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Friday, December 31, 2010

Eleven Plus Questions and Answers

Parents are often in a position in power – especially when their eleven plus child wants the same thing.

“Oh Mum, Dad, please may I have …. “

It may, at times, be a little more difficult to obtain answers to questions you pose. You can, for example, ask a series of formal questions.

“Do you really want to do the eleven plus or should we stop work now?”

“Why did you not complete the paper before going out? You said you would.”

Parents can also ask some rather more informal questions.

“What is your attitude to completing this paper?”

“Do you think that it is desirable that we work together towards the examination?”

Some parents will be able to respond to most answers in a straightforward and rational manner, other parents will find the similar answers to be highly complex and emotional.

Who said it was easy?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Information about Online Eleven Plus Lessons

Have you ever wondered what happens in your child’s eleven plus lesson? Would you like to see your child’s response to working with a tutor?

You book the online lesson with the Extra Tuition Centre. Each lesson lasts for an hour. In the lesson you cover the subjects you wish your child to follow. This could be:

Mathematics and verbal reasoning,

Mathematics, along with verbal and non verbal reasoning,

Mathematics, English and verbal reasoning

The combinations of subjects are endless – according to the requirements of the school you are aiming at. There are a multitude of eleven plus solutions.

As well as their own bespoke materials, the Extra Tuition Centre uses the Bond 10 – 11 Nonverbal Reasoning book in some online lessons. All parents have to do is purchase a copy of the book from the Extra Tuition Centre’s own store or from any major bookshop.

Online lessons link the tutor, the child and the parents. As their child sits in the lesson parents can hear what the teacher is saying – and also hear their child’s responses. Parents can also see the teacher’s work – and that of their child on the screen.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Eleven Plus and the Power of Music

Many years ago someone came along with yet another theory on education. This one was called eurhythmics. This is a system of physical and mental training, akin on the one hand to physical drill, on the other hand to dancing. Rhythmic movements and bodily control are practiced to music.

It was developed by M. Jacques-Dalcroze, a Swiss, and was introduced by him into England in around 1912. For one reason or another, the method was mainly adopted by girls’ schools. I am not sure how many boys’ schools used eurhythmics as a method of teaching!

One element of the eurhythmics method was to try to improve bodily grace and harmony.

It is very easy to see the relevance of his teaching to today’s eleven plus candidates. Working through an eleven plus paper requires many elements of music. We have, for example the overture, which can be likened to walking into the examination room, with all the resultant nerves, and the anxiety of staring at the unopened paper.

To initiate proceedings a conductor will raise his or her baton to guide the orchestra – just as the invigilator will intone: “You may open your papers.”

There is a rhythm to answering an eleven plus paper in an examination – the candidate has to keep solving questions with the speed and accuracy of a metronome.

As the paper comes to an end – and the time ticks away – the heartbeat rises to a crescendo.

Eurhythmics, however, is much more than music – there is the dance element which must play a large part. What better way of relieving stress in the examination than to have a five minute half time break where boys and girls can dance unselfconsciously, relieve tension and prepare themselves mentally for the rigors of the second half of the paper. Parents and children could even try this at home!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Online Eleven Plus Lessons

Etc’s on line tutoring was developed out of an actual demand from parents. Every week calls and messages come in from parents wanting extra tuition for their children. Our traditional method of teaching found itself unable to supply the demand.

Some years ago we asked two psychologists to look at the outcomes of traditional standardised tests. We wanted the tests to tell us where children were up to – and their possible potential. The psychologists then linked up with our teachers to select exercises from the National Curriculum that would help children to do better at school in their work. As a result of this investment our computer program called ACTION took the results of standardised tests and wrote a prescription or an ACTION PLAN.

Technology has gifted us the means to be able to offer individual and group lessons over the internet. We are able to deliver lessons to children any where in the country.

We use our involvement in Investors in People to help our teachers and their assistants to understand and use our well tried and carefully developed lessons. The results of the lessons are measurable.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Innovation in the Eleven Plus

Do parents need ultra conservative eleven plus teachers or ones who a perpetually enthusiastic about new methods and ways of teaching eleven plus topics? Is there a middle road? In any eleven plus group of teachers there will be those who have seen it all before and may try to resist any dilution of the eleven plus syllabus. There will also be those who would welcome change and a break from tradition.

Way back in the mists of educational history (around 1962) the authority of teachers used to be firmly established in the classroom. Teachers taught classes in rows. There was often a formal divide between teachers and their pupils.

Of course there were teachers who asked for quiet – meaning `keep the noise down’.

There were also teachers who pleaded for their classes to get on with their work – meaning `look as if you are working’.

