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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Eleven Plus Signals

You ask for a report from school.

“Your child is doing the best he / she can.”

You ask for a report from your eleven plus teacher.

“Your child is doing the best he / she can.”

You ask for report from your spouse.

“Our child is doing the best he / she can.”

You ask for a report from your child.

“Mum, Dad I am doing the best I can.”

The next time you are in Paris and you are gazing up at the Eiffel Tower your attention could swing back to the Eleven Plus. A time signal is sent out from the Eiffel Tower. There is a story that the Director of the Paris Observatory was making an official visit to England – and enquired about the English transmitter.

“Please tell me Mr English Director, how do you set your clocks?”

“Well M le Directeur we telephone your Observatory twice a day and check our clocks against yours.”

“But how do you check your clock against ours?”

“M le Directeur we set our clocks by listening to your Paris signal.”

If you are receiving the same eleven plus signal from many sources – do you listen, collate and act on the information or do you do your own thing?

Monday, May 30, 2011

An Eleven Plus Race

What kind of advice can you offer to your child about his or her performance in the actual examination? Should there be a careful start and a pounding finish – with lots of good work in the middle? Or do you advise to `go for it’ from the start? The Olympics are coming. You may care to use an example from track and field.

Some starts will be standing and others from the crouch position. Before one of the longer distance races the competitors assemble behind a line some distance back from the starting line. The starter gives the orders to move forward. This is the moment when the brain has to be fully engaged. The other competitors have to be ignored and you have to fix your mind on the task ahead.

The crouch start is usually associated with the shorter running distances. Both hands have to be behind the starting line. The starting blocks need to be facing in the direction you wish to run. Starting blocks are used to try to help to get you into a position where you can make an explosive start.

Once you are up and running in races like the 200 and 400 metres you need to take into account bends and curves. You need to remind yourself to run about 15 centimetres out from the inside line of your lane.

When you burst for the finishing line the judges look to see whose chest passes the line first. At the finishing line this is the only part of your anatomy that counts. Would it be true to say that that the bigger your heart the more likely you are to winning?

The training and the papers are all finished. Your last minute advice to your child will include:

  • Begin to focus as the time of the start grows closer.
  • Keep your fingers off the examination paper until you are told to turn over.
  • Remind your child that when the going gets rough, and it may, to try to avoid panicking.
  • Maintain a steady pace – just like you have been doing in the practice papers.
  • Avoid getting boxed in – keep your position and keep focused.
  • Keep your action relaxed and flowing.
  • Save your energy and spread it over the whole distance of the paper.
  • Tactics means you have to keep your wits about you during the examination.

Your child’s prize? A place in a grammar school!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Eleven Plus Anticipation

When we anticipate an event we are acting before hand to prepare for an action or a happening. There may sometimes be that rather uneasy feeling in the stomach – rather like waiting for an operation or for the chop to fall. When your eleven plus child enters the zone just before the examination you hope that the bubbly and squirmy feeling means the adrenalin is flowing. When you feel that tingle it may be that your mind is looking ahead and that you feel that you are no longer in control. Your feelings are bubbling!

You have had a pleasant evening out. The company was entertaining – but you could not drink because you were driving. You are a few miles from home and you entice your body to prepare for that first sip of Baileys. As you approach home the salivary buds begin to bubble. Your thoughts swing widely – is the house tidy? What are we going to do tomorrow? Will it all come right in the end? How will my child cope with grammar school? In other words anticipation can cope with the here and now as well as events some time in the future.

Eleven plus parents and their children sometimes have to recognise that differences in opinion will emerge as time passes – and that the differences are often healthy because they can clear the air.

There may sometimes be a certain amount of tension and despair – but this could be no more than a sign of the times.

Some parents may care to put themselves into the position of their children and study something. They may decide to take on an advanced cooking course, or start on a degree or even a new language.

Some parents may even make an effort to develop a completely new set of friends.

Some parents may feel a need to remain strong and maintain their self confidence – they may at times feel the need to shout, scream and succumb to tears. However much they can hope for a successful outcome to the eleven plus their ability to look ahead may prove too much at times.

Eleven plus anticipation may stir up a cauldron of emotions – some hopeful and some fearful. You hope your child will do the best that he or she can but you fear that this may not be so. Poor old Macbeth had to meet the witches more than once to hear of his anticipated fate as he contemplated the murder of Duncan.

ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

2 WITCH. Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Eleven Plus Attitudes

What would happen if the eleven plus could include a test of attitude as well as the traditional standardised tests? Of course we would all need to agree on what the word attitude really means in eleven plus terms. Would we need to measure attitude to work or doing extra work? Should an attitude towards parents or developing a vision of grammar school life be measured? Presumably the test would need to look at factors which could be determined.

