Thursday, June 30, 2011
The sub cortical parts of the brain look at basic needs like food and water. You’re your eleven plus child asks for a drink just before starting work – he or she may be trying to put off the evil hour – or there could even be a genuine basic need. Parents, as you well know, know everything and one thing that parents do know is that their child has to be happy and well fed. Clearly your child’s level of awareness must contribute to learning.
A different part of the brain deals with emotions. This is called the limbic system. If your child gets very upset at the idea of work then the limbic system can swamp the cortex – and thus prevent learning. In other words – if your child is upset, angry and tearful then attacking an eleven plus paper may not be as satisfactory as attacking a concerned mother or father.
Method 1: “Calm down dear, we can talk this through.”
Method 2: “I am fed up with your outbursts – go to your room until you can calm down.”
I have always enjoyed reading about the hypothalamus – this is the part of the brain that has the ability to help us to adapt to our environment. We could, for example, eat and eat and not stop eating if the hypothalamus was not engaged.
We know that a child’s brain is around 90% of its adult size by the time he or she is 6 years old. How much is the brain developed by the time of the eleven plus? (This may, at times, be debateable.) Occasionally you may think the cortex needs to be more fully engaged. Some times you may pray for greater involvement with more of the sub cortical elements. You just hope that on the day the cortex, the sub cortex, the limbic system and the hypothalamus all work together.
What then is the cortex? It is the grey matter. Your eleven plus child needs grey matter. Papers, food, love, attention, internet tests, bribery and care may all help but the one important factor is the grey matter.
If your child passes comfortably then you may have a view on the inherent justice of the system. If your child needs to go through the appeal system then your attitude may be tempered by your own journey. If your child should happen to fail, for one reason or another, then you may feel a need to wonder if the examination is a just and impartial system.
School environment, for example, must probably play a large part in eleven plus selection. If your child is in a school where 29 out of 60 children will hopefully pass the examination, then if your child is near the top of the pile you will probably feel relatively confident about your child’s chances. If, however, your child is at a school where for two years running only two out of twenty eight children passed, then you may rightfully feel a little concerned.
But can parents ever feel complacent about the variables affecting selection at the eleven plus level? We can only surmise that there is a connection eleven plus scores, results in grammar school and the home back ground. The eleven plus, however, in its present mode, seems to offer advantages to the most promising – and thereby by almost certainly finding a place for these children in the warm embrace of the grammar school environment. If this continues to be the whole point of the examination then there is little point in arguing that the examination offers places to worthy children.
Children with uninterested parents, and a school culture set against the examination may find that grammar schools can not be reached.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
At one time or another we may have enjoyed the stimulation of eating a pickle. The word probably comes from the Danish `pekel’ which means to preserve for use. Shakespeare used the word in the Tempest when he asked: “How cam’st thou in this pickle?”
Jewellers, however, use the word when they trying the remove discolouration caused by an oxide layer building up. Goldsmiths log ago figured out that a low strength acidic solution would remove oxides without damaging the work. The earliest solution used for this vinegar, which is also used to preserve vegetables, so the cleansing bath came to be known as a pickle. Even though we no longer use the same chemistry to flavour our food or clean our jewellery the term has stuck.
Some jewellers now use sodium bisulphate – and the rest of us know that this the product that is used to lower the pH in swimming pools. A solution of sodium bisulphate works at room temperature – but works even faster then it is warm. Many jewellers use a crock pot to keep the solution warm – but not boiling. The rest of us would probably use lemon juice or a lime flavoured drink to dunk any items we are trying to clean.
The next time you are tempted think that your child fled into an eleven plus mess – you may consider:
Lay a soothing or warm hand on your child’s brow. This could, possibly, remove any lingering hang ups.
Think about what Shakespeare was writing about in the Tempest – where a father tries to use illusion and skillful manipulation to restore his daughter to her rightful place.
Contemplate the fact that the word pickle may not come from Denmark – but may be Dutch in origin -so keep encouraging your child to read as widely as possible.
Never ever use the word `crock’ in association with any eleven plus work. Keep encouraging and smiling. Be positive.
If your child’s vapours continue then why not consider flushing them out with a little lemon drink.
There is a cocktail called `The Secret Smile’. This is made with a lightly beaten egg white, caster sugar, a measure of unsweetened orange juice, half a measure of Galliano, some dry sparkling wine and two thin slices of lemon to decorate. Dip the rim of your champagne flute in the beaten egg white – then the castor sugar. Pour the rest of the ingredients – and swirl not stir.
If your child really does land up an eleven plus pickle then a few glasses of `The Secret Smile’ should restore your faith in humanity!
Monday, June 27, 2011
“I was sneaking out of school and the deputy head caught me and took me straight to the head.”
“Wow. What happened? Was she very scary?”
“She asked me why I was leaving school early. I told her that my pet bird was sick.”
“What did she say? Did she believe you?”
“She told me to go home and look after it.”
Jeers and laughter all round.
Heard on the bus:
“My mum wanted me to do another eleven plus paper. I argued. She told me to wait for my dad.”
“Wow. What happened? Was he very scary?”
“He asked me why I didn’t want to do yet an eleven plus paper. I told him that I was bored. The papers were too easy and I was getting around 90% every time.”
“What did he say? Did he believe you?”
“He told me to stop winging it and get on with the work.”
Jeers and laughter all round.
Heard in the car:
“My daughter told me that she now wants to do the eleven plus. I told her that it was a bit too late.”
“Wow. There are just three months to go. What did you do?”
“I took her to a book shop and showed her all the eleven plus papers.”