Changes, however, came to schools and to teaching and learning with a widespread introduction of group work. Relationships between some teachers and their pupils had to become less formal.

Eleven plus teaching, however, is traditionally offered on a one to one basis. Recently, however, I was invited to visit a group in a town where around twenty children were taught by one teacher. The eleven plus children sat in rows. The teacher went through a paper question by question – allowing each child to answer in turn. There was no attempt at all for individual differences or ability levels. The group, however, were quiet, extremely well behaved, and spoke only on invitation. The teacher was teaching in the manner she had been taught, many years before.

We have introducing on line teaching where a teacher teaches in a roundly traditional manner – but the introduction of on line white boards, speech, communication, chat rooms and interaction between pupils using and wearing headphones and microphones adds an innovative and exciting dimension to the eleven plus.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eleven Plus Opportunities

For years we have teaching thousands of children on an individualised basis. Over this past year we have added group teaching into our developing online environment. A well disciplined and carefully structured class must counter to some extent anxiety from parents that their child will be able to obtain a good lesson.

We have been fascinated by the social interaction between the children from so many different backgrounds within the online lessons. Interaction between children is spontaneous – and allows for the personal preferences of the children. Some, for example, choose to switch their microphones off at times so that the teacher will not call on them – but the same children are happy to write or type their answers or replies on the screen.

Of course there are opportunities for children to have one to one lessons with on line teachers.

The advantage of general online lessons is that the lessons are in the familiar surroundings of the child’s home. A further advantage is that the children are using modern technology over the internet. For an elite number of children this is a far cry from a teacher arriving with a basket of books.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

More Eleven Plus Haste, less Eleven Plus Speed

Thank you for taking the time to read these thoughts today. This is a simply a plea to any eleven plus boys and girls who have been given eleven plus papers or exercises - just say no thanks, perhaps later on?

There is possibly a rather slight connection between the eleven plus and poetry. The eleven plus is taken by many – but comparatively few pass. Many children and adults will read novels – but few will read poetry. Poetry can be considered as a waste of time by some, or as a luxury by others.

If only there was a place for poetry in some parts of the eleven plus examination. This may encourage some children to think clearly, and to become, possibly, a little more involved in literature.

I sometimes think of Marcus when watching some children work through some types of eleven plus question.

A Record!

Marcus, the world’s worst runner, ran so slow
He finished seventh in a race for six. How so?
Among the crowd a friend came out to greet him;
Running along with Marcus, lo – he beat him!

(Translated by Michael Lewis.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Eleven Plus Questions

The Eleven Plus examination is a serious business for some parents and children. The attitude of the children to the examination may sometimes mirror that of the parents – but on other occasions parents may wonder; “It that really my child?” or “Where did that come from?”

Do more eleven plus boys revere achievement more highly than girls?

Do eleven plus girls value qualities of personal relationships than boys?

It could be interesting to ask eleven plus children to put into order the following list of ten attributes they would like their parents to aspire to:

Being a good cook
Not given to nagging
Good manners
The ability to pass the eleven plus
Willingness to help at home
A sense of humour.

Out of this list may come a realisation, from some parents, that there could be a need to re-evaluate their attitude, at times, towards their children. It would be very hard for some parents to understand, for example, why some very able eleven plus children set their sights too low – and work below the level of their capability. A wide number of eleven plus children may want their parents to accept their deficiencies as well as their obvious strengths.

What would children prefer?

Parents who demonstrate respect for strengths and weaknesses

Parents who want their children to demonstrate ambition to pass

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Eleven Plus Consequences

This is a little offering to any eleven plus children railing against the iniquity of having to work over the Christmas break. The great majority of eleven plus children will have the intellect of twelve and thirteen year olds – but the emotional stability of ten year olds. Their arguments, therefore, sometimes may appear to fail to have a fulsome resonance.

D.H. Lawrence (1885 to 1930) had a way with words – he sometimes wrote on rather earthy – and worthy – subjects. He did, once, write a few lines about `Work’.

There is no point in work
Unless it absorbs you
Like an absorbing game.

If it doesn’t absorb you
If it’s never any fun,
Don’t do it.

Perhaps some kind parents may be inclined to read these words to their aspiring candidate but beware the consequences. They could come back to bite you!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eleven Plus Predictions

Eleven plus teachers and tutors are often asked to predict how well they think a child will do in the eleven plus. There are many factors that affect eleven plus success – brains, ability, endurance, good teaching, forbearance, parental input and dedication are just some of the influences.

Back in 1956 a Californian paint manufacturer, Jack Swimmer, wrote down his predictions of the votes that would be cast for Eisenhower.