Would a test of attitude need to measure how well a child is able to cope with pressure? This is where some parents and some teachers may have some difficulty in arriving at a universal definition. Is this the pressure that a child puts on himself or herself or the pressure that can occur in the examination hall? “My child tends to fall about in examinations.” This could be true of some situations but others may argue that the better the child is prepared the more likely that pressure will be blown away in the heat of the moment.

As we stand considerations of attitude have to be left out of the final eleven plus tally possibly because it would be difficult to decide on the amount of weight that could be offered to the attitude mark.

A very important part of any consideration of attitudes must be the need to main as wide a distance as possible from the rather vague phrases so often used on school report – be they verbal or written.

“Could do better.”

In contrast H.G. Wells gave us: “His studies were pursued but never effectively overtaken.”

Indeed many eleven plus children may, at times, feel a need to discuss the examination using the words of Mark Twain: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

Eleven Plus Recognition

Perhaps some of us have wondered about promotion at one time or another. Do I deserve to be promoted? Is there anyone in my team at work that could be promoted? How can my eleven plus child demonstrate that he or she needs to be promoted? In all this considerations there is the related struggle between do we promote on seniority or competence?

Management, or the family at home, have to set out that promotion, when possible, will be filled from within. “It is my eleven plus child, he or she needs to feel that the hard work and the effort that has been done up to now must be rewarded.”

But – there is always a `but’ – a capable employee needs to be able to leave if there are better opportunities elsewhere. In eleven plus terms it means that either mum or dad needs to recognise that they may not hold all the answers and that someone else in the family may be better qualified to help. No one would truthfully want their child to leave the family – but at times an outsider may provide a different type of solution.

In well run institutions – be it universities, schools, industry or commence – and especially in the public service – there are usually well established lines of promotion. Some children may welcome a written document setting out what is expected of them and what form or remuneration can be anticipated. The rewards do not need to monetary – but they do have to be achievable. There may be no need for lavish promises if a few meaningful words of praise will suffice.

In today’s world it does seem that various parties within `organisations’ may need to have some form of bargaining power. When the eleven plus comes around if may be worth considering if some eleven plus children could be handed some well researched bargaining tools. “If you do this I will do that,” would be a reasonably familiar refrain.

Some parents may consider that the approach of the eleven plus could be a moment in time when it could be apposite to promote their child from being a child to a student. Hopefully the promotion will come about because the child is demonstrated sustained and recognised competence rather that just arriving at ten years old.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

When the Eleven Plus Wheels Fall Off

Houston we have a problem.”

“Mum and dad – we have a problem.”

We know that when the astronauts in Apollo 13 had a catastrophic problem they reported their crisis in a typically laconic manner.

Some years ago I was on a flight to Gibraltar when the pilot explained, in a low key manner, that the wheels would not lower. We had already been asked to fasten our seat belts during the long approach. The runway at Gibraltar is approached from the sea. Cars, cyclists, motor bikes and pedestrians all cross the run way, at times, to suit the arrival and departure of planes. When you are walking or driving over the runway you can see the wheel marks where the planes touch down.

We were asked to stay patient while the plane circled to use up fuel. The pilot also asked us, very nicely, not to rush to one side of the plane to see if the wheels had come down. Seats at the rear of the plane became desirable – as these were the passengers who would gain first sight of the appearance of the wheels. The `Fasten Your Seat Belt’ sign seemed to stay on for ages.

We were aware of clunks and sounds as attempts were made to lower the wheels. The flight attendants went through the `Brace Position’ twice. The second time the attendant made a weak joke – but not everyone laughed. The First Officer told us that we would try one more circuit before making the approach. We went round the Rock in a giant circle. A terse message was issued. “The wheels are down. Stay in the brace position when we land to make sure the wheels remain locked. Thank you for your patience.”

So when your eleven plus child explains that he or she has a problem there may be a need to keep calm while you circle around trying to find a solution. When your child attempts to discuss an eleven plus problem he or she may need help with the language and emotions of the eleven plus. A true crisis may only really be a relative crisis. Imagine if you had been on that plane and seen one of the wheels fall off. Would you have argued with your child at that moment?

When an eleven plus wheel falls off think of yourself as a pilot and try to guide your child towards an amicably realistic solution.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Eleven Plus Voice

Parents who are working with their children need to be aware of `The Eleven Plus Voice’. This is the voice or tone you may choose to use when you are working with your child on eleven plus work – or even discussing where and when the work should be done. Your eleven plus voice needs to be clear and resonant – and pleasing to the ear.

To maintain clarity and resonance you need to think about the shape and position of your mouth. A mouth that never stops moving on the desirability of passing the eleven plus may give your child the stuff of nightmares. Nagging is good – but in eleven plus terms demands a degree of moderation. You will be aware that a determined eleven plus nag is not the same as other more general nagging. If you are feeling tired or under pressure then the quality and carrying power of your voice could change. (Don’t you dare raise your voice at me!)

