Saturday. You know I don’t like lessons on Saturdays. I get too much homework.”

“We only want the best for you.”

“I am simply not doing any more.”

“Please don’t speak to me like that.”

In the long run nature will take its course. Work on papers can be tiresome and ill timed.

But are the explosions and arguments simply games the child is playing? Is the child, however, showing genuine concern? There is a word in the English Language `antithetical’ (an adjective) where words are placed together to produce an effect of balance.

The Collins Paperback English Dictionary 1995 Edition gives the example:

`Where the gods command, mere mortals must obey.’

Could this be true of a relationship between a child feeling put upon and a parent trying to do his or best?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Stigma of the Eleven Plus

The men and women who decry the implications of the eleven plus examinations may care to look at how eleven plus parents and teachers have been able to embrace technology. The eleven plus is a competitive examination – which children pass or fail. Parents have to be competitive – and many try to give their children the best possible advantages.

The eleven plus examination stimulates an attitude and approach towards education and learning where the `best man wins’. There are, however, rules and regulations that parents, children and teachers have to adhere to. Some parents will naturally continue to strive to give their child the best possible advantage. To this end eleven plus teachers, tutors, books, papers, courses, lessons, CDs, DVDs, the internet and online lessons are all used.

We have heard, with great pleasure, of some school teachers sending eleven plus papers to their pupils, on a weekly basis, over these holidays. This sympathetic attitude towards the examination, and close working with parents and children, must help to reduce some of the stigma that is sometimes associated with the eleven plus.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Online Eleven Plus Lessons

The world of the eleven plus has been embracing the idea of testing children over the internet for some time. The Extra Tuition Centre put an early eleven plus test, with sound and movement, onto web site some seven years ago. The internet, however, has allowed us to develop new tools.

Universal tests and eleven plus papers, produced especially for the internet, may not, however, be all that valuable to some children. What is the point of working through an eleven plus paper on the internet if there is no interaction? Many years ago children worked off CDs with instructions, help and a multitude of questions. Large organisations moved into the market of web based instruction. Some primary child, for example, may be using packages like `My Maths’. Other children will be watching videos. All this is a far cry from the patient and kind one to one tutor who arrives at the house with a basket of papers and sits with the eleven plus child for an hour.

Bill Gates feels that web based learning for adults will become more accepted in the future. An interesting article in Tech Crunch gives a pointer to the education of the future.

We, at the Extra Tuition Centre, have developed our own VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) where children are tested online; these results are used to build an Action Plan. The children then can take part in interactive lessons through the internet. This is innovative and exciting stuff. Some children do not want to sit at home working through papers. Online lessons may help some children achieve their potential because they are using the internet in a meaningful and active manner.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Eleven Plus Skills

Children working on verbal reasoning papers should be learning to reason. Many verbal reasoning exercises, however, seem to revolve around developing and consolidating verbal skills. The reasoning side of verbal reasoning seems, in some questions, to have been forgotten. Trying to answer questions that do not develop and stretch reasoning must be frustrating for some children.

In mathematics it is generally accepted that a core aim should be to try to inculcate an understanding of mathematics. Eleven plus children have to learn skills well enough to be able to `pass’ an eleven plus paper. Along the way a good eleven plus student needs to know his or her tables – and how to do fractions and decimals. Skills of this nature are the staff of mathematical life. Solving problems without basics must be hard work for some able children.

Somehow some discerning parents and teachers will want to work out how to distinguish between the demands of the so called `eleven plus curricula’ and the techniques that have to be acquired in order to be able to cope with eleven plus level questions.