Los Angles 1 218 462
California 2 875 637
Whole Country 33 974 241

He also wrote a cheque for $5000 and deposited both documents with a charity commissioner clerk. The paper work was put into a wooden box and left in the sheriff’s safe.

After the election newspaper men were called to the sheriff’s office – and the paper was taken out. Swimmer’s perditions were accurate – down to the last digit. He gave the money to charity.

It would be an interesting fund if eleven plus teachers were expected to lay out some of their own money to back up any predictions. Any teacher who said: “It will be all right on the day!” will need to add an extra $1000. Parents could ask the eleven plus teachers to write down the predicted scores. Any major deviation could cost money!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eleven Plus Aptitude

Eleven plus parents, and their children, need to recall the grand work done by Johnson O’Connor of the Human Engineering Laboratory in Hoboken New Jersey.

He devised a Wiggly Block Test with which he measured ability to visualise in three dimensions. There were nine pieces of wood with wavy sides. When properly fitted together they formed a solid rectangular block.

O’Connor reported that of 4000 men taking his test, 82% of the engineers scored better than the midpoint of the whole group. In other words men who were able to complete the Wiggly Block Test showed ability that was important to mechanical and engineering work.

Now is the time for enterprise. It looks as if remarkably few sets of Wiggly Blocks will be available this Christmas. Even if the blocks could be bought online, delivery is likely to be difficult because of the snow.

Many mothers and fathers will have used the pencil on a string test to determine the sex of their baby eleven plus candidate. Perhaps parents could also wave wiggly blocks over the head of the unborn child to see if he or she is going to become an engineer. In years to come prospective university engineering candidates could state on their UCCA forms that their sex had been determined by a pencil, and their mechanical aptitude by wiggly blocks. This would obviate the need for an aspiring engineering candidate to pass as many A* A Levels as is currently required.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Eleven Plus and `It'

It was fortunate that we could catch the Eurostar train.

This can be expressed as:

That we could catch Eurostar train was fortunate.

`That we could catch the Eurostar train’ is a noun clause.

`That we could catch the Eurostar train’ is a noun clause in apposition to it.

This type of analysis of a sentence used to be considered as good old fashioned teaching. At the moment there is no place for an exercise like this in the eleven plus. The teaching of formal grammar – and the testing of grammar in formal examinations - seems to have disappeared. Some parents must hope that once their children are in grammar schools they will be taught at least the parts of speech.

Learning the implication of taking the word `it’ out of a sentence will be intensely satisfying to some. Others will consider this exercise as a complete waste of time. A sentence can be considered as a group of words that make sense. Is it more sensible to say?

It was fortunate that we could catch the Eurostar train.

Or should we say?

That we could catch Eurostar train was fortunate.

Does it really matter?

Eleven plus children need the able to speak and write sentences that make sense. Some very bright children may, however, enjoy the challenge of learning grammar along with being tested by a multitude of multiple choice questions.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Eleven Plus Countdown

There are only a few days left to Christmas. As we count off the days we owe a lot to the Northern men and women who offered so much to our language.

Tuesday is Tys dag, the day of Tyr. (Tyr was the God of War!)

Wednesday is Wodnes daeg, the day of Woden or Odin. (Odin was the Supreme God.)

Thursday is Dures daeg, the day of Thor. (Thor was the God of Thunder.)

Friday is Frige daeg – Frigg’s day. (Frige was the Mother of the Gods and the wife of Odin.)

In years to come how will some people look back on the Eleven Plus?

History, in the hands of some, may record the examination as an exercise designed to filter bright children into academic schools.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Eleven Plus Snow

There has been heavy, widespread snow today. It is possible that some eleven plus children, and their families, may have had to stay in doors. At one time or another there may have been a little tension between the children. There is a phrase: “stir crazy” that comes to mind.

You could read your children part of a little poem by W. H. Davies 1891 – 1940 who lived for six years as a tramp in the United States.

To Sparrows Fighting

Stop, feathered bullies!
Peace angry birds;
You common Sparrows that,
For a few words,
Roll fighting in wet mud,
To shed each other’s blood.

You could ask your children to substitute appropriate words relevant to today’s conditions. May the best wordsmith win!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Eleven Plus Calories

We are told that an adult male needs about three thousand calories a day. A boy aged from thirteen to sixteen needs about two hundred more. During the later teens the daily need rises to about three thousand eight hundred.

The average amount an average female needs is around two thousand five hundred, after which girls need about two thousand eight hundred from thirteen to sixteen – after which the amount, apparently, declines rather slowly.

How many calories does an eleven plus child need?