“What did she say? Did she believe you that it may be a bit too late?”
“I told her to try some papers and then make up her mind.”
Cheers and congratulations all round.
Some changes to the eleven plus learning environment seem to have been almost accidental with the amazing development of the commercial elements of internet. Parents are able to access exercises, papers and assessments on line. There are now opportunities 24 hours a day for parents, and their children, to be educated, assessed and stimulated.
If we understand the media writers correctly there have been far reaching changes in some schools. An example being, the ability of the school to be able to communicate with parents through parent mail and the like.
Changing the eleven plus curriculum would be a complex activity. In today’s world there would be a need for consultation between parents, schools, eleven plus teachers and naturally the grammar schools. Key to the whole process would the co-operation of authorities who set the examination. Some evidence would need to be collected in an almost incidental and informal manner while there would also be a need for lively discussion among the academics. Neither method of promoting and promulgating changes to the eleven plus would be entirely satisfactory – so there would be a need for compromise.
The whole debate may draw a wider net of people into the eleven plus arena – thus developing a co-operative effort from all concerned. The odd Member of Parliament, the Grammar Schools Association, Newspaper editors and even us – the grammar school consumer.
We need to be able to look forward – not backward. Do you remember your teacher at school telling you that the Latin language was the language of Latium, of which Rome was the chief city? One day a historian may be able to put the eleven plus into perspective by telling us that the Eleven Plus was the entry to grammar schools but used archaic methods of assessment so needed to change.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
How much does the present eleven plus take into account the advances that have been made in the past fifty years?
Is the present system of eleven plus examinations out of touch with present educational practices within schools?
Is the internet playing a part in developing a system of mechanical rules and techniques without fostering genuine understanding?
It is likely that all three questions are inter-related.
Eleven plus questions can be couched in simple terms – be it on paper or through the internet. We would hope that an eleven plus child can offer a verbal answer or explanation if he or she offers the wrong answer. This is where a mother or father – or the teacher / tutor can best help by listening, evaluating and guiding. One method of teaching that tries to take into account the benefits of the internet, the active participation by parents and the intervention of skilled teachers, is through live on-line lessons.
A perfectly plausible eleven plus question, that may evoke fond memories in the minds of some eleven plus parents, revolves around wine.
A full rounded bottle contains enough wine to fill six glasses. (Here serious champagne mothers and fathers will know this as a `Rehoboam’.
How many glasses could you fill from a bottle twice as tall and twice as large?
Of course a pen and paper test could explain that because the bottle is round, its width is also its breadth. It is therefore twice as broad, twice as wide and twice as tall s the smaller bottle. The bottle therefore holds 2 x 2 x 2 = 8 times as much. In wine terms this is two Nebuchadnezzars along with one Methuselah. An answer posted on the internet can also explain how many bottles.
The internet, however, can not account for the blush on a mother’s face as she described how one day, back before she had children, and even before she was married to the children’s father she – and two others – worked their way through two Magnums one summer’s evening.
The dear eleven plus child will immediately ask: “How many bottles of champagne was that?”
The shamefaced answer: “Four.”
“Mother, how many glasses was that?”
“They were rather large glasses – and there were three of us – so we stopped counting after a bit.”
No book or internet program can allow a mother’s fond recollections of a warm summer’s evening to be held up for scrutiny.
We know that correct answers need to be praised and rewarded – but incorrect answers need to be explained. When your child is sitting in the classroom, and offers the wrong answer, the teacher may not have time to explain why the answer is wrong. It is more likely that the teacher will move to the next child with his or hand up in the search for the right answer.
Of course almost every parent will be explaining and encouraging their child to look for the multiple choice `red herrings’. These are the answers which could possibly be the right answer – but careful analysis should explain why the answer simply can not be correct. The red herrings need to be discarded thus allowing closer examination of the possible answers. I have seen some children actively crossing out the `impossible’ answers thus allowing a closer focus on the more likely alternatives.
Unfortunately not all eleven plus practice papers can be carefully written, tested and verified before they are unleashed on the unsuspecting public. Children sometimes bring in parts of papers they have downloaded from the internet where the multiple choice answers are highly creative – but sometimes downright misleading.
It would be interesting to read research done how much progress children actually make by working through many different styles of multiple choice papers. We hear about children whose eleven plus diet is made up of working through multiple choice papers. It is difficult to know what the impact of this style of learning will have when the GCSE and `A’ level topics are studied. Does a child really acquire a feeling for the structure of the subject if he or she has been exposed to working though little windows of multiple choice questions?
There is no doubt that on-line lessons and on-line multiple choice are part of the present and the future of eleven plus work. It is not so clear, however, what impact this form of learning and examination will have on a child’s perception of what actually constitutes examination preparation.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Some skills are acquired manually, some linguistically, others athletically and some are taught and learnt. A nursery school teacher may set out to teach a social skill whereas an eleven plus teacher may want a child to learn how to cope with analogies.
Children usually acquire skills through their parents, society, peers, siblings and society. Most children grow up normally and `pick’ things up along the way. One skill that many parents have struggled with at one time or another is that of tying shoelaces. If parents introduce tying the shoes a little too early then their child may not learn the skill immediately. Pick the right moment and some children find it very easy to follow direct and straightforward instructions.
Wrap one end of the shoe lace over another to form a half knot. Pull the knot tight and then form a loop which you wrap around the other to make a bow. Tighten both ends.
Other children may prefer thinking about rabbits.