The carrying power of your voice is not so much to do with the quality of tone as the articulation and direction. The tone, however, is produced by a combination of breath and the larynx. A fulsome or even full blown eleven plus rant may include several seventeen word sentences where a mother or a father does not stop to take breath. (Some sentences can be considerable longer.) The parent’s head can appear alarming close to the miscreant’s eleven plus face. A reasonable eleven plus rant may need to include at least the following words:

“After all we have done for you with holidays in America, cruises in the Mediterranean a new bicycle and fourteen different books of eleven plus papers and you can’t even sit down for ten minutes to do part of a paper.”

Eleven plus students of mathematics will see that the previous highlighted sentence has more than seventeen words – but it is easy to go over the top when you want to make a point!

To make their voice memorable some parents may choose to remember the film called `The Godfather’. There we learnt that nasal resonance offers a carrying power and penetration that simply shouting can not hope to achieve. Keep your cool, keep your voice nasal and your child will look at you with a combination of excited acceptance and possibly even a sense of dread and foreboding. You do not, however, want your nasal voice to be thin and reedy – you may need to offer a sense of menace.

Very few eleven plus parents will find that shouting ever brings about change. Shouting at your child can only be fruitful if you have never shouted before. Shouting comes under the aegis of the `short, sharp shock’ but can only be effective if used sparingly.

Some remarkable eleven plus results have been achieved without the benefit of anger, frustration, shouting and recrimination. Some children have even passed without threats, overblown rewards and sarcasm. The model eleven plus voice will be warm, encouraging and wholesome. This is a voice that is never lifted and displays true affection and full recognition of the effort that is being made.

The words `the still small voice’ are often attributed to the conscience. How wonderful it would be if your child said to you - on the day the results arrived:

“Thank you mum and dad – we achieved these results and you never raised your voice or said a cross eleven plus word. I am truly grateful. I really did do my best”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Charles Drury and the Eleven Plus

The wisdom of Charles Drury, 1964

Be positive with your child.

Have only very few rules

Keep your child occupied at all times.

Wait until your child is ready to start work.

Be well prepared.

Threats made must be carried out thus delay threats, keep them vague.

Your child’s interest is the real key

Start hard – it is easy to relax, but …

Seek respect, not to be liked... regard affection as a bonus

Delay sending for help as long as possible,

Absolute courtesy at all times

Be absolutely the same in temperament from day to day, as this gives your child the necessary security

Quietness. Quiet mum and dad, quiet eleven plus child

Be absolutely the same in manner whenever possible.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Flashes of Insight and the Eleven Plus

It must be a secret dream of many eleven plus parents that when their child comes across a hard question in the examination the answer is suddenly revealed in a flash of light.
Now any grandparents of eleven plus children need to take caution. You will, no doubt, remember the story of the funeral of a grandmother from Georgia, that was held in Blairsville in July of 1982. The preacher concluded his moving address with the words: “We never know what is going to happen next.”
Seconds later, a bolt of lightening hit one of the mourners - who was killed instantly.
The preacher remarked that that an unusual event had happened.
A different type of light can appear to come from stroboscopic movement. Before the days of 3D cinemas and 3D TVs the perception of movement was achieved by different receptors in the brain being stimulated. Normal movement on the screen was achieved by images being projected at the rate of 24 per second. We now have the ability to see events in slow motion so that we can see what happens when a golf ball is hit or lightening strikes. The 3D effect can now allow the ball and the bolt o come towards you at a terrifying speed.
Parents worry about many things in the approach to the eleven plus. They worry that they are feeding their child the right kinds of food, they worry about the time their child goes to bed, they worry about friends and the time spent on the telephone. Parents also worry about the amount and the richness of work their child is doing. Up to now I have never heard of an eleven plus parent worrying about their child being struck by lightening.
From early times, well before the eleven plus, man has worried about lightening. We know that lightening is the visible discharge of atmospheric electricity. One theory is that lightening comes about by the collision of water droplets in a thundercloud. The theory is that when falling drops hit smaller drops there is a discharge of positive energy. The air around is filled with a negative charge.
When your child is in the eleven plus room just think of all the positive and negative charges that will be flying around. Some children will have been told that it does not matter if they pass or fail. “It is just for a bit of fun.”
Other children will need to pass: “Enough. Work hard and make sure you do not dishonour the family.”
A pretty universal refrain will be: “Just do the best you can.”
When your child reaches Question 34 – and the muse fails to ignite - suggest to your child that he or she taps lightly on the head with a pencil. You may care to explain that this could possibly loosen a few little drops of brain cells and thereby ignite a little electrical storm in the brain. This could allow the brain to heat up and thus institute an explosion – the answer may come in a flash. Your child could somehow find the answer to Number 34. The honour of the family might be saved.
Mother to eleven plus child: “Well, how did it go?”
Child to mother of eleven plus child: “All right – but a rather unusual event occurred on Question 34.”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eleven Plus Codes

Should the actual eleven plus mathematics paper your child sits later this year include a little group of hard and demanding questions?