Surely it would be invaluable if some enterprising mum or dad, who attends one of the major slimming concerns, developed a scheme to monitor the calories of their eleven plus child.

We see some children attending our three days courses who bring `wholesome’ looking food. Other children bring chocolate, biscuits and crisps. This may be rather slim evidence on which to base a premise. It may need a controlled study to investigate the dietary needs of growing, academic eleven plus children.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

An Eleven Plus Preference

Do you remember the section in Portrait of an Artist where Stephen Dedalus, half blind after his glasses had been broken, faced Father Dolan the prefect of the studies?

“Lazy idle little loafer! Broke my glasses! An old schoolboy trick! Out with your hand this moment!”

Stephen closed his eyes and held out in the air his trembling hand with the palm upwards.

The last we we want our eleven plus children to associate studying with is the fear of punishment, cruelty, pain and hate. We would much prefer eleven plus children to be full of wonder, excitement, ambition and diligence.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Eleven Plus Attitudes

If your child achieved a high mark on a reputable eleven plus paper you may, possibly, want to celebrate. You may want to congratulate your child using effusive terms.

“Oh, my dear! Well done. I am so proud of you. You have done much better that I ever expected. Keep it up, dear!”

There would, of course, be some parents who would say, “Well next time don’t make so many mistakes. Think before you answer. I want to see 100%. Nothing less will satisfy me.”

Other parents would offer a quick hug, send the children to bed, phone a few friends and settle down to serious celebration. The thought of a little wine may lubricate the thought patterns!

A Magnum holds two bottle of wine.

The Jereboam holds about four bottles.

The Methuselah holds eight bottles.

The Nebuchadnezzar is about 15 litres or around twenty bottles.

You would need to choose your friends accordingly. With two further couples you, and your friends, would make a serious dent into any or all of the wine on offer.

If the evening was successful you would then need to choose which approach to offer to your child. Should you suggest that because your child did so well you would be prepared to offer a further reward if he or she could emulate or better the previous result. Would it be better, however, to warn your child that there would be trouble if the previous result was not improved?

You and your friends could then debate which approach would motivate an eleven plus child?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Eleven Plus Fear

A bit of research that comes to mind when watching some eleven plus children learning is the work done, some years ago, on paratrooper trainees. Most of us will have seen pictures of trainees jumping from a 34 foot tower – where the trainee falls about eight feet before the harness engages.

The trainees were asked, on a ten point scale, to rate the amount of fear they felt before jumping from the tower. The average group rating was six before the first jump, and then gradually declined over the next six jumps. The average fear rating was three by the seventh jump.

Would a similar pattern follow in the world of the eleven plus? Give a group of eleven plus parents a paper for their children to work through. Ask the parents to rate their fear about how well their child will do on the paper.

It is likely that the fear will reduce as the eleven plus children work through the papers. The fear may never quite go away – but it will reduce.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eleven Plus Spelling

Your bright, astute and worldly eleven plus child possibly started off making random scribbles or letter like marks. Sometimes this `work’ may have looked like letters or parts of words. Then gradually a connection was made between the sounds of a word and the letters that represent the word. And so spelling developed.

Very few eleven plus exercises require good spelling but many verbal reasoning exercises require a child to be able to analyse a word – leading to the need for a good vocabulary, sound syllabication skills and strong powers of comprehension.

Some bright children go on to invent their own spelling of words. This can happen even with their own names – especially with some rather tricky sounding surnames. As the children grow more proficient with their spelling more and more children will be able to spell in a phonologically plausible manner. Some children may become very proficient at applying phonic skills to their spelling – but then have difficulty with the order of letters within a word. The dreaded CVC words often cause problems – these are the regularly spelled words made up of a consonant, a vowel and a consonant.

An eleven plus child writing a b for a d is not necessarily dyslexic but may have elements of limited short term visual memory. This could lead to a need for a full investigation – but in some cases there is no need for concern as the problem could, possibly, be residual.

Some eleven plus children may occasionally write letters in the wrong order. This could be to do with difficulty with sequencing, or to do with problems with holding the order of letters within the head.

Spelling is also to do with consonant digraphs (pairs of letters), vowel digraphs, prefixes, suffixes and irregular words.

Then there are the spelling rules. Hope becomes hoped. Hop becomes hopped. Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelt differently. Apostrophes can also cause confusion.

Naturally some eleven plus children will work their way through the examination without making many spelling mistakes and nearly always being able to analyse a word. They are the lucky ones.

Some eleven plus parents will help their children to maintain lists of words that are likely to be met on verbal reasoning papers.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Eleven Plus Luck

Do examinations ever get easier?