"Here's a little rabbit, and here's a great big tree, Watch the little rabbit, run around the tree. Out pops his head, to see what he can see. He made a really big knot around his great big tree."
Of course children living in rural communities will pick up different skills to town dwellers. A nine years old child on a farm can be offered the task of the responsibility of collecting eggs. A nine year old city child may have to go to the shops to buy those eggs. The farm child may feel happy in the hen shed at 5.30 in the morning – but fearful of crossing a busy road at 19.30 to collects some eggs from the little shop around the corner.
There was a mention of analogies earlier on – but analogies come in many guises. Is there a difference between an analogy as part of a verbal reasoning or an analogy as an element within a non verbal exercise? Does the eleven plus child have to learn two separate `analogy’ skills or just one general skill?
By the way, if your child had to learn how to do analogies does this mean that he or she was unskilled previously?
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Each piece can be moved in a manner peculiar to itself. The queen, of course, has the widest range of movements. The tactics attempt to simulate military strategy.
Some people think that the game was devised in India and passed through Persia (as the country was known) to Spain and Europe. There have been successions of brilliant grand masters.
Some children take to the game remarkably quickly and it takes an astoundingly short time to explain where and when a piece can move. There are many examples of chess games being played in real time through the internet. There are also websites which explain and help with learning and consolidating the rules.
One exponent of the Ruy Lopez opening was Nigel Short when he was just twelve years old.
He started off by moving his pawn to the King’s pawn 4. (This is three places in front of the King.) P-KP4.
His opponent relied with P-KP4
Short then moved his knight to the space in front of the King’s bishop. Kt – KB3.
His opponent countered with his knight to the Queen’s bishop. Kt – QB3.
The next move by Sort was B-Kt5. In other words his bishop was moved to the centre of the board – trying to take control of the centre of the board.
Nigel Short went to Bolton School – which was established as Bolton Grammar back in around 1516. He was playing chess from a very early age and became a Grand Master when he was still remarkably young – beating the best in the world at times.
When you begin to learn to play chess you are often encouraged to learn the rationale behind the moves – few chess teachers would try to teach the moves. Chess disciples are encouraged to study and learn chess ideas rather than chess moves. There are parallels with learning and studying many eleven plus topics. If your child is able to understand the idea behind the topic rather than try to learn the topic then enlightenment may come earlier.
Chess is played to win. The eleven plus is studied to win a place at a grammar school. Encourage your child to attack and defend. An eleven plus win has to be earned – no one can grant it.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
This is a little song to sing at a party with your friends.
Vanaand gaan die volkies koring sny, koring sny!
Vanaand gaan die volkies koring sny, koring sny!
My geliefde hang aan die bos.
My geliefde hang aan die bos.
My geliefde hang aan die bitter bessie bos.
With a little help with some vocabulary then the translation should be possible.
Vanaand – this evening or today
Volkies – the people
Koring – corn
Geliefde – loved one
Bos – bush
We can see that the song is about cutting corn – with the additional temptation of the `loved’ one.
Your bright eleven plus child, with this information, should be able to work out what the song is about. Think of the eleven plus question:
“What does the word `sny’ mean?
This answer is not in the vocabulary list – but lies in the words `cutting corn’. The comprehension element is, therefore, reasonably straight forward.
What would happen, however, if the question was even more disguised?
Two examples of four digit palindromic numbers are 1551 and 7447. Both of these numbers are divisible by 11. Give a different number that is palindromic – and divisible by 11.
Your eleven plus child will immediately see that 110 is divisible by 11.
1001 is a numerical palindrome.
The next number that may come to mind is
Answering questions of this nature can not be easily taught – but may play a part in trying to help the bright and slightly bored eleven plus child enjoy the challenge of tackling unfamiliar questions. Can a question like this be answered in 45 seconds? Probably – with some determination!
Monday, June 20, 2011
You will probably by now repeating to your child endlessly that every piece of work needs to be executed at examination pitch. It is pointless being sloppy and inattentive. Your child’s work – and your marking of the work – needs to be neat and tidy.
This is the point where you may care to digress. The word tidy means `in tide’ in season. We have the words `spring tide’. There are also sayings like “If the weather be fair and tidy.” Sailors sometimes pray for a tidy wind. Tidy means that things that are done punctually, in the correct season, and will be executed in an orderly, neat and well arranged manner. All parents, or nearly all parents, will hope for a tidy fortune. A few days before the examination you may want to pray that it is all coming along tidily.
While your nine and ten year old child may hang on your every word with loving attention you may find that you need to develop some sort of a system.
Work needs to be done on time.
It is no good your child falling behind – because he or she will only need to catch it up at some time.
Try to help your child to understand that any attempts to fool you will only end in tears. You are the mother and father in all eleven plus discussions. In the final analysis what you say goes. (Or else?)
Try to build revision into every exercise you do with your child. “Do you remember? Can you remember?”
Allocate revision time to each subject your child is attempting. If your child is writing more than one examination you may need to help your child work out a study schedule or timetable.
Then comes the crunch. Do you allow eleven plus study time to be fairly flexible or should you insist on a regime?
Parents can always console themselves – there is a lot of luck associated with examinations. We all hope for the right question at the right time. It may be difficult for some nine and ten year old children to understand that the harder you work the luckier you become.
Key to this question is how much money still needs to be spent on books, papers and resources in the immediate future. Traditionally the annual profits of a family consist of a cache of banknotes under mother’s bed. Mum can spend some of this money if she has to – but she does need to keep a reserve for a rainy day. The family have to live on profits – what is left over after all the hidden and the exposed expenses have been accounted for.