Three times the square of a certain whole number is three less than ten times the original number. Find the number.

What about a question like this?

A certain number of pence are shared among some children. If they have eleven pence each there are three pence left over; but three more pence are needed if they are to have twelve pence each. How much money is being shared, and how many children are sharing?

Working out problems in mathematics engages some minds – but can be regarded as an aberration by even the most astute eleven plus scholar. Do you remember at school hearing about the Babylonians who in the second century BC used a system for mathematics where the value of a number depended on its position? You will probably recall that they placed two small wedges to indicate that a number was occupied. This enabled them to distinguish the difference between 107 and 17.

Babylonia was one of the great empires of the world. It was probably inhabited by civilised man as far back as nine thousand BC. Their great king was Hammurabi who developed a highly sophisticated system of laws.

Eleven Plus Laws – Written by a Team of Parents and Children.

  • Do your work on time and when you are told to do it. You can not establish your own set of eleven plus laws. You do need to work within limits set by your parents.
  • Only argue when you are allowed, by your parents, to argue. If you really do have to argue then make sure that the premise you are arguing on is acute and water tight. You don’t want your mother to be able to say: “I told you so.”
  • It really is your duty to listen and take notice. When listening, nod attentively at times and say the magic words: “Yes mum. Sorry mum.” These four words will lessen the flow and give you time to breathe.
  • When you are faced with hard mathematics questions, like the ones above, try them but if you can’t solve them move on. Ask your parents to help you solve the problems when there are guests around. You will show that you are eager and attentive and a true eleven plus scholar.

We are taught that in a court of law that counsel should never ask a question unless you know the answer. The answer to the first question is three and the second sixty nine p and six children. (You knew that anyway and did not need me to help out.)

But why should eleven plus children know about Hammurabi? It is quite simple. The laws were called `Codes’ – the Code of Hammurabi. Some eleven plus children have to solve hard mathematics questions, some parents work out eleven plus laws with their children and even in the times of the Babylonians children had to cope with codes.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Silent, cool in temperament, calm in expression.

If your child ever questions your enthusiasm for the eleven plus then you may find it useful to read a little lecture on the role of a Pharaoh and his duties. A pharaoh was destined to become an administrator – he was trained from youth to take a responsible part in his father’s rule. Even a young boy could be recognised as a First Minister! His accession to the throne would be celebrated by great pomp and ceremony.

His nobles were buried with epitaphs – which were to be remembered by future generations nearly five thousand years later! One Egyptian noble left the epitaph:

“Silent, cool in temperament, calm in expression.

Ten Eleven Plus Points

  1. This is only a little lecture – I do not want a full scale discussion.

  1. You know your duty. Please start now!

  1. My child, you too can be a leader!

  1. A little organised administration will help – tidy up after you have worked!

  1. The celebration comes after the eleven plus. Do not let up now. Keep working.

  1. It may sometimes be better to hold your tongue than keep on and on.

  1. Stay cool.

  1. Stay cool in the examination.

  1. Be calm – there is no need to work yourself into a frenzy.

  1. By all means express yourself – but please temper your language and emotions.

And finally, remind your child of the pyramid of Khufu – which covered thirteen acres. The builders used about six million tons of stone. It took around one hundred thousand men about twenty years to build the pyramid.

Eleven Plus Question One

If the Pharaoh had employed another twenty five thousand men would it have been possible to reduce the building time – or did the early engineers work out an optimum relationship between procurement and delivery of materials, man power and size of task?

(In other words do you need to buy more papers or are you going to wear your poor child out?)

Castling and the Eleven Plus

A rather special move that is used in chess is called castling. It is possible to castle on the King’s side or on the Queen’s side. In chess notation the King side move is known as O-O but on the Queen’s side it is written as O-O-O.

When you castle on the King’s side you move two of your own pieces at the same time. These are the King and the Rook. The King moves two squares to the right – and the Rook moves two to the left. The King is therefore on the Knight’s square and the Rook on the Bishop’s square.

When castling on the Queen’s side the King moves two squares to the left. The King is now on the Queen’s Bishop square. By moving two squares the Rook lands up on the Queen’s square.

Castling has a number of rules that need to be followed.

The King can not have been moved.

The King may be in check – or pass through check.

Any of the squares between the King and the Rook are occupied.

Why would a chess player want to castle? If the move is played early on the Rook is brought into the game in a highly effective position. The King is often protected from attack. Attack as well as defend!

This information could be invaluable to an eleven plus child. We are often told that we can recall facts and figures better if we can build some form of relationship using a range of devices. A different solution is to try to learn it all by heart. A mnemonic is one method used to try to improve the memory. This is a short rhyme or phrase to make the information easier to remember. We sometimes meet questions like these:

In each line below, the first word can be changed into the last word in three stages. Only ONE letter can be replaced at a time and proper words must be made each time. An example has been done for you.