My 1957 Edition of Diagnosis and Remedial Teaching in Arithmetic by Schonell (Chapter 3) describes the effect of research into curricula and methods and `enlightened’ class room practice.

First Year Addition and subtraction to 10
First year A preparatory year – no formal requirements

Second Year Addition and Subtraction to 99
Addition and Subtraction to 10

Third Year Addition and subtraction to 999, Multiplication and Division to numbers 6
Addition and Subtraction to 99. No Multiplication and Division

These changes to the syllabus occurred around the time the eleven plus was being developed. It was felt then, for example, that long division by two figures required a mental age of 12.

It was also felt that lightening the syllabus did not mean a decline in standards. (Not much change today!)

One important element of the changes was the insistence that `telling’ rules and letting child apply them blindly should be superseded by more use of deductive methods. “Children should see relationships and discover rules for themselves.” (Page 41).

There would need to be big changes in the materials and the curriculum of today’s eleven plus to allow time for seeing relationships and discovering rules. The books with page after page of similar but different verbal reasoning questions would have to give way to materials that encouraged reasoning – and discouraged the effect of drill and repetitive practice. There may not be much appetite for this by all and there may be a reluctance to embrace change.

Think of bright eyed and bush tailed children entering a competitive examination eager to pit their wits and demonstrate aptitude and ability!

Lucky children.

Lucky tutors.

Lucky parents.

Lucky grammar schools!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Predicting Eleven Plus Success

Is there any truth in some of the sayings or `wise tales’ of yester year?

Premise One
The oldest child acts the role of the responsible one. This is the child who takes life seriously and tends to boss others around.

Premise Two
The second child takes on a role of being sociable and well liked.

Premise Three
The other members of the family take on a variety of roles – often it hard to predict.

If any of these predictions are true, and only any can be true, then would it be easier to forecast who will pass the eleven plus?

Some children are remarkably adept at maintaining two sets of rules. One set for home – and another when they are away from home. An example of this often occurs with language where a child will naturally use a set of formal grammar that has no place in the child’s vocabulary while away from the home.

Parents sometimes find that their child will work happily through an eleven plus paper – if the paper is set by the teacher. “Oh yes, Mrs Brown. Of course I will complete the paper. Thank you.”

“Oh, Dad. I hate papers. I don’t want to do one. So there.”

If the original premise is correct, is it easier to encourage a first born to complete a paper than any other sibling in the family?

Would a second born complete a paper just to make you happy – in a selfless and engaging manner?

Would the third born react in an unpredictable manner if asked to complete a paper?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Eleven Plus Failure

Children react to failure in many different ways – but then the word failure can mean many different things.

Eleven Plus failure can mean the end of a dream, but failure to finish a practice paper can, sometimes, be brushed away. Failing to put dirty washing away is something very different. (Even worse?)

Children will sometimes react to failure with anger.

On other occasions the child will demonstrate denial.

Sometimes the words: “I don’t care!” will be forced out between clenched teeth.

At one time or another many of us will have read the book about Pollyanna. She was a character who always looked on the bright side of things. If something went wrong she would always try to find something to be glad about. There was little room for grumpiness in her life.

Somewhere in between are the children (and adults) who try to use comedy to diffuse the sense of failure. Of course this will work sometimes – but fall flat on others.

Many of us, children included, do our best to forget about failure as soon as possible.

Of course we all hear about other people who try to pass the responsibility for failure onto some one else.

“It was not me, Gov. It was the system.”

“I don’t even like cookies. I hate them, anyway.”

“I can’t stand the grammar school. I did not want to go there, anyway.”

One of the easiest ways of escaping from failure is to try to attain the goal through fantasy. Lots of children, and adults, indulge in make believe. Make believe is a very normal side of a child’s development.

Eleven plus children will experience different types of failure along the way. The children, and their parents, will react to the failure in different ways. It is likely, however, that the most common response from a parent will be along the lines:

“Just do your best.”

“I am sure you did your best.”

“I know you, I am sure you will do your best.”

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Eleven Plus Tantrums and Hysteria

It is unlikely to happen in any well ordered and stable eleven plus home – but faint symptoms may, very occasionally, become evident under duress. This is the plain and simple tantrum or hysterical outburst. A tantrum is easy to look at with interest as it is no more than a childish outburst of anger or frustration. Signs of hysteria are, however, possible a little more complex. Hysteria is sometimes thought to be psychological conflict being converted into a physical symptom.

If your two year old lies down in the middle of a supermarket and yells for a particularly delicious sweet then you have a range of options.

1. Give In
2. Swear to yourself that you will never ever take the little one shopping again.
3. Take the trolley and run, leaving your child to be comforted by someone else.
4. Resort to …..

If your nine year old lies down in the middle of a large bookshop and yells for more eleven plus papers then you also have a range of options.

1. Give in and allow your child to buy the papers.
2. Think seriously about your child’s attitude to the examination
3. Ask yourself – am I doing the right thing?
4. Say, sharply, “Stop being hysterical. Get off the floor and behave yourself.”

There may even be some parents who would love, at times, to lie down in the middle of a busy supermarket and bang their heels against the floor and wail loudly. Their children could then offer:

1. Oh dear. Mum is at it again.
2. No, you don’t need to worry, when she does this at home we just offer her a banana.
3. Oh come on mum. If you can’t do those verbal reasoning questions, it does not matter. Samuel’s mother can. Just ask her.
4. Mum. The eleven plus is some months away. Grow up. There may be no need for tears. I may pass.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

One Thousand Five Hundred Eleven Plus Posts

A traditional way of changing the content of the eleven plus would be to set up a working party. The chair person would write the equivalent of a White Paper – outlining the present position, future needs and a list of recommendations.

When it came to look at the future of the eleven plus the paper would possibly need to contain at least:

Materials Needed
Teacher Education
Presentation to the public.

The aims and objectives of any proposed eleven plus changes would need to include the assumption that any changes in the eleven plus would occur through evolution rather than revolution.

The materials that the eleven plus children work off would have to reflect the needs of the present grammar schools. Making changes to the eleven plus would be a waste of time unless the grammar schools explained what they wanted as outcomes to the test. Specialist mathematics and science orientated grammar schools, for example, may prefer to select boys and girls who demonstrated more than precocious verbal talent..

The reality of making any changes to the eleven plus must take into account that there needs to be considerable interaction and discussion between schools, parents and examiners. Changes to materials, for example, would involve continual evaluation so that materials were suitable and effective.

It may be true to argue that it would be highly desirable that the eleven plus curriculum remained in a state of flux. This can not happen in today’s eleven plus system not true as some items are remarkably similar to questions asked fifty years ago.

What would parents want if they were consulted? Would most parents be happy to continue with the present system – or would they like to be presented with alternatives? Would parents feel that they are qualified to vote on what they would like in the eleven plus?

Some parents may feel that it is not desirable to press for changes because this could set off a pattern of depth charges that could rock the whole fabric of the eleven plus. “Better the devil you know!” and “Not in my backyard!” Other parents may, however, relish the idea of taking on a system founded many years ago where some bright children, for one reason or another, lost out on the chance of an eleven plus place.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Eleven Plus Family

Elements of the eleven plus are to do with `functional autonomy’. If your child works through a paper in an autonomic manner you hope you know that he or she is working with due thought. Elements of functional autonomy, however, are to do with resisting change to habits. Quite plainly if the eleven plus child is left to work though paper after paper then he or she may enter the actual examination and work through the paper without much thought or ambition.

As adults we often resist attempts to change our behaviour. An example is expecting an eleven plus child to complete question after question in the hope that this extra practice will build habits to be exhibited in the examination.

Some parents may possibly expect their child to approach every paper enthusiastically and diligently – and not want to take on board that their child may `really and truly’ not be in the mood.

There will be some parents who feel that a one to one session with a tutor is the only way to work towards the eleven plus. Other parents will prefer to work on their own with their child. Yet other parents believe that their child will work best if he or she is with other children working towards similar goals. Some will combine these elements and add their own insight into their child.

There is a lot to be said for the elements of social facilitation – or esprit de corps – which has carried a wide number of people through a broad variety of events. We know, for example, that teams that bond together are often able to go on to reach great heights.

Most parents will be able to recall eleven plus sessions where the family came together to solve an eleven plus problem. It may have been a tricky verbal reasoning question, or a non verbal reasoning where it looked as if the answer book was wrong – or even a problem in mathematics that no one could solve. These special moments add to the great eleven plus recipe. There can be little place for autonomy in a true eleven plus family!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Eleven Plus Regionalisation

When we catch unexpected glimpses of performers on shows like the X Factor it is always interesting to observe why they lose their accents when they sing. We do know, however, that when we are singing we use our voice tract in a different way from when we speak.

It is always extraordinary how a perfectly ordinary girl from a good background, having worked in a supermarket for two years, and has never been further than Blackpool from her home, is able to sing with a mid American accent. Not only is the accent true, and the words word perfect, and she has the ability to hold the top note for two quavers, but she can also smile, dance and keep eye contact with the camera.