When it comes to buying eleven plus papers parents have to use a proportion of cash that is left over. If books to the value of £50.00 have been bought, and still lie undiscovered and unused, then the family may need to factor in inflation. If after three months the books are virginally serene then inflation will have affected the cost of the books to the family.
Eleven Plus Question
Your family buys books for £50.00. Inflation is running at 5%. The books have not been used for three months. What is the present value of the books?
5% of £50.00 is £2.50. Find 3/12s of this amount. A quarter of £2.50 is 63p.
That 63p has to come out of profits. Of course the books are an asset – and may be used between now and the examinations – but you have still lost 63p.
This is where some parents may need to take a step back. Why has my lovely child not embraced all these lovely books and papers I bought three months ago? Will my lovely child work through these books and papers before the examination – but do we need to buy new ones? What is the `ball park figure’ that we still need to spend?
If you are going to buy new books and materials then you may consider taking your child with you so that the decision become a `joint venture’ rather that a dictatorial decision. When you are in the bookshop – be it online or with-in physical premises – then you can drive home the key points of a collective bargaining process. “If you work through these papers, and the one you still have at home, then you can have a reward.”
“But Mum, you always say that and you never keep your promise.”
“That is not quite correct. We brokered an agreement that you would keep your room tidy and do your homework before you went to bed. When have you ever made time to do eleven plus papers?”
“I submit gracefully, Dear Mother, I will do part of paper every day – and you will put 63p into my hand every day as a cash incentive. If you miss a day then I will stop working towards my eleven plus.”
Now every parent knows that you can establish the age of a horse by look at its teeth. When you child issues you a threat with clenched teeth you know exactly what to do. You have the power. Television? Computer? Parties? Time outside? Food? Bed time? Swimming? Golf? These are all bargaining points that you can bring to the table. In the final analysis 63p a day is not too much to pay to your ever loving and willing eleven plus candidate.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Parents, however, will still worry. They may turn their attention to their child’s appearance – after all any self respecting mother or father does have to do something if they feel that continual nagging is inappropriate. Lucky the girl whose mother decides to do something about her complexion. (The complexion of the daughter – not that of the mother!)
There may be some self respecting mothers and fathers who will not want to start their daughter on commercial makeup.
“No dear. It is too early. Your Aunt Edna did not start on make up until she was married.”
(Daughter winces melodramatically.)
“We will use Grandmother Harriet’s concoction. It worked for her for seventy years. It should work for you.”
“We can do this together.
We will mix four drachms of zinc oxide, two drachms of sulphur precipitate, four drachms of glycerine and add four ounces of rose water.”
“But mum I have never heard of drachms. What is it?”
“Of course the eleven plus does not use the old units. A drachm is about an eighth of a fluid ounce.”
“What is a fluid ounce?”
“A unit of liquid – often used by the apothecaries in years gone by.”
“I know what an apothecary is. I know how bad sulphur smells. I also know that precipitation is to do with settling or sedimentation. I know too what glycerin is – you use it to blow up bridges. Do you really want me to smear that on my face? Have a heart, mum!”
“Well dear, it does work. We will make some up and smear it on you face twice a day. We will first of all wash your face with warm water and oatmeal.”
“Mum, please I beg of you. I would rather do an eleven plus paper every day than put that stuff on my face. Please Mum. Please I beg of you. It sounds gross.”
“All right. All right. You can do an eleven plus paper every day. I will use the unguent on myself.”
Saturday, June 18, 2011
There are suggestions on how to cope with a small leg of pork.
For the First Meal. – Cut off the trotter with a small piece of knuckle and stew for a breakfast dish, using the broth for soup.
For the Second Meal. – Cut the remainder in half, have the knuckle end salted and serve with pease pudding in four or five days’ time.
For the Third Meal. – Cut off a slice from the remainder and serve as pork cutlets.
For the Fourth Meal. – Stuff and roast the piece that is left.
Some parents and children may find a similar approach to eleven topics helpful. Collect all your eleven plus material together. Make some form of analysis of what your child finds easy and where he or she may struggle. Reckon on going over any needy topics at least four times. There will naturally be a space between each of your attempts.
For the First Attempt. – Work through the topic with your child and make sure that both of you understand what is involved. Leave a few days for consolidation before attempting the next stage.
For the Second Attempt. – Write notes that you can both refer to. Both of you learn the notes by heart. (In the old days this was called drill. In today’s eleven plus world this is called drill. Same effort -same results. Learn the work by heart!)
For the Third Attempt. – Ask your child to write and recall the notes from memory. Relearn any weak areas.
For the Fourth Attempt. – Try more examples – using the similar questions from all of the different sources.
Mrs Chatterton wrote in her introduction: “Cookery is neither dull nor difficult if you study it intelligently. Indeed it might be argued that Cookery ranks high among the arts.”
An eleven plus parent may argue: “Learning is neither dull nor difficult if you study it intelligently. Indeed it might be argued that learning ranks high among the arts.”
Convince yourself of this – and you may find it easier to convince your child. You may care to remember that if you don’t get it the first time, you try again. You may also need a third and fourth attempt to drive it all home.
Working with a pencil and a paper is a very traditional method of recording and creating in education. How many children have the words to be able to describe a dragon in full flight – but there may well be some children who have the ability to draw the dragon. There could even be some children with the ability to use a paint package on the computer to bring out the essence of an upset dragon in full flight!
