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Friday, October 28, 2011

An Eleven Plus Epigram

Some eleven plus parents would be hearted to think that their children continued to learn while they were asleep. (This is where mother and father drop off for a little nap in front of the television while the `candidate’ slogs through yet another paper.) We know that a quiet rhythmic noise can be soothing – while sudden sounds can be disturbing. As mother and father sit hand in hand, deep in sleep, the last thing a bright eleven plus child would want to do is make a sharp and sudden noise!

We don’t really know why the brain seems to need sleep. The brain seems to close down for a period of time. Our cat, for example, seems to have the ability to sleep for the majority of the day and probably most of the night – surfacing only for food and brief walk outside. A cat, however, has to be able to spring into action when faced by a dog – or even when playing with a mouse. An eleven plus child has to be able to spring into action when he or she hears the words: “Well children, it is time to start. Turn over your papers. Write your name. Re-read the instructions and begin work.”

Do humans also need these periods of sleep to recharge the batteries before being able to cope with the world? When we hear of a nuclear station being closed down we can summon up a picture of brave men and women, garbed in safety suits, prodding at a nuclear rod through heavy water. When we think of an eleven plus child’s brain closing down we can think, if we so wish, of the need of a child to have a little break when the going gets tough.

But how does sleep help a child’s verbal reasoning vocabulary? We know that vocabulary is simply a collection of words – gathered up over the years. Children improve their vocabulary by reading widely, using a dictionary on a regular basis and listening. A parent could hunker down beside their sleeping child to whisper: “Complete the following analogy. White is to black as sleep is to …..”

The `candidate’ could ponder an answer while asleep – and possibly even supply the answer when half awake. Pavlov discovered that almost any bodily function can be made the basis of a conditioned reflex. He also suggested that one reflex action could build on others. Your eleven plus child could continue to work through a paper simply because he or she wants to succeed Sleeping parents and sleeping children may all dream of eleven plus success. A recurring dream theme could be:

“Ah my favourite epigram: The only way for dreams to come true is to wake up.”

Some parents may wish their eleven plus child to wake up and think about the potential rewards of study and effort.

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