When singing the mouth and the pharynx are held open and wider for improved resonance and amplification. The nasal squeak of some confirmed country and western singers is possibly harder to achieve. How can someone who has never been to Nashville sing convincingly? Part of the explanation is when singing in a karaoke style a singer has to follow predetermined rises and fall in the music. Most of us will remember our music teacher praying for` assonance and more assonance’

Some dialects allow for a rise at the end of sentence. Some accents are remarkably positioned a long way from received English. On the BBC regionalisation has long been a buzz word.

Some eleven plus parents must wonder, sometimes, how the paper they bought is going to help in the specialised eleven plus examination their child will sit. The proliferation of papers and online tests and exercises offer lots of choice, but little real information, about the paper’s efficacy and reliability.

Is there a need for eleven plus papers to be regionalised? In some ways yes but the papers are trying to excite and stimulate parts of the brain. An exercise on similar meanings is almost the same in any region or county. All a parent can hope is that just as the mouth and the pharynx must combine to produce melody and tune so parents hope that eleven plus papers will produce correct answers in the examination.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Appoggiatura and the Eleven Plus

All the eleven plus parents, and their eleven plus children, who have studied music, are fully aware of the importance of `appoggiaturas’. This means a leaning towards and refers to a note which resolved to a weaker beat. As a general rule it moves to the next note above or below when it resolves.

All those mother and fathers who have been paying due attention, and those eleven plus children who have listened with great attention will be able to equate this to rounding. (Remember five and upwards – round up. Four and below and you need to round down.)

The general rule for the length of an appoggiatura is that it takes half the value of the following note if it is duple and two thirds if it is a triple. I know that words like `duple’ will trip off the tongue of every eleven plus parent – but they will not be used all that often on the X Factor.

An appoggiatura needs to be played with conviction – because you don’t want it to distort the underlying melody.

By now you will be wondering the significance of the appoggiatura to the eleven plus. Very often it can be discerned in the voice of a child crying: “Oh Mum! Do I really have to do this now?” Where would you put the stress? Does it go on the word `Mum” or on the word “really”? Where could the notes slide together to give greater impact?

Seriously though, some eleven plus questions appear to be so abstruse and unconvincing that it must be like learning a bunch of esoteric terms for some children.

I like to return to my 1963 copy of `Essential of Verbal Reasoning’ by O.B. Gregory. Exercise 92 on page 51 gives:

If CSZEL means MITRE, what does ZESELCL mean?

We are told that the ability to deconstruct codes is a sign of ability. We know too that once an eleven plus child has been taught the `method’ that it then becomes easier to cope with decoding.

If decoding, however, is in many practice papers then it seems likely that a wide number of eleven plus children will have met and conquered how to cope with different types ao nefarious codes. All the poor examiner can do is to try to make the codes more demanding and place the child under more pressure of time.

As your child enters the playground, on that walk towards the examination, whisper very loudly so that every one can hear. “Remember appoggiatura.” The other children will come running over towards you.

The playground mothers and fathers will lean towards you.

Your best friend will say: “What on earth is appoggiatura?”

You will reply that it is well known eleven plus advice meaning that when a question looks a little hard then it is time to slide onto the next question – or even review, very quickly, the previous question.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Eleven Plus and the Never Ever Land

It looks as if a lot more children will have to return to school on Monday as the snow is receding. Parents, therefore, have the next few hours to prepare their `onwards and upwards’ speeches. The examinations are only a few months away and parents will be anxious that their children do not waste a moment.

Eleven Plus speeches need practice and preparation. An eleven plus speech is different from daily exhortations and nagging. The eleven plus speech has to contain words that will resonate through your child. You can hope that the words will remain in your child’s heart for ever – and that he or she will deliver the self same words, in time, to your future grandchildren.

Work on timing. The speech can not be offered at a most inappropriate time. In is no good delivering the `Pre Christmas Eleven Plus Speech’ just as you child is going outside to play in the melting snow.

Think about your delivery. Are you trying to inspire your child? Are your words of wisdom being entertaining, persuasive or informative? You can’t have it all ways – unless you are a descendant of Winston Churchill.

Make sure your speech has a beginning, middle and an end. It is of little use to offer a rousing beginning only to meander through the middle and end without a punch line.

Try not to dwell on past glories. It is unlikely that your child will be impressed by your past academic successes. At ten years old a child likes deeds not words.

Never ever start with the words: “Now this is just a brief chat.” Your child, being an eleven plus student, will see through your subterfuge. He or she knows that the `brief chat’ will simply go on and on.

Never ever apologise when you are making `The Eleven Plus Speech’. You have nothing to be sorry for. You have fed the child, educated the child and offered every eleven plus help. It is your child who should be apologising to you!

The final `never ever’ must be the comparison with an older sibling. Never Ever!!!!

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Eleven Plus, Yoga, and Belly Dancing

Would some parents think it a close run thing if they had to choose between belly dancing and yoga to reduce stress? By now much of the country will have been affected by the snow – and the proximity of their children. After all there are only so many snowmen or toboggan runs that can be entertained. Eleven plus children living on farms will have had the advantage of being able to take food to the sheep.

The advantage of yoga is that it can help to combat the strains of everyday living – while combining mental and physical fitness. After all if any parents have managed to encourage their children to do two papers a day over the last few days may need some form of formal relaxation. Do you remember the phrase `a purveyor of nostrums’? That is when parents began to question their sanity. Where they look at the intelligence and diligence of their children and wonder if they have been deluding themselves for years. The word `yoga’ means a union of the body and spirit. Yoga could help some with the strains of worry, tension and strain.

Belly dancing, however, seems to combine health giving exercise along with dance exercise. Belly dancing can be considered as an art form – with communication between the dancers and the audience.

In both yoga and belly dancing participants will need to learn movements. In both belly dancing and yoga parents will be able to let their imaginations run riot. Both activities will be good for the body and the soul. After all the fitter the eleven plus parent is, the fitter the parent will be able to cope with their snow bound child.

Suggestion One
Ten eleven plus questions.

Five minutes digging the snow.
Five minutes meditation
Five minutes belly dancing.

Suggestion Two
Give up any thought of eleven plus work.

Ten minutes phoning and texting friends
Ten minutes preparing snacks and drinks
Ten minutes persuading the kids to go to bed.


A prolonged lotus position followed by the dance of the houris.

(Just a suggestion.)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Eleven Plus Record Breakers

The snow is with us. Lessons have been curtailed. The innovative Etc team brings fresh life into the Eleven Plus arena. We are trying a world record attempt on Saturday.

All our Year 5 children have been invited to take part in free eleven plus lessons. This record attempt is by invitation only.

We have sent the following message:

Beat the snow and join our online world record attempt.

Please join us, if you are a current pupil, for our record attempt to host the biggest ever FREE 11 plus online lesson.

You will hear the teacher giving the different mathematics, verbal and nonverbal reasoning lessons. You will be able to write and type on your computer screen and if you have a microphone you will be able to talk to the teacher and your 11 plus classmates.

To see what’s on offer this Saturday and to book onto the free 11 plus lessons simply log onto your Online lesson area.

This exciting Saturday event is brought to you by the Etc team, always striving to make your 11 plus journey as exciting and ground breaking as possible.

Your child’s success is our first prize!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

An Eleven Plus Nut

You may care to ask your eleven plus child to explain how a pendulum clock works. He or she will appreciate that a works of a pendulum must be materially differently from those in a digital watch. Ask your child to pay particular attention in his or her answer to the role of nut in adjusting the swing of the pendulum.

Pendulum clocks need to be level in both directions – that is vertically and horizontally. Traditionally one side of the clock can be raised by the insertion of a small wedge. What the clock owner is trying to achieve is a level base – forwards and back – as well as from side to side. An uneven swing of the pendulum will affect the ability of the clock to keep good time.

The sound of the pendulum ticking gives a good guide to proper levelling. The ticks should be even in strength and duration. I am not sure how many `wind up’ watches or clocks are still used today. Many clocks would now be powered by electricity. I suppose that most watches have batteries. My watch does not have a battery – but winds itself through movement.

The pendulum is often regulated by a nut at the bottom of the shaft. Turning the nut in one direction or the other affects the length of the swing. With shorter swings the clock goes faster.

Eleven plus examinations approach families remorselessly. At the start of the journey the date seems to set far ahead. The hours tick by. At one end of the swing of the pendulum parents can feel elation, joy and a sense of purpose. At the other end some parents may question: “Why me? What have I done to deserve this?”

Fashions in education seem to come around in large swings. At one time the eleven plus was thought, by some, to be the intellectual and academic saviour of the country. Some years later a great swing against grammar schools took place which curtailed dramatically the number of grammar schools.

The questions you need to pose must cover at least:

What are the highs and lows of an eleven plus pendulum?

Does the eleven plus pendulum move quicker at the top of the swing or at the bottom?

What can your child do to help you maintain a measured and calm approach to the examinations – to avoid pendulum like mood swings of excited anticipation and quiet desperation?

Are short choppy little mood swings preferable to long slow build ups?

All we can be sure of is that progress towards the examination will not be even. Some parents may wish, sometimes, that all they had to do is to adjust a little nut to achieve equanimity and peace of mind.