One way round the problem of the eleven plus taking place on a specified day and a preset time is that some children may not be feeling well or there could be a problem at home or something that could possibly affect performance in the vitally important examination. The examination authorities may consider an on-line eleven plus solution where the assessment is continuous. The child would sit four or five eleven plus tests which could all add to a cumulative eleven plus score. Of course there would be logistical problems associated with the test – but think how parents would feel as they were offered the results in an open and uncomplicated manner. A traffic light system could be used – Red, Orange and Green. Parents could be offered pretty yet informative graphs.
Parent would naturally fear changing from pen and paper to on-line continuous assessment. We could look back in history. How did the mothers and fathers of children being educated by monks back in the fifteen hundreds feel as their children were taught by books hot from the Gutenburg presses? Before Gutenberg many children were taught from book painstakingly transcribed by monks. There is a long gap and many years between 1436 and 2011 – but we are still using methods that may already be outdated.
We all know we have different vocabularies when we are talking to members of the family, colleagues in business and long lost friends. Our children too have a vocabulary used with teachers at school, with their parents and with friends. The internet and the applications they meet on the net must be offering a vocabulary that is very different from any books provided by loving parents or teachers at school. The eleven plus too offers a new vocabulary – along with pressures of tests, different publishers and some remarkably unimaginative questions.
Parents may be very aware of this as they listen to their child responding to questions. Could my child be actually dumbing down the answers so that I will understand what he or she is trying to say? Take a group of three or four children in the car on a journey to school and you will hear and see a different personality to your child. The repartee may be sharper, the tongue a little more agile and, possibly, less of a defensive tone in the voice. (Peace at last. Mum and Dad are not in my ear all day telling me how important it is to pass the examination! They can’t moan at me when my friends are in the car.)
Is there then a place for assumptions about the eleven plus to be challenged? Do the rather traditional mathematics and verbal reasoning questions actually reflect how children think and react today? Revolution not evolution may be needed!
Is the Eleven Plus a cost or an investment?
We know that the internet and technology is now a large part of our lives. Our eleven plus children can use the internet and digital sources to look at topics, exercises and assessments on-line and in their own homes. Out of interest we have families accessing our tests and exercises in libraries when their network or computer goes down!
We have been using on-line assessments for the past year. There was remarkably little discussion from parents who were used to pen and paper testing from older siblings or discussions with other past parents. Most parents have simply embraced the change – they now feel much closer to the assessment and the results. One major question that still has to be resolved is will pen and paper testing and on-line testing ever be totally equivalent?
A child taught on and through the computer then has to use a pencil to work on multiple choice questions in the examination. Naturally working through a few pen and paper practice tests should help to build confidence and familiarity.
Of course there must be pros and cons of using on-line testing – but there are already schools who use computer technology to select their children. The speed of marking, the ability to analyse and sort data must make life easier for the school. Some children may also find it easier!
The eleven plus is a learning journey. I still have a book called The Essentials of Verbal Reasoning’ by O.B. Gregory 1963 – and some of the types of questions raised in this book are still used to day. Some questions lend themselves to multiple choice answers. What a coup if your child could pass the examination based on 1963 questions and 2011 technology!
One way we could make the eleven plus more interesting for some children is to change the present system of questions to questions where problems have to be solved. We are working with an eleven plus boy at the moment who comes to life when a KS3 5-8 text book is used to present the questions. He only wants to work at Levels 7 and 8! Just in the same way it is sometimes difficult to find learning materials for a ten year old child with learning difficulties, it is also challenging to provide materials for a ten year old who is thinking and acting as a fifteen year old! Questions set in a problem form and delivered digitally may, in time, help to stimulate some children who do not really need the chore of working through endless papers.
There are possibly very few eleven plus children who would find it difficult to work on an on-line exercise whilst simultaneously eating a wholesome snack, drinking, watching a little T.V. and arguing with a sibling. It may even be possible that the only time our candidate is really quiet is when he or she is working through a computer based simulation. Every time we climb into a plane we must worry about the Air Traffic Controller who took six attempts to pass the examination! Is that worse than meeting a driver who had failed the driving test six times? We only, however, are offered one chance with the eleven plus.
Parents, their parents, their parents before them and so on back in recordable history have all used pen and paper to record examination results. It is the safe and well tried option. Are our eleven plus children going into a world where they will meet only safe and well tried options? Our eleven plus children are probably amongst the brightest in the country. In years to come it is likely that remarkably few of them will opt for the safest route – so why not challenge them through the eleven plus?
We hope that we are investing in the future of these bright children. There will, however, naturally be a cost that has to be carried.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is well known throughout the world for the quality and the breadth of their degrees. A glance down their list of online learning material demonstrates just how advanced this sector of the market is in developing universally recognised degree courses. Some students will achieve their degrees without every having to step onto the campus.
There is still face to face teaching with live on line lessons. The video camera allows the students to see the lecturer – and the lecturer can still pick up on individual students. Naturally there is also still a place for one to one seminars. Full access to lecture notes and prescribed books is available through the internet.
Many of us are well used to the breadth and extent of the virtual world. Zones like Face Book, Twitter and the like allow us to communicate and engage in conversations that can range from the intimate to the expansive. This allows students to feel that they are part of the community – and are not divorced from the rest of the university.
The great majority of university students all over the world must hand in their assignments in a type written form. It is to be expected if many more email their work. Can you remember back to when you were a student? You were told that Wednesday 17.00 was the deadline for handing the work in. You ran up the stairs to the lecturer’s room to join five other students trying to push their essays under the door. How were you to prove that you had completed the task by 17.00 and not 17.55? (You suspect that the lecturer was sipping sherry in the common room.) Email is the answer – because your work is date and time stamped. You may miss the camaraderie and wise cracks as you gathered in front of the door – and the speculation about the lecturer’s personal habits - but you may have been able to spend the time better quaffing your own sherry rather than running around with an assignment under your arm.
