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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Eleven Plus Methods

There have been many raging debates in Education over the years. One persistent discussion has been over the best way to teach a child to read. There are times when an eleven plus child needs the disciple of reading and learning through the whole word method and there are times when a child needs the methodical approach developed when learning phonics.

Comenius suggested a whole word or `look and say’ approach back in the sixteenth century – and students in English training colleges were appraised of this method before the 1914-18 war. Phonics, however, was the usual method of teaching children to read.

Many teachers liked the whole word method because it appeared to offer a wider range of reading, more attractive illustrations and a release from phonic drills. It was also felt that some children found the phonic drills boring. Every now and then the debate reopens in some educational quarters but it looks as if the great majority of teachers acknowledge that a combination of methods is better.

Another debate that crops up now and again is the amount and degree of differences in maturity between boys and girls as they approach the eleven plus. I was in Bluewater today. There is an amazing food hall with a variety of `chain’ food shops. There are hundreds of tables.

There was a group of five girls, around the age of thirteen, on a table near ours. The girls talked the whole time. The talked through each other and over each other. Several girls were conducting two conversations simultaneously while texting friends at the same time. They flicked their hair and the conversation ranged over an incredible number of topics. The girls left the table and a group of six boys took over.

The boys sat without a word and ate in silence. They did not look around but concentrated on their food and their own thoughts. At least two boys did not lift their heads to look around throughout the meal. One boy stood, collected the plates and plastic utensils while a second boy threatened to pour the remains of a drink over the others. This was the stage when they erupted into movement. They talked and laughed raucously and pushed each other exuberantly as they sauntered off.

All this to say is that, like with reading, there is probably not one `best’ method of eleven plus preparation. Some questions will need to be analysed (phonic approach) very carefully. Other questions will require different reading and comprehension skills (whole word).

Some girls will be mature and sociable beyond their years – while some boys will be able to perform even simple tasks with great concentration. Parents are fortunate – they just have to work with the children they have!

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