Would it be possible to write a mnemonic to make this exercise more palatable for some children?

You may be able to deliver an Eleven Plus Check Mate if you could!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

An Eleven Plus Cuddle

In dance there is the step that is called `The Cuddle’. We see `The Cuddle’ in the street, on the beach, in airport lounges and motorway service stations. `The Cuddle’ is also offered on rugby and football fields, at netball matches and after a sky dive. Mother cats and kittens do it too.

There are some basic steps that are probably common to most situations - be it from a couple dancing together to a sedate kiss on the balcony (watched by millions).

A Dance Cuddle

Start by facing each other and holding hands. On the first beat shift the weight to the right and then the left respectively. The man lifts his right arm leading the woman behind him.

On the next beat, as the weight is transferred to the other foot, the woman steps behind the man who brings his right arm across the left – with the woman’s arm passing over his head.

The next beat carries the woman round behind the man. He faces the front and the couple hold hands with the man’s hands crossed. His left arm is held at waist level while his right is at shoulder level.

On the next beat the man turns away – and the woman follows him.

The man and woman can then continue to circle as long as they feel like it. To end the move the man raises his right arm, the woman lets go and she steps around to the front. The couple can now join hands. (Some cuddles, especially by foreign footballers, are followed by a kiss.)

When to Offer a Cuddle

When could you offer your eleven plus child a cuddle? If you asked your child to read the instructions on `How to Cuddle’ and then apply the instructions – then you would be able to determine just how well your child could follow a familiar sequence – but phrased in unfamiliar language and terms.

We all seem to work on the principal that a reward with a small or a small token for good behaviour is more effective as a motivator of self control than is punishment. But how then do you explain that it is the behaviour not the child that is receiving praise? A smile could mean a reward for the behaviour – but a cuddle confirms that the child is the recipient.

When parents do need to admonish their child over an eleven plus transgression it may sometimes be very difficult to remain objective and calm. The trick is not to allow the ten year old child to feel resentful or to hold a grudge. A loss of prestige may encourage some ten year olds to put up a barrier that could act as a deterrent. It is remarkably hard to continue to feel resentment whilst experiencing a cuddle.

The Eleven Plus Cuddle

Mum grabs the candidate by both hands. She whips her hand over her child’s head. The child does not have time to resist. (If no one else is nearby – when you are nine or ten it matters!). Mum pulls hard, child is happy, mum unwinds, both smile. Job done!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Eleven Plus Trip to the Zoo

For some elements of eleven plus studies to be really meaningful, parents should be able to relate the eleven plus content to their child’s background. A family who has travelled to many countries, for example, would be able to discuss with some conviction a group of similar words like: `hobo traveller and trekker’. Some children, however, may possibly find it difficult to do any real thinking on the basis of abstractions alone.

Suppose you want to go with your eleven year old child to London Zoo. You live `out of town’ so the train is an option. There is, for example, a direct train from Gillingham in Kent to Charing Cross in London.

A tube journey would be needed to reach London Zoo. Transport of London has a journey planner. Entering the terms `Charing Cross’ and `London Zoo’ shows an example of a journey by underground and then by bus.

You could reasonably ask your child to look at the train timetable from Gillingham to Charing Cross. You may then choose to suggest that a map of the underground would give some vital information – after all you do want to get off at the right stop.

You would possibly expect your eleven year old to be able to look the zoo site up on the internet.

Now comes the task of assembling the different information. How long is it all going to take? The train takes about an hour and a half for the first section of the journey while the travel inside London takes about half an hour.

Two hours travel? Is there an easier way? Should `someone’ drive? Will travelling by car into London be any quicker? Which journey will be safer? What about the difference in cost between driving and letting `the train take the strain’?

As parents and teachers we often rely on our ability to use words to explain concrete experiences. Some eleven year old children would relish the idea of taking responsibility for planning the rail journey. Other children may feel over awed by the responsibility. The words `Train travel can be subject to disruptions’ may be significant to some children – yet other less `train aware’ children would have no idea of the implications.

An eleven plus question could be: What time would a family have to leave Gillingham to arrive, by train at London Zoo at around eleven o’clock? The train takes an hour and a half and the tube and bus around half an hour? (There may be a long queue at the gate – taking about twenty minutes.)

How can parents make this meaningful? Take their child to the zoo by train? Use the online help available through three websites to make the experience more meaningful? Sometimes questions requiring abstractions may be made easier if meaningful visual analogies are used. Remind yourself – anything that aids learning should improve retention and problem solving skills.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

NVR Compass Points Eleven Plus

We know that the new technologies have made the learning revolution in the world of the eleven plus possible. Sadly, however, the new technologies do not automatically guarantee eleven plus results. Most of the new websites and eleven plus offerings are serving to reinforce the old fashioned methods of preparation.

