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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Eleven Plus Challenges

There is a theory, but I am not sure how much it applies to the eleven plus, that there are Tool Makers and Tool Users.

An Eleven Plus Tool Maker may be a child who is able to use what he or she has learnt in preparing for the eleven plus examination. The Tool Make may go on in life to feel that it is fun and `correct’ to be academically challenged. The challenge is not offered in the sense that the child does not have ability – it is to do with the child wanting to meet new academic challenges.  

An Eleven Plus Tool User could be a child who attends to eleven plus work dutifully and, we hope, willingly. The `User’ will apply an `Eleven Plus’ knowledge of fractions in the classroom – and will, we hope, gain lots of kudos for being clever. Will this knowledge, however, translate into a desire to explore mathematical and other subjects and topics involving fractions?

It may be interesting to look at what an eleven plus child learns during the week. From the following list is it possible to say if the child is being developed to become a maker or a user?

Learning Activities
Tool Maker
Tool User
Learning from Experts

Learning from Others

Learning through Making

Learning through Exploring

Learning through Inquiry

Learning through Practising

Learning across Settings

Learning from Assessment

When our eleven plus child walks into the grammar school on the first day, will the eleven plus preparation, contribute towards the child approaching education as a maker or a user? Of course we need Users but we also need the Makers to make things happen.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Eleven Plus Appeals

I tried to find a link to `Scaling of Teachers’ Marks and Estimates’ by McIntosh, Walker and McKay. Amazon, of course, had one. In fact Amazon had four second hand copies, this morning, marked at the princely sum of 1p each!

The article, written in 1962, described how teacher’s marks were used to establish an order of merit within a school. When would you use this information? Suppose your child just misses out on passing the eleven plus. You go to your teacher at school and ask for help. Your teacher maintains that your child should have passed and can-not think why your child did not pass.

You know that others in school did pass – so why did your poor child fail?

Your child’s teacher is not sure.

You then ask for the scaling of the marks in the class. You explain that you want your child’s marks moderated by the teacher so that his or her marks can be compared with the ranking achieved by other children in the actual eleven plus examination.

Suppose that your teacher ranks your child higher than others who did pass – then you may have gathered some useful intelligence.

There is a slight problem with this method – you need the mean or the average of the others in the school who did pass. Will the school offer this information or will you need to go cap in hand to the parents of the successful parents? Do they actually know their child’s scores?

Now it is clear that asking the school and other parents for help may pose problems. You could even be experimenting because the appeal board may not recognise your findings. Surely, however, the feelings of your child’s class teacher should be considered?

A little more research may be needed before the eleven plus boards use scaling by class teachers as a useful tool in determining the success or otherwise of children in the `Need to Appeal’ zone. 

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The Eleven Plus and Engineering

The Stanford Scientific Aptitude Test was first published in 1929 and was constructed by Dr Zyve to bring out aptitudes essential for success in scientific fields. The tests were designed to try to be independent of previous knowledge and training.

The tests were constructed to expose experimental bent and ability to think and observe accurately. The questions covered:

Choice of best approach to scientific problems
Analysis of the motion of gears
Inconsistencies in statements relating to physics and chemistry
Approval or disapproval of various scientific projects
Comparison of heights and lengths of lines
Procedures in various types of laboratory experiments
Noting and checking the details of various geometrical figures

If, however, you wanted you child to go to a grammar school specialising in engineering you may consider him or her taking the “Wiggly Block Test”. This measures the ability to visualise in three dimensions. There are nine pieces of wood with wavy sides. