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Friday, November 30, 2012

Pre-Eleven Plus Tests

Name of Test: Year 4 Mathematics Test
Author: The Extra Tuition Team
Country: England
Publisher: On line through the Extra Tuition Centre
Year: 2012/13
Type: On-Line, at home, school computer suite
Number of Attempts: 3
Age Range: Year 4 children
Skills Tested: Year 4 Mathematical skills within the National Curriculum
Time: Untimed – but 20 to 25 minutes

This test is one of a battery of tests aimed at diagnosing strengths and weaknesses for children studying topics within England’s National Curriculum. The test can be offered within Levels 1-5 - thus allowing parents and teachers to be able to look for areas where problems may lie, as well as topics for enrichment and extension.

The items in the test are drawn from an item bank. The test can only look at new and fresh skills – or it can go over some topics that have been tested previously.

The results can be compared to those found within schools covering National Curriculum levels. This comparison can be used for validation and reliability studies.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Grandmothers and the Eleven Plus

I wonder just how much research there has been into the eleven plus examinations. Educational research is a complex subject – because we are dealing with people. Research in a laboratory would be very different to that which could be safely undertaken in a classroom.

It is easy to think of little rats running around mazes – being fed on different diets. Researchers, however, would be hard pressed to obtain permission from parents for formal experiments into their children’s behaviour within mazes.

One method of research is observation. Can you see the picture? A white coated `expert’ sitting behind glass watching eleven plus children struggling with challenging questions. The research could be into
Test techniques
Confidence with multiple choice papers

A different approach could be interviews. The eleven plus candidate could be interviewed by one person or a panel. The interview could be recorded through notes being made, tick boxes completed, audio recordings or by video. Would we want a ten year old to be subjected to an interview – however well meaning?

Whatever the findings we would all interpret the results in different ways.

Parents could say: “I told you so!”
The eleven plus teacher or tutor would say: “What a pleasant surprise!”
The child may say: “Oh no! Not again!”
Grandmother could remark: “You were just like that as a child.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Eleven Plus Steps

How do you know if your child’s eleven plus teacher or tutor is teaching effectively?

Step One
You have to be sure you know what you want your child to achieve. Do you want and eleven plus pass or a motivated and hard-working child? Can you achieve both?

Step Two
How can you measure your child’s attention and interest in the lesson and in his or her work? Do you feel that the right amount and extent of homework is being set? Does your child leave the lesson feeling happy and fulfilled?
“How was your lesson, dear?”
“All right.”

Step Three
Is the content of the lesson appropriate to your child’s needs? Is your child learning what he or she needs to learn? Is the delivery effective in helping your child to understand?

Step Four
Are the lessons helping your child to bond with you – or are they proving divisive?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An Eleven Plus Application

What would you do if you were applying for a new job? What can an eleven plus candidate do to try to ensure success?

ADULT: Read the company’s recruitment literature
11+: Read the school’s literature – have a goal in mind

ADULT: Clearly state what vacancy you are applying for
11+: Say why you want to pass the 11+

ADULT: Answer all the questions
11+: Answer all the questions

ADULT: Use good English
11+: Use good English

When your child enters the 11+ examination room you want him or her fully focused on what is going to happen and what the outcomes will be. A few years ago we had a wonderfully bright girl who sat two eleven plus examinations. One she failed dismally. The other she passed with flying colours. The one school was a girls school and the other a mixed school. She voted with her pencil in the examination!

ADULT: Listen to your child
11+: Talk to your parents

Monday, November 26, 2012

Reading Aloud and the Eleven Plus

Your child stumbles over the method of answering some obscure eleven plus question. You hold your tongue and quietly ask him or her to read the question again. You then ask to have the question read aloud. You question yourself; “Can my candidate actually read the words of the question?”

Many years ago Cyril Burt devised a test of word-pronouncing ability. There were 110 words graded in approximate order of difficulty. Ten words were assigned for each age level from four and a half to fourteen plus. The child was asked to read as many words as possible – at his or her own speed. The test was stopped when five consecutive words were failed.

In today’s eleven plus world it would seem likely that the test would not be regarded as conclusive. Some would say: “It is too short.” Others would argue about the validity of the cut-off point. Some would even start developing books along the lines of: “One Hundred Eleven Plus Ways to Improve your Reading Aloud.”

There could also be great confusion over the correct way to pronounce some of the words. Would regional differences have to be accounted for? Could a teacher from one area of England gauge the pronunciation of a child from a vastly different background?

The main value of a test of the ability to read aloud is that it is another test and thus throws light on another aspect of eleven plus preparation. There is also another reason – in that the score reached on a reading test of this nature can be remarkably close to scores reached on other eleven plus tests. In ten minutes parents, teachers and grammar schools could have a reasonably reliable method of testing children.

If the debate encouraged more children to read – then the test may even be useful!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Eleven Plus Imitation

When you were young, just twelve years old, still dressed in school clothes, do you remember hearing about the Frenchman called Gabriel Tarde? He published the Laws of Imitation. Tarde felt that we react to each other mainly by conscious and unconscious imitation.

He felt that imitation accounted for:

Social changes

What would he have made of the eleven plus? How much of the plethora of eleven plus materials, books and papers is down to imitation? Are there any real original thinkers among the many who promote the eleven plus, provide books and materials and tuition?

An example is a reasonably familiar eleven plus question.

Jennifer and Heather went shopping together for sweets with 66p between them. Jennifer started off with 6p more than Heather, but spent twice as much as Heather. Jennifer finished up with two-thirds as much money as Heather. How much did Heather spend?

At first glance it seems remarkably easy for a parent, a teacher, a tutor or a publisher to be able to copy or imitate this style of question. This easily imitated question can, in time, be considered to be a valuable part of the eleven plus continuum. It only needs approbation and approval from a recognised eleven plus source and – Hey Presto – it is a necessary part of an eleven plus syllabus.

I wonder if Monsieur Tarde would have thought of the industry that has grown up around the eleven plus?

Of the course the answer is 12p. (The answer was in the first sentence!)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Post Eleven Plus Roles

The parents of eleven plus children will come from many different persuasions. The son of a farmer in a remote area will have an intimate view of a farmer’s role. In just the same way the daughter a shop keeper will understand the working of the world in a very different way. The child of two working doctors will have a well-grounded understanding of their professional roles.

Passing the eleven plus, however, has the potential to open a wide variety of careers. Naturally the desires and determination of the parents will play a large part. The doctors, for example, could possibly advise their children not to take up their profession. (It is likely, however, that they would be delighted, and very proud, if their child did, in time, become a doctor!)

We know that lawyers will be different from doctors in their professional roles – but it seems likely that both sets of parents would like their children to become professionals. But a grammar school education can give children from wide and diverse backgrounds equal chances.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Eleven Plus and the Long-horned Beetle

There is a beetle called the `Long-Horned Beetle’. It is a member of the Cerambycidae family. The species is sometimes light brown in colour, with turquoise-blue-green patches.

Longicorn beetles are found all over the world, where ever there is woody vegetation. They are elongated beetles with long antennae. Some of these beetles are large! I used to see them when growing up in Africa.

The larvae feed on the wood of tree, and pupate at the end of the burrow they have bored in the wood. The entrance to the chamber is often covered or plugged with chips of wood.

The development of the larvae sometimes takes many years!

Certain species of the beetles are recorded as emerging from wood several years after it has been turned into furniture.

Consider an eleven plus child where the parents are concerned that their child is not showing significant maturity. Parents are very seldom wrong about eleven plus potential! If a mother or a father promote the eleven plus then it is likely that their child has the necessary ability. All that parents can do is hope that their child will, one day, emerge a promising candidate – flexed and ready for the challenge of the examination.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Eleven Plus and the International Baccalaureate

In theory children writing eleven plus examinations this year will be sitting a form of the International Baccalaureate. The IB is supposed to challenge students. Six subjects are studied, three at a Higher level and three at a lower level.

One of the main aims of the IB is to give students the wherewithal to be able to compete for places at top universities and, in time, gain worth-while employment.

The IB is recognised internationally – so a good level pass at IB level is recognised as a prestigious grade.

It could make a major difference to children sitting the eleven plus if they were faced with six subjects – three at a higher level and three at the lower level. This could contribute to far more rounded children entering grammar school. Suppose eleven plus children had to take mathematics and English at a higher level. They could then do either verbal reasoning or non-verbal reasoning at the same level. Children could then be offered a small range of subjects at the lower level – with one being the discarded reasoning paper, another the basic elements of a language and the third lower level subject being science.

Grammar schools could be offered children who were a little more rounded. Eleven plus children would not be channelled into studying a restricted number of subjects in great depth. It may, possibly, turn out that the effects of coaching would be diminished.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Eleven Plus Laws

“How on earth am I going to help my child learn all this new work?”

“I wonder why the eleven plus has questions like these? How will he/she ever learn?”

“It is a lot of nonsense. In my day children did not have to study like this for examinations. You simply woke up one day and wrote the examination.”

“I used to love working hard at school and I am trying to pass the same love for learning onto my child.”

There are many shades of opinion about the value of the eleven plus. Some children, just like the some of the adults above, seem to love the challenge – while others appear to dislike every moment. To make it easier for some parents here are some basic laws of learning.

Law One – Intensity
The eleven plus requires time, effort and, sometimes, a big push.

Law Two – Organisation
The whole family have to be organised – not just the candidate and his or her parents.

Law Three – Contiguity
This is the well-known law of nearness. If your child learns a new topic then revise it almost immediately, and keep revision as the examination approaches.

Law Four – Exercise
You have to exercise the brain!

Law Five – Effect
A satisfying result is likely to be learned. Satisfaction goes beyond mere pleasure.

Do you remember Polonius?

And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,

Some children simply hate laws. Some parents hate them too. Use the laws that suit you and your child. Ditch the rest!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Eleven Plus and Ending a Famine

The Eleven Plus maze is reasonably easy to wander through under certain conditions. Savvy eleven plus parents will use the example of the life and accomplishments of Imhotep.

Many years ago I went to Aswan – just when the dam was in all the news. I was introduced to the importance of Imhotep on learning. Imhotep was credited with the invention of stone architecture. He also wrote a number of books of wisdom. Long after his death he was venerated as a god of medicine.

If, therefore, you want your eleven plus child to become a doctor or architect – then look no further than reading him or her stories about Imhotep. If you want to appear to be very wise in the playground you will recount your nodding acquaintance of Imhotep.

He was revered by the Egyptians for one highly significant feat. The Nile failed to rise for seven years and there was not enough water to irrigate the fields beside the River Nile. He discovered that Hapy lived in twin caverns under the island of Elephantine. Imhotep offered lavish offerings and the water was released. The famine was ended with a bounteous harvest.

Clue Number One

If you want your child to do well in the eleven plus examinations – try lavish offerings.

Clue Number Two

If you want your child to become a highly respected professional then make sure that he or she knows at least something about Imhotep. (He lived in the 27th century B.C.!)

Eleven Plus Question

How many centuries are there from today to the 27th Century B.C.?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ancient Rome and the Eleven Plus

Oh dear!

This is not going to please everyone – but we are talking about two thousand years ago when the Romans were intent on subjugating and educating everyone for miles around. The Roman father had the power of life and death over the whole family. (But did this really happen?)

The wife was brought under the family gods of the husband – and lost all legal connection with her family.

But things changed. Parents were allowed to chastise their children. But bit by bit Rome lost much of her Empire. The role of women changed – and woman became far more equal. As progress moved on children were not beaten as much.

The Romans did not have machinery to play with and they did not really recognise the value of scientific methods.

How would the Romans have coped with the eleven plus? How could any self- respecting Eleven Plus Roman mother have coped without having access to the internet? We know that most Romans taught their own children- because if the parents could read then they taught their children. The children, however, may have had to have concentrated very hard at times - if corporal punishment was just around the corner.

Let us look together at a little picture. We see a family grouped around Roman Eleven Plus papers.

Dad was saying: “If you don’t pass your eleven plus you will not be able to become a centurion.”

Mum would ask: “Now how many years are there in a century?”

Older sister would say: “Forget it. You will never pass the eleven plus unless you are prepared to do extra work.”

Younger brother would ask: “When can I start?”

We may be two thousand years on – but the questions are just the same. Some of the answers may also be remarkably similar!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Repression and the Eleven Plus

I am not certain if Zeller, writing in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, (1950) had much to do with the Eleven Plus. His interest, at this time, was looking at repression. He was concerned with the effect of failure or success on memory as measured by relearning.

He managed to associate the retention of nonsense syllables with the threat of personal failure.

There was a control group of subjects who were not threatened. Some, however, were threatened or put under pressure – and they failed either to recall or relearn the syllables. From an eleven plus point of view the exciting point is that once the treat was removed – the recovery of memory occurred!

Is there a moral to this anecdote? Possibly. Threatening children, while they are trying to learn something, may not have much long term benefit.

“If I have told you once, I have told you twice. I am going to tell your father/mother that you are just not trying to learn.

If you do not remember this time I am going to ban you from your computer for a week!”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Eleven Plus Etiquette

It is very likely that there is no need for anyone to be reminded of any eleven plus etiquette – but just in case - - - -


You know that a formal invitation written in the third person must be answered in the third person.

Mrs Super Tutor invites Mr and Mrs `Please-help-our-son’ to attend lessons on a Tuesday at 17.00. R.S.V.P

Mr and Mrs `Please-help-our-son’ thank Mrs Super Tutor and have much pleasure in accepting the invitation for their son t0o attend the extra lesson on Tuesday at 17.00.

What to Wear

As this is around afternoon tea time, Mr and Mrs `Please-help-our-son’ should wear a frock or a suit with hat and gloves. (No jeans, please.)

The child of Mr and Mrs `Please-help-our-son’ should wear a neat shirt and appropriate trousers – be they shorts or longs. Bare feet will be frowned upon – on an initial interview.)

The Curtsey

This is likely to be the most contentious issue surrounding the eleven plus:

Should the mother of the eleven plus candidate offer Mrs Super Tutor a curtsey or a bob?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Eleven Plus Symbolism

“It is all done to what happens on the day!” This may be a mantra for some parents who hope and believe that some form of intervention will take place during the examination.

Some forms of predicting the future seem to be remarkably accurate. Some seem to believe there is a guiding force directing a run of questions, or the fall of cards or even the performance of a race horse. We hear stories of many who believe that the day, time and date of a person’s birth will affect the future.

In palmistry we can find lines of force and love. Could there even be an eleven plus line? Is there some magic line on a child’s hand that will help to predict future success? Instead of investing in books, papers and an eleven plus tutor parents could opt for a visit to an Eleven Plus Chiromancy  Specialist. (EPCS)  

Parents could then wonder how much symbolism plays a part within eleven plus preparation. Perhaps there may even be a place for a Special Eleven Plus Tattoo!  (SEPT). This may lead to a host of specialists devoting themselves preparing ranges of tattoos for parents to choose from.

Could it be possible that the most popular tattoo could be the: “We just hope it will be all right on the day!”?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Flying into the Eleven Plus

There may be some aeronautical terms that eleven plus parents are aware of. After all, the eleven plus is to do with careful preparation, lots of hard work and, hopefully, a successful conclusion. The language of pilots and crew may help.


This is the trailing edge device on the wings that increases the lift of the wings on take-off and landing.

This is what an eleven plus parent seems to tend to do when it looks as if all is not going as planned.


This is the airspeed at which the aircraft’s wings can no longer maintain lift to prevent the aircraft from falling. To recover from a stall, the aircraft must have sufficient altitude to regain adequate airspeed by putting the nose down and adding power.

This is when a parent feels that the chosen eleven plus course does not seem to be on a downward spiral and all concerned need to be lifted. Some-times it even means that the eleven plus candidate has to put his or her nose to the grindstone.

Stick Shaker

A warning device on a commercial aircraft that literally shakes the control column in the pilot’s hands to warn of the approach of the aircraft’s stall speed.

A stick that some parents may feel tempted to threaten with if too much back chat is offered.


The autopilot takes directions from the flight director, which commands the aircraft from take-off to landing.

The eleven plus autopilot is the state of mind that some parents seem to enter as they realise that the examination date is set in stone and that all their child can do is simply the best that he or she can manage.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Eleven Plus and Rote Learning

Many children who have passed the eleven plus, and many more who will be going to perfectly good senior schools, will have been to a school open day by now. As families gather after the visit parents will naturally ask: “What did you enjoy most about the school?”

Their children will probably say: “The science lab.”

Could this be because the science lab seems to offer up so many new and exciting opportunities? Of course the only brightest and the best are explaining how the experiments work – and there may even be a science teacher garbed in a white coat! How stimulating!

What lies ahead for our budding Nobel Prize winners? One topic the children will probably remember for the rest of their lives is Avogadro’s number or Avogadro’s constant.  Do you remember the mole? (A gentle reminder follows.) A mole has the same number of particles as there are in 12g of carbon. This, as you will recall, is 6.022 times 10 to the power of 23 particles.

Then your children will learn about The Periodic Table of Elements. The science teacher would have explained that the table was devised in 1889 by the Russian chemist Dimitri Mendeleyev who predicted elements that had yet to be discovered! What a clever man! The table arranges elements in ascending order of atomic number. By now it will all be flooding back.

1 Hydrogen H
2 Helium He
3 Lithium Li
The table goes right up to 118 which, as you will recall, is Ununoctium Uuo.

Instead of messing about with eleven plus work – why not start your child on learning the table of elements? Imagine how the rest of the class will regard your child if he or she stands up in class when the Periodic Table is introduced – and proceeds to recall the whole table along with the abbreviations? Your child would be regarded with affection and awe by all concerned. Imagine the magnificence of a senior 6th former coming up to your child to offer congratulations? Just think of your child standing up on prize giving day to receive the science prize – and then be offered the opportunity of reciting the table! You would live in the reflected glory of your child throughout the duration of your child’s life at school.

Don’t delay! Start rote learning today!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Eleven Plus and Autokinetic Movement

Will any children ever have to put up with a regime that includes involvement with `autokinetic movement’? This is where an eleven plus child would be encouraged to focus on the apparent movement of a very small beam of light. Can you imagine your child sitting in a darkened room apparently watching a little light move round the room?

If your child could see the light in relation to an eleven plus question you would be able to ask you child if he or she actually saw the light moving.

An experiment, some years ago, asked subjects to say out loud where and when they saw the light. It was found that after three or four attempts the lights converged. In eleven plus terms this means that you would sit with your child, in a darkened room, and talk where and when you saw the light. Each of you would describe where the light was and its intensity.

Now the eleven plus is not about sitting in darkened rooms and developing an illusion – but it is to do with how two or more people can arrive at a consensus. If you, and your child, go over key questions a few times, then each of you will be shaped and moulded by the experience.

You will be able to say: “Well we have done this before – I am sure you can remember if you try.”

Your child will be able to say: “Yes we have done this twice before. I remember now. We do it this way.”

You will be able to retire to your chair before the fire, and murmur to yourself: “Thank heavens for autokinetic movement’. The revision and consolidation really worked this time!”

Monday, November 12, 2012

Eleven Plus Pressure

Occasionally, very occasionally, an eleven plus child may feel inclined to burst into tears in frustration. Suppose we look at a hugely popular TV show where a chef rants and raves at some poor unfortunate. We may see a waitress tearful at being picked out. The TV cameras are remorseless as they zoom in on her poor face. What did she do wrong?

Work in a large restaurant needs interdependence and co-ordination. There are many stages in the taking of orders, preparation of food, cooking it and then delivering it to the table. The waitress is the initial point of contact with the customer. She keeps this contact until the customer departs  – hopefully leaving a large tip. Any problems the customers may have with anything in the restaurant directed initially at the waitress.

When the waitress delivers the order to the kitchen the chef comes under pressure to cook and prepare the meal. The chef is highly important in the kitchen – but as soon as the waitress picks up the food then her role changes. It is almost as if she took the order, cooked the meal and then offered it up for consumption.

The eleven plus child has to help to find the page, try to understand the working of the mind of the person who wrote the exercise, cope with the demands of parents and siblings, and possibly even find the exercise challenging. The pressure may rise and the outburst erupt.

“Good on you! Let it all out and then press on!”

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Einstein and the Eleven Plus

We often hear that we should never ask a question if we do not know the answer. I think the theory is that you may hear something that you do not want to hear. I would, however, like to ask a question that I would like an answer to:

“Would Einstein have passed the eleven plus?”

We know that he lived from 1879 to 1955. The eleven plus started before 1955 so it is conceivable that he may actually have seen an eleven plus question. (It is probably, however, remarkably unlikely!)

We know that he was an astonishing and original thinker so he may have struggled with questions like:

`Man is to humanity as animals are to …. ‘It is possible that he may have had some deep thoughts on this question and so did not finish the test. (Some eleven plus children appear to sometimes over analyse questions they find interesting and so do not complete all the questions.)

Among his many interests was the speed of light. He was awarded, for example, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921 for his work on `photoelectric effect’.  This probably would not have helped in writing the eleven plus because he may have worked too quickly through his eleven plus paper! Especially if he was reading and answering at the speed of light!

He knew a great deal about mass and energy. This also may have caused problems in preparing for the eleven plus. When he worked out E=mc2 he may have poured scorn on the idea of being asked to calculate the value of the formula `E’ if m was equal to 4 and c = 3.

The final reason why he may have had some difficulty with the eleven plus is that he settled in America – and the Americans do not seem to embrace the concept of the eleven plus. In place of the eleven plus many Americans school seem to prefer `Gifted and Talented’ programs.

So would Einstein have passed the eleven plus? I still don’t know because he explained how some counter-intuitive things happened to space and time as `c’ approached. If someone can explain that to me – I would be very grateful! I really would like the answer.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Eleven Plus and Birth Order

There used to be considerable discussion about the relationship between intelligence and position of the children in the family. Standardised tests of intelligence were used to measure the ability of the children. Birth order, naturally, was a lot easier to work out. (A child born second is likely to remain second – unless families join up.)

The expectation was the birth order would be paralleled by either ascending or descending order of intelligence.

Like all great theories the weight of conflicting evidence indicated that it is likely that there was no great difference – the eldest was not always the most brilliant or the most dominant. The youngest did not have to be the most dependent, unhappy or conceited.

The word `antagonistic’ springs to mind. One take on this word could be to do with conflict within the family - where siblings are willing to fight it out. It would be very difficult for the first born – with a place in grammar school – to want to help the second or third born if there was daily tension and unruly striving for dominance.

“Please help me with this analogies question?”
“Get lost. You are always whining and whinging about everything I do.”
“Oh please? I will try harder.”
“You said that last time.”
“I will tell mum and dad.”
“You really are a loser. Bring it here.”

One day someone may want to initiate a study on the relationship between a normal family and ability to pass eleven plus examinations. If there can be any agreement about what constitutes a `normal’ family – then the research may go ahead.  We can work out which children do win places in grammar schools – but the composition of a `normal family’ may be a little more difficult to define.

Until then most of us will just have to muddle along with our own theories about who is the bright spark, with the greatest potential, in the family.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Is there an Eleven Plus fairy?

Do you remember the story of The Sleeping Beauty? King Florestan and his Queen invited all the Fairies to be present as Godmothers to the christening of the infant Princess Aurora. Unfortunately the Fairy Carabosse was forgotten – but she arrived at the ceremony feeling slighted and upset. The other Fairies gave `useful’ gifts – but Fairy Carabosse gave a spindle. She announced that one day Aurora would prick her finger – and die!

Lilac Fairy did not agree – and promised that Aurora would not die but would fall into a deep sleep.

On Aurora’s sixteenth birthday (just as she was to write a few more GCSE examinations) four Princes arrived to woo her. Fairy Carabosse tricked Aurora into pricking her finger – and Fairy Lilac eased her into a deep sleep.

One hundred years later a young Prince found Princess Aurora and woke her with a kiss. There was a big wedding and the Lilac Fairy blessed the young couple.

Eleven plus mothers would be wise to heed this story from long ago. The spindle can be likened to the `Princess Candidate’ arguing with mother. Too many fights during the eleven plus year can lead to wasting time and effort. For some children it may be easier to promote and initiate an argument than actually doing the work. Some parents may choose to remind their daughter that there is no handsome Prince who will appear and supply all the eleven plus answers telepathically during the examination. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Eleven Plus Compromise

Some subscribe to the theory that good eleven plus teaching is always attempting to teach for transfer. Parents, for example, will often draw on their own experiences and attitudes when they are working with their children. Most eleven plus parents will hope that steady eleven plus work will translate into steady work at grammar school. There are, however, some short cuts for parents.

Parents need to have clear cut long term eleven plus objectives.

Mothers and fathers should study the eleven plus and find out as much as possible about the examination and methods of preparing.

Parents should choose books and materials that are suited to their child’s needs.

The eleven plus `candidates’ should know exactly what is expected of them.

Parents should understand that discussion and problem solving activities are sometimes far more effective than a good old fashioned lecture.

And finally, parents should try to help their children understand that working towards the eleven plus will involve lots of learning. All parties (adults and children alike) must be prepared to compromise and be accommodating.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Eleven Plus Bomb

The very well-known Cecil Day Lewis once wrote a poem called the `Unexploded Bomb’. The poem described how two neighbours found an unexploded bomb – half in the one garden and half in the other. The neighbours were not really on speaking terms.

They argued about the responsibility for the bomb but neither would give way. The common feeling was that the bomb acted as a guard between the neighbours. It was suggested to them that they should call the bomb squad to have the bomb removed.

The neighbours did not want anyone to enter their gardens and dig up the bomb.

The unexploded bomb stayed where it was.

The approach of the eleven plus is not a journey with a bomb ticking away at the end. The Eleven Plus Examination has the potential to instigate a gentle meander through learning and sharing activities. There are books and papers to work through –peacefully and with dignity. There is time for parents and children to share `quality time’.

Naturally there will be flare-ups about work, time, family relationships, school, friends, swimming, skate boards, clothes and answers to eleven plus questions – but a family’s strength, in theory, should prevail. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Salsa and the Eleven Plus

Quite a few millions of people are watching `Strictly Come Dancing’ year. It seems that the popularity of the series continues to grow. One of the dances that appears to grip the imagination of the judges and the watching public is the Salsa.

The word salsa means to `spice it up’.  The dance incorporates many different styles – from cha cha cha to the rumba and the mambo.  Salsa music generally has a rhythm of four beats to the bar – but the dancers use three steps per bar. A `quick’ is one beat while the `slow’ has two beats. The percussion instruments of bongos and maracas give salsa music its rhythm.

The next time you and your partner sit down with your child to work through elements of an eleven plus paper think of your child listening to the two of you working together.

In one of the steps in Salsa, the backward step, the man steps back on the left foot, leaving the right foot in place. (Count - quick)
The woman moves back on the right foot leaving the left foot in place. (Count – quick)
The man transfers his body weight forward onto the right foot. (Count – quick)
The woman transfers her weight onto the left foot. (Count – quick)
The man closes his left foot to the right foot. (Count - slow)
The woman closes the right foot to the left foot. (Count – slow)

Now ask your eleven plus candidate to read these instructions aloud while you and your partner execute these steps – and try to follow the learning sequence. If you understand what is expected of you the first time you are both worthy eleven plus parents. If there is a hesitation and a little frustration then try to imagine your child’s feelings as he or she meets a new eleven plus concept.

If the two of you start arguing over who goes forward and who goes back– and your child watches with joy and pleasure – then you know you really are proper eleven plus parents!

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Eleven Plus and Your Therapist.

At one stage or another some of may feel that we need to see a therapist. We are not looking for a therapist for our children – but for ourselves. Teachers, parents and tutors alike may need, at some stage or another, the ability to lie down on a couch, in a darkened room, and pour out our problems.

The therapist will endeavour to:

Listen to you eleven plus worries
Reassure you that you are, in fact, normal.
Advise you on responses to your eleven plus child
Give you help with training your child
Suggest ways in which your life can be stabilised and enriched
Help you with verbal reasoning questions
Help you with nonverbal reasoning questions
Help you with mathematics questions
Discuss with you what you are allowed to say to your child’s school.
Understand what the school is saying to you

You will need to take into account your therapist’s background. You may not need any help with marriage guidance or alternative therapies. You may feel that it is unnecessary of your therapist to ask you about you gym visits.  

The last thing you would want is for your therapist to join your group of friends. Imagine if your darkest secrets and fears about the eleven plus were aired to anyone?  

All that you can hope is that you can learn a little more about yourself.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Needs of Eleven Plus Children

What is the most important characteristic of an eleven plus child? The will of the parents for an elusive: `Eleven Plus Pass’’? The desire of the child: `To Go to Grammar?’? The intervention of a: `Super Tutor’? The right: `Books and Paper’? All these probably play a part but there may one element which could transcend all of the above – how intelligent the child is.

We know that being bright gives children a big advantage over less able children. An intelligent child will be able to do better on a test of ability than a competitor who is stronger or can run faster.

The chances of passing, however, are probably increased if the eleven plus child is systematically developed through a program of appropriate instructional and incentives techniques.

Do you remember little Anna? She was kept in an upstairs room and only received enough care to keep her barely alive. Apparently she had no instruction or friendly attention. When she was found at six she could not walk, talk or do anything that showed intelligence. She was believed to be deaf and probably blind.

Four and a half years later she could follow directions, string, beads and could talk in stilted phrases. Her development remained that of a normal child of two to three years. She had, however, made considerable progress. It seemed that Anna was held back by a lack of early communication.

Eleven plus children probably need:

The opportunity to talk, argue and listen
The right books and materials
Supportive and focused parents
Advice from the school at the right  time
And finally – a good dose of real intelligence.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Eleven Plus Results

Would it be true to say that there is a good deal of spurious accuracy in any single figure that purports to show the true ability of a child? A child who achieves 125 in verbal reasoning and 130 in mathematics but only 112 in nonverbal reasoning can easily fail the eleven plus. The same child may be amazing good at playing the flute and a master of chess – but still achieve a low mark in the actual examination.

We do not, however, have to assume that variability is the fault of the nonverbal test. The child may simply have shown some degree of variability in performance.

Suppose, however, that the same child had constantly done very well with any preparation exercises? What if the child had always done very well on earlier school tests with reasonable consistency? Any subsequent effort on the part of the school or the parents would be reduced to decisions beyond their control.

The value and provenance of ability tests are sometimes questioned. Anecdotal experience, however, seems to suggest that coaching and expert tutoring can help children to do well on ability tests.  

Reading and then understanding the instructions at the beginning of the test can affect performance. Children also have to be confident that there are no trick questions. They should also be aware that they should often consider a variety of options before answering a question.

A different problem for some children is time. There is limited time for tests and children have to take this into account. If a child lingers too long over one question he or she may leave too little time to be able to complete the paper.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Fixing the Eleven Plus

Is there a case for a national eleven plus curriculum? The theoretical case is that there would be a common standard throughout England. But there could be problems!

The anthropologist Alexander Goldenweiser found that there were remarkably few occupations universally practiced by one sex or another. In some cultures hunting was done by women. Men did the cooking and the house keeping. According to Goldenweiser there were some African tribes where sewing was traditionally a male activity. Efforts to encourage women to sew were greatly resented!

We need to go back to Lewis Terman who did so much to promote intelligence tests because schools and the business world needed some methods of measuring ability. Other tests grew out of the need to screen men and women during the Great Wars.

I used to enjoy watching the film Cheaper by the Dozen’ – and watching the Galbraith family of twelve adjust and develop to different surroundings. The parents used time and motion studies with their children to help with learning. Could we learn from them?

Now if the universal eleven plus could take into account the need for questions to be culture free, accurate in measuring ability and easily absorbed into a family’s life then the case for a universal eleven plus could be little stronger.

There may also be a case for `If it ain’t broke don’t fixit!’

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Your Dog and the Eleven Plus

Many dogs and cats must listen intently to eleven plus lessons. Some dogs, however, may feel that they have had their day and there no longer is a reason to listen to interminable lessons and discussions.

In the ancient world opinion was divided on the question of how much dogs can reason.

Chrysippus’s dog, however, showed strong ability with multiple choice type questions. The dog was a hunting dog and sometimes came to a three-way cross road. (We can call the roads a) b) and c) for the sake of argument.)

If the dog failed to pick up the scent on the first two roads he would set off on the third road without further investigation. Did the dog think:

It is not a)

It is not b)

So it must be c)?

 Sadly the dog could not talk so it could not justify its choice.

When your dog prick’s up his or her ears and wags his or her tail at a certain point – do you, and your child, accept that the dog may be right? Perhaps some of you may care test out Chrysippus’s theory?

It will certainly be no use trying an experiment with your cat. The little animal would look at you with disdain – and return to sleep! No clues there for your eleven plus multiple choice work!