When the eleven plus was envisaged all those years ogo the architects would not have been able to see a situation where an eleven plus child had access his or her tutor through the internet. Live one to one interaction is still an essential part of learning for many children. A child attending the tutor’s home once a week may have to wait a few days in order to be able to ask a question. A live video hookup with the tutor means the answer can be discussed, mulled over and supplied in seconds.
Of course there will be concerns about the reliability and validity about an online assessment and subsequent lessons. It is possible that many eleven plus parents and children see on-line assessment as no more than completing a multiple choice test – see the mistakes and receiving a result. Is there the ability to have the questions read to their child – because no one will be helping with any questions in the examination. Are the questions bathed in colour with possibly little animations or are the questions simply static without any dynamism.
How do children brought up in a digital age – who can turn a video recorder on and fast forward at three years old, and click on the Cbeebies icon and find the iplayer zone confidently, feel about working on-line?
“Which do you prefer – a mouse or a pencil?”
“Actually I don’t even use a mouse any more – I just tell my computer what to do. Give me pixels any time!”
By the way – will your child opt for an on-line degree in time to come and thus save a lot of money?
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Examination results are not everything. We hear of bright children from the private sector opting for a place at a grammar school. We know of bright children who grind a place in a grammar school – but may have been much happier at the top end of the local comprehensive. Some children may emerge more contented and academically better off by attending a school where they are not expected to strive for an Oxbridge place.
Monday, June 13, 2011
To wear anything green is unlucky.
To change your name and not the letter of the name is a change for the worst.
Do not use pins in wedding garments.
Three times a bridesmaid and never a bride.
A bride should shed tears, if only a few.
When working on some verbal reasoning questions, for example, with their children some mums may wish they had been offered a further piece of advice.
Carry a book to the ceremony to ensure that any offspring become voracious readers.
Eleven plus children need words.
Suppose you are offered an eleven plus exercise:
Find the word that does not fit into this group.
Add Subtract Percentage Multiply Divide.
This is easy – because it is a word that does not indicate an arithmetic operation.
Now – the eleven plus questions become more difficult.
Find the word that does not fit into this group.
Add Subtract Increase Multiply Divide.
These words all suggest some degree of size and magnitude – but increase is not an arithmetic operation. There is, however, a further twist for the really bright eleven plus child. The word `Subtract’ is to do with numbers decreasing in size – so perhaps the correct answer is Subtract.
“The answer book is wrong. It can not be right. We all got the same answer.”
Suppose, however, that the words are:
Harshness, roughness, harassment, persecution and ordeal.
Every eleven plus mum and dad will immediately see that the odd word out is ordeal – and will be able to explain to their child why.
By the way – here is one more example to find the odd one out.
Green name wedding pins tears
The odd one out is wedding because all the rest are to do with wedding superstition.
Before we can ask for a properly prepared and carefully controlled answer to: “How well is my child going to do in the eleven plus?” we need to follow some obvious rules.
Rule 1 – It is perfectly permissible for parents to hear what he or he wants to hear and not what is actually being said.
Rule 2 – Ask the question in as precise a form as possible. “How will my child’s examination nerves affect his or her chances of doing well in the eleven plus?”
Rule 3 – Ask to have the numerical scale defined. “On a scale of one to ten, what are my child’s chances of passing the eleven plus?”
Rule 4 – Make sure that the question you are asking is analogous to reality. “There are three weeks to go to the eleven plus, what are my child’s chances?”
Rule 5 – If it is necessary to resort to some form of hallucinatory stimulation then do it properly.
“Should we go for it?”
If you were measuring your child’s shoe size, and you established that a larger shoe size may last a little longer, you may be inclined to listen to the shoe clerk. Yet a simple ten percent swing on test results may make all the difference between a pass and a fail.
If the eleven plus providers sat down to a brainstorming session – aided by some form of stimulation – then would it be possible to work out a secure method of extending the eleven plus to be able to take into account areas such as achievement, retention, attitude and personality?
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Children who can learn and who can perform well in examinations are offered places in grammar schools. The eleven plus, however, does not try to take in account the child’s ability to interact – and the family’s social and educational aspirations.
Misgivings about selection processes must have entered the minds of parents, teachers and schools from the very early days. Today’s parents, however, have to take into account the ability of the internet mould opinions and attitudes. The wide ranging benefits of social media must impact on parents.
Would it be true to say that children from ambitious households are likely to find their way into grammar schools? If this is true, even partly true, then is there ever going to be a way of measuring the academic desires of some parents?
It is not hard to look at the eleven plus examinations as a way of selecting the most able children. We may be able to predict that it is possible that many able children will miss out on their eleven plus opportunities. Is this enough for us to wish that the examination was stopped?
Do boys and girls have the same pleasure or similar pleasure when they complete an eleven plus paper? “Boys are so active. That is why it takes him so long to settle down.” If the physical, social and emotional development and maturity of girls is so far ahead of boys – then is it possible that a boy’s general maturity as the eleven plus approaches can be suspect?
The eleven plus is not supposed to be an end in itself. It seems, however, that some of the authors of books and papers are determined to force some of the thought and imaginative process of boys and girls apart.
A girl approaching the eleven plus has the benefit of thousands of years of experience – be it mental, physical, legal, social and economic. Some girls will opt for girls only schools while others will want mix sexed – or co-educational- schools.
Back in 1923 the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education published their report on the “Differences of the Curriculum for Boys and Girls respectively in Secondary School.” At that time grammar school only accounted for about fifteen percent of the children in any age group. The committee made recommendations covering the assimilation of girls into the curriculum – but also made assumption about the amount of divergence. The committee felt that girls should learn the same mathematics as boys. Girls should do different sporting activities.
We know that girls have rather broad differences from boys in terms of early training and tradition. Anyone who has had the pleasure of working with remarkably able and highly mature nine year old female children will understand that to many of them the eleven plus is simply a blip on their stellar route to the stars.
“Girls rule. O.K.?”
Eleven Plus Conversation – Four Girls
A. It is a pity that we are expected to pass the eleven plus. It would make a much easier year if we did not have to work so hard.
B. Mrs. J. expects us to do all our homework and attend the extra study class. It is not fair – because my mother just wants me to work every day. There are three months to the examination and I am getting bored.
C. I don’t think that we need to be pushed. We know we need to pass.
A. Yes, but my dad says that I have to pass because he does not want me to go to `that school down the road’.
B. Some of the boys will pass because the pass mark at the boys’ school is much lower than that at the school we want to go to.
C. Where do you hear that?
D. My sister says that girls are much brighter than boys so the pass rate has to be higher.
B. My brother is at grammar – but my dad says that he has never thought at all.
A. No one is very bright in our family.
B. I hate working on papers in mathematics. We are all in the top set so we know all this stuff. Papers are so boring.
“Come along girls. Don’t stand there chatting. Move into the dining room please.”
Eleven plus Conversation Four Mothers.
A. I’m not going to the gym today. I have to go and buy some more papers.
B. Do you actually go shopping – why not by them from the net?
C. I much prefer to handle the books before I buy. Don’t get me wrong = I do buy off the net but there is nothing really like the smell of a new book or paper.
D. Please let me know what you decide to buy. I have just got started on this lark and would like to know what to do.
C. It does not really matter actually – what does matter is that your child does some extra work. See you later at lunch time.
Some eleven plus children still seem to count aloud as they work their way through some tables and number bonds. Some maintain this approach to mental number work – and often add fingers and thumbs to the mix. Very few children would be able to resist a sigh of satisfaction after starting with 5 times 9 and ending up with 8 times 9 = 72.
An eleven plus teacher has to try to arrange educational situations to bring about desired responses. The rate, progress and limits of improvement have to be taken into account in lessons and exercises.
Many eleven plus exercises seem to involve a problem being presented, a tentative hypothesis being proposed and then the accuracy of the multiple choice answer has to be predicted. Unfortunately for some children the eleven plus examination does not cater for children who want to slavishly follow laws and regulations. Some children actually have to think!
Tests are valuable tools in grading human endeavour. Eleven plus tests try to lump children into groups – the children who pass, those who fail and those who `nearly’ pass.
How likely is your child to pass? This may be a difficult question for some. We know that the eleven plus is based on the normal curve of distribution – with all the talk of Standardised Scores and pass rates. But what about the laws of chance? What happens if there are ten children on the `short’ waiting list?
If ten coins are tossed 1024 times and the heads counted, we may get a similar table. The first column looks at the `Number of Heads’ and the second the `Frequency of Occurrences’
Does this help to build your confidence in you child’s chances of passing an appeal?
The boy herds cattle, the girl does not herd cattle.”
“Vasikana vanocera mvura, vakomana havacere mvura.”
The girls draw water, the boys do not draw water.
We can see that a boy is a mukomana and a girl a musikana.
The Shona word for cattle is mombe and water is mvura.
With this information we can more than likely read and understand the sentences.
Similar acts of translation and comprehension sometimes need to take place during some types of eleven plus questions. If we were learning Shona we would want to learn about the life and customs of country. Naturally there would be some relationship between the idioms, the stories and the songs. An eleven plus child needs a similar connection with the concept behind the eleven plus, why there are grammar schools and how life after a grammar school has the potential to offer rich and varied experiences.
When your child hesitates over a questions remind him or her that crawling is not a very dignified way of moving. But crawling is an essential prerequisite of walking for many children.
A different factor that can colour our views of the value of a book keeper in a business is the need for the owner of the business to be able to separate himself or herself from the actual record of the transaction. Some parents of eleven plus children may want to keep the role of being a mother or a father separate from the role of being the eleven plus provider.
A book keeper will record transactions in a ledger – by hand or through using a computer.
There will be a range of ledgers in order to record the different types of transactions. There will more than likely be a debit ledger and a credit ledger. One type of ledger page could include at least:-
Naturally this leads us into opening and closing balances. Then there is the simple matter of good will.
At times parents of eleven plus children will be relying on good will. By being a parent it is highly likely that a whole lot of good will have been built up over the years. Parents will have fed and watered their off spring, provided them with beds, play stations, T.V., clothes and mobile phones. Their children will have provided their parents with someone to worry about and plan for. Most parents will retain an immense source of pride in almost everything their child has done over the past pre eleven plus years. The words: “My cup runneth over,” spring to mind.
If most parents of eleven plus children had to maintain a system of ledgers to account for all the events and transactions of the eleven plus years then it is likely that the credits would far outweigh the debits – and so they should!
Sadly, however, some parents and their children find it difficult to slip into a study routine. The eleven plus, with the first born, is likely to be a new experience. This could lead to unfamiliar ground. When something new comes along most of us are possibly a little tentative or experimental. It takes us a little time to become organised. Organising a recalcitrant ten year old boy may, sometimes, take a little ingenuity. Hoping that an unorganised child will become organised through working through sets of papers does seem to be a little far fetched.
Can you emphasise with a rather hopeful eleven plus dream? That your ten year old will suddenly and automatically want to study without making a song and dance?
Of course there will never be a uniform approach to the eleven plus by parents and by their candidates. Children will have become accustomed to a certain rhythm of life through repetition and almost automatic responses. Developing a sound study habit may take considerable effort on the part of some children – while others will relish the idea of pitting their wits against an examiner.
Can the eleven plus offer the ability to develop the habit of studying through the introduction of the establishment of new and effective habits? Some of the acquisition of a new habit will be achieved through trial and error. At a base level a child may argue against having to give up football practice in order to do extra eleven plus work. A higher level could lead to a child asking for more demanding and less practical eleven plus work.
“Read the question.
Then re-read the question slowly and carefully.
What is the question asking?”
One type of verbal reasoning question may require re-reading of the question – but a different question may demand more than a simple re-read of the question.
What type of reading could be demanded if we had a fairly typical question along the lines of?
Make a new word by taking out one letter:
Example: Trust becomes Rust
We can not answer this question by literal comprehension where all we have to do is refer to the text. In literal comprehension the answer is usually stated in the text.
A different type of comprehension is where the question involves classifying or collecting and organising information.
A third type is inferential comprehension – this demands thinking and deductions.
As you sit with your child you are no doubt aware of your child’s strengths and weaknesses. In the question shown above – is it the technique of understanding which letter to take out – does you child have a reasonably systematic method of approaching the question? Could a problem lie in vocabulary? Taking away the `t’ of the word trust offers us rust.
Re-reading the question can help – but may not be the whole solution!
Friday, June 03, 2011
Syllabuses can vary from one board to another. A GCSE mathematics examination from one Board, for example, may differ fairly substantially from another board. Types of question can also vary. One school, for example, may want to prepare their children for questions that require attributes that other schools and teachers may not want.
In the world of the Eleven Plus individual school and schools consortia can offer their own examinations. Local Authorities, in many areas however, still dominate.
It may be advantageous for some children to be able to choose which sort of examination they would choose to write. A boy or a girl, for example, could be considerably gifted at writing – and could be denied a grammar school education because their eleven plus did not cater for their needs.
Thursday, June 02, 2011
It is probably time to start serious collecting of all the lucky charms your child may need before the eleven plus examinations. Almost every thinking, reasoning and sensible eleven plus parent will have a `Lucky Eleven Plus List’ by now. Of course it is important to distinguish between a superstition and a lucky charm.
Take, for example, our understanding that a rabbit’ foot is a lucky charm. It is difficult to work out whether the foot is luckier if it is embalmed or if a fresh foot is needed. Think how your friendly super market butcher will respond if you ask for fresh rabbit foot:
“Would you prefer the left or the right foot madam?”
“Would madam please choose between a front foot and a back foot?”
But some parents should not be fobbed off with a hare’s foot. A hare is considered to be unlucky to eat, uncanny and a witch in disguise. Many years ago newborn children, however, were fed on hares’ brains to promote intelligence and physical prowess. (Some eleven plus children may prefer this to their current diet of fish brains.)
A hare’s foot or a rabbit’s foot was supposed to help cramp, rheumatism and bring luck to the holder. When we walk into the major book shops in eleven plus areas there are often displays – even rows - of books and papers. Parents could look for the books with a rabbit’s foot attached. This would mean publishers and the like becoming involved in more than the present rather simple mystique that now surrounds the eleven plus.
Think too of the lines of children waiting to go into the examination. A goodly percentage would be clutching their personalised rabbit’s foot.
Parents will look the children and start worrying. Is a white foot luckier than a brown foot? Do children need coloured different feet for verbal reasoning and mathematics? Does the size of a foot count? Parents have so much on their minds – but some children may need a little extra help on the day.
The Day of the Examination
“Do you have your sharp pencils?
Are you carrying your rubber?
Are you wearing your rabbit’s foot?
Right, into the car with you. You are off to your destiny.”
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Today, the 1st of June, is the day that eleven plus parents all over the country solemnly circle, in red, those crucial days on the eleven plus calendar. Tradition is a vital part of our everyday lives – and parents may be tempting fate if they due not complete this task with due ceremony and pomp. In fact the red on the calendar may even be an occasion for opening a bottle of wine – along with a three layer chocolate cake for the candidate.
The ancient Romans did not divide their days into weeks and weekends – they went for religious festivals in a big way. Work was not allowed and the Romans gathered in their temples to eat, drink and be merry.
The Romans liked to party and at one stage the Emperor Marcus Aurelius had to pass a law which stated that there could be only one hundred and thirty five days of festivities. Of course some days were more important than others so these days were marked in red on the calendar. This gave us the concept of a red letter day.
There are some important eleven plus procedures – even rituals - that may need to be adhered to:
The eleven plus examination is on a red letter day – and this means party! (After the examination, of course!)
Special attention must be given to the food on that day. If parents have been feeding their poor children with lots of fish to stimulate the brain – then good honest hamburgers may be offered. (Parents may choose to feed, as did the Romans, on Nectar and Ambrosia.)
Parents will need to pay special attention to the wine that is selected. Bacchus was recognised as the Roman god of wine. He was often associated with wine dance and frenzy. (Take it easy now.)
With these precepts parents are cordially invited to colour their calendars, count down the days and prepare for life after the eleven plus.