When we think of the eleven plus we often think about information. What does my child need to know to be able to do analogies? What is the best eleven plus course I can follow? Do I need to participate in all the social media websites? What eleven plus information is needed? Is an eleven plus teacher going to be the answer? What kind of lessons and tests off the internet are going to be useful?

It is natural for us to link computers to eleven plus education. Computers and the internet allow teachers, publishers and others to transmit their thoughts, ideas, teaching methods and information packs to the public.

Some children pass their eleven plus with a staple diet of papers. The papers pose question after question. The children work through the papers remorselessly and voraciously. The children and their parents are consumed with paper frenzy and scores. Yet this does work for many children. Good marketing has helped to make working through papers a desirable ambition.

The increasingly effective search engines such as Google, Internet Explorer, Bing, Yahoo and the rest make all of us digitally fluent. If ever a great day arrives, and the decision is made to look into the present structure of the eleven plus, the architects of the `New Eleven Plus Era’ will need to look at internet technology and understand its place in the preparation of children and the role of parents.

There are some eleven plus questions about compass points. Children are asked to turn 90 degrees, and then retreat with 180 degrees. They are then asked which direction they will be facing. The words: “North, South, East and West, where ever you go, home is best” spring to mind. Many children will be able to continue to pass the eleven plus without ever leaving their homes for extra study. The internet enables the classroom to be brought to the home.

Monday, May 16, 2011

NVR Odd One Out Eleven Plus

At this stage of the eleven plus with just a few months to go to the 2011 examinations some parents may be wondering about how well their child will cope in grammar school. The thoughts then may drift languidly to thinking about A Level choices – and then onto university.

A few points may exercise the mind.

Is my child physically and mentally able enough to cope with living on his or her own?

Will my child find it easy to make friends – and will the friends be studious and like minded – or will they drag my child into nefarious activities?

Will the socio-economic background my child comes from mitigate against any social activities or will our lack of millions actually matter?

How well will my child cope with being able to work on his or own without much supervision – or will it come all right on the night? Will he or she take notes? What happens if the contact with the personal tutor is poor or of little impact?

Do I think that my child will come home for holidays or will there be work pursuits, travel opportunities or will there be a desire to study voraciously?

How well will my child fit into the close community of the students’ residence? Will my child share the cooking and cleaning? How well will the washing up be done? Will the bath be cleaned – and by whom? How will my child find time to shop? What happens if there is evidence of political or religious intolerance?

My child has discussed, with me, reasons for attempting the eleven plus examinations. We have looked at local comprehensives and have thought about the impact of independent schools on our finances.

We do want our child to conform and write the eleven plus examination. We just do not want our very precious child to be the `Odd One Out’.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

NVR Codes for the Eleven Plus

Water diviners used to play a large part in the lives of many. After all the ability to find water is a skill not held by many. It is as skill, however, than can be acquired. Of course there are degrees of attainment – the real water diviner will keep divining while it is likely that a casual learner may lose interest. Like any job – sometimes looking for water can be hard and unrewarding work.

I can remember walking for hours behind a water diviner holding onto a quince divining rod. This is a Y shaped rod made from a single quince twig. Some, less pure diviners, use two strips tied together. In England I understand that water diviners are inclined to use twigs drawn from hazel, hawthorn or cherry. We used quince because the sticks are whippy and supple – and very responsive to water.

You hold the spring rod with the tip pointing away from you – and the arms of the Y need to be clasped reasonably firmly – with the palms face up. The rod reacts by moving up and down – and the reaction is the strongest where there is lots of water.

It takes a bit of practice to learn to recognise if the rod is moving because you are walking – or if there really is a reaction to water. As you move over water the twig twitches in your hands. It is an extraordinary sensation as the elements conspire to tell a story.

You need to concentrate on finding water. The mind can not wander. After all finding water is a bit like cracking a code. Follow the rules, follow your heart and persevere. The anthology `Songs of a Sourdough’ by Service has the poem about `The Cremation of Sam McGhee’. Here a trapper promises to cremate a friend as soon as possible after death. We had to learn this poem at school when I was eleven years old. I can easily recall the words: `A promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.’

Remind your child that unravelling a code is sometimes a bit of black magic, a bit of luck, a strong desire to find the answer and a realisation that any help in solving a code implies that a debt has been created. “Once you have cracked the code you can move on with the paper.”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

NVR Analogies Eleven Plus

Your child decides that he or she is going to work on an eleven plus paper. You heave a great sigh or relief. This is a momentous occasion. You did not have to any reminding - you did not have to utter the well worn words: “Isn’t time to do your work?”

Your child walked to the table where the eleven plus work had been set out a little earlier. You had dusted the desk and the papers only minutes before the `the decision’. From the doorway you watched him or her pick up a pencil, examine the point, put the pencil down, open paper to the right page – have a last scratch and wriggle and then settle down to work. Your job from now on is easier. Your child has crossed the Rubicon. Common sense says that he or she has willed the start on the paper.

At some stage you surmise that your child’s attention will wander. He or she will need to show great effort to keep concentrating. The words `will power’ spring to mind. When Caesar crossed the Rubicon he declared war and reached a point of no return. Your secret hope changes from: “Will my child pass the eleven plus?” to “At last my child has a chance of passing the eleven plus.”

You and your child have worked through many papers together. You know that the analogies questions are coming up. You know that you have explained that an analogy is to do with similarity on which a comparison may be based. Some analogies can be verbal in nature and some non verbal.

Solving an analogy question involves a complex matrix – as well as sheer ability there are other factors like motivation, interest and anxiety. You can simply hope and pray that when your child sat down to the eleven plus work, without prompting, that another hurdle had been crossed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

NVR Rotational Symmetry Eleven Plus

The moon is a satellite of the earth. It revolves around the earth in twenty seven days seven hours and forty three minutes. The average distance of the moon from the earth is 238 793 miles. The moon’s diameter is about 2160 miles and its mass is estimated at one eightieth of the earth.

(By now any reader will be able to work out that an eleven plus question is on the way.)

Because of the time taken by its axial rotation being the same as that of its revolution round the earth, the moon always presents the same aspect to us.

(Read the question carefully – do not guess.)

The moon shines by the reflected light from the sun and when opposite the moon is called the full moon and a fortnight later when between the sun and the earth it is called the new moon.

Eleven Plus Question

The moon is a sphere – what is the order of rotational symmetry of the moon?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

NVR Codes for the Eleven Plus

Do you remember in My Fair Lady when Rex Harrison sang the immortal words:

"Why can't a woman be more like a man?"

At times, when working through eleven plus papers, we may occasionally wish to ring a change of sentiments:

Why can't my child be more like our cat?

Cats are so feline, so calm unless crossed.

Ready to help all our eleven plus woes.

Ready to climb on the paper we are on.

Why can’t a cat do our eleven plus work?

Why is thinking that all our cats do?

Why are cats always right - never wrong?

Codes take time and organisation to answer.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Eleven Plus Ideas

Every now and then an eleven plus child may show signs of a supreme lack of interest in maintaining a high standard of work towards the examination. Some children, for example, are a little co-operative when their work is given by someone who is outside of the family circle.

Parents, however, do have a very powerful tool – they are on the spot hour after hour day after day. There is naturally no need to spend all twenty four hours on designing programs about and for the eleven plus. It can also soul destroying if parents have to think of ways to out manoeuvre signs of petulance or `boredom’. Parents have the ability to offer the invaluable one to one attention and support when it is called for and when it is needed.

Of course the great majority of parents will try to motivate their child without trying to put pressure on. It is possible, however, that at one time or another parents may be tempted into making some points rather forcefully.

“If you don’t complete the paper you can not expect a treat.”

“If you don’t pass you will have to go to that school down the road.”

“If you don’t do the work then I am going to be very angry.”

Sentiments borne out of frustration may work on a few occasions – but will possibly not be an effective tool if used on a long term or daily basis.

If may be a rather precious home if a parent did not feel the need, sometimes, to display a little well judged temper and frustration. The eleven plus, however, is not a sprint but a slog for some children.

If your child becomes angry and starts arguing it may be better to leave the battle for another day. At some stage reason will prevail and your child may even come to you and ask for a resumption of work.

When your child is dealing with the unknown it is possible for tension to rise remarkably quickly.

Try not to do individual questions – but act, when possible, as a sounding board for ideas. (On some questions this may give you enough time to work out the answer for yourself!)

When possible work on the principle of checking and double checking. Point out when progress is being made. Leave the `bad stuff’ for another day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ten Eleven Plus Points

You may need, at times, to offer your child a little advice. Your collected thoughts can be gratefully received, or looked at with a degree of suspicion and horror. The timing may be wrong – but your sentiments can not be faulted. You simply want to help your child. With just a few months to the 2011 Eleven Plus examinations parents are starting to work through selection papers with their children. Some of the following points of advice to your child may apply at one time or another.

  1. Encourage your child to work as neatly as possible. This is especially important if your child is filling in multiple choice answer sheets. The scanner will have difficulty in reading untidy and crossed out work.

  1. Try to help your child to use as wide a vocabulary as possible during conversations and eleven plus work. There is a saying: “Keep it simple, stupid.” This can not apply to all situations – sometimes your child will need to experiment with words and ideas – after all he or she is on his or her own in the examination.

  1. Explain over and over the need to keep working through a paper. You and your child will have worked hard to reach the stage where the two of you are working through papers together. “Don’t give up!”

  1. Encourage re-reading the question before your child moves on to the next question. Your child may have selected the answer – but did he or she select the answer that the question was looking for? If you work on this on papers at home your child may be more likely to apply this in the actual examination.

  1. Work steadily through a paper. Try to avoid saying, “Let’s get to the end of the page.” Your child’s attention may droop in the middle of the examination and the `end of page’ syndrome may kick in. If you have to stop, find somewhere along the line or some other finishing post.

  1. You may offer the advice, “If you don’t know the answer then move on. You can always come back to it later on.” If you don’t apply this rule when the two of you are working together – how you expect your much loved one to do this in the examination?

  1. Help with a chart, in a conspicuous place, of when the examination is – the days and the time. “Focus dear, focus!”

  1. Make sure that the favoured pencil case is fully equipped – pencils and rubbers are essential elements.

  1. Try not to ramble when you are repeating your self. Your bright ten years old will be able to pick up phoney statements. “Don’t worry dear. Just do your best.” (You may, possibly, really mean: “I have fed you, nurtured you, and helped you to ride a bike, put up with everything – so make sure you … well pass.”)

  1. Remind your child that he or she is supposed to find that the examination is difficult. If your child, however, finds that every thing is dead easy then the two of you will have done the best you can.

Monday, May 09, 2011

An Eleven Plus Poll

A group of mothers have been together from play school days. Their children do not all go to the same school – but they have continued a tradition of meeting up once a month for a little chat and keep in touch. There is no timetable, agenda, secretary or membership. Over the years the numbers in the group have grown and grown until one month an unheard of forty three mothers arrived!

The room that had been booked was too small but the management, recognising an opportunity, rushed around and laid more places in the larger dining room. The cheerful and happy group of mothers filled the tables and ordered. Two of three had to make quick phone calls home to say that they would be late because the kitchens had said the different meals would take some time. As the mothers waited for their food the noise in the room grew a little louder as the alcohol worked on the empty stomachs.

The conversation then moved, as it would, to the eleven plus. The mothers began talking about the question of working with their children at home on eleven plus work. One mother, well fuelled by red wine, called out: “Do you find it easier to work with your child or get help?”

The sample was stratified by the mothers having children at two different schools. There were nineteen children in one school and twenty four in the other. The number who selected that it was easy to work with their child was ten in one group and twenty in the other. The problem the mothers debated was; “Is there a difference in the two schools.?”

Obtained Results from the Mothers

Yes I can work with my child

School A 10

School B 20

Both 30

No I can’t work with my child

School A 9

School B 4

Both 13


School A 19

School B 24

Both 43

One of the mothers collated the results and then she announced that she would work out if there was a difference between the actual results and expected results. She offered an example of expected results.

Expected Results from Mothers

Yes My child will work with me

School A 13

School B 17

Both 30

No My child will not work with me

School A 6

School B 7

Both 13


School A 19

School B 24

Both 43

When we look at these results it is likely that there won’t be much difference in the numbers of children who are prepared to work with their parents.

All the mothers knew this any way – and by the time the results were announced the conversation had moved on to holiday homes in Spain, caravan sites in Devon and the relative merits of red wine. Bit by bit as the party become more anesthetised the conversation moved to not being able to drive home because of the drink drive limits and whether to call a taxi or a partner. One of the mums started on a poll count – but then forgot what she was counting.

“Never mind. We can do it again next month.”

Sunday, May 08, 2011

An Eleven Plus Allegory

Here is a thought – instead of dutiful cramming on the Sunday before the eleven plus tests why not take your child to the National Gallery? In Room 18 today I saw the Allegory of Grammar by Laurent de La Hyre. He painted the picture in 1650. Like all the paintings in the gallery a little information pad is fixed to the wall beside the painting. de La Hyre was commenting, I think I read, on the need to have less formal grammar in schools – but to let ideas flourish and grow.

Your child may then find it very helpful to sit down with the right tools (paint, brushes, canvas etc) and paint out an eleven plus allegory. One definition of the word allegory is to represent truth as a fable or a story. Your child could produce a painting to illustrate the journey that will be nearly over – and the life he or she will live in the years after the eleven plus. A little fable or a myth!

In 1948 Marion Richardson wrote `Art and the Child’. She advocated forcefully that children needed to be able express themselves in their art. She also made the point that art seemed to become dull and downgraded as the child progressed through the school. The night before an important examination may represent, to some, potentially a time of peak creative and intellectual performance. (Get them when they are hot!)

Painting may be an important means of healing and discovery and could be both revealing as well as provide an important recording of your child’s feelings and emotions. If you provide your child with large sheets of papers and big brushes - along with huge pots of paint - your child may produce a very different picture to the one where you offered water colours!

Much of the present eleven plus lends itself to be a packaged and formal examination. A little light hearted frivolity may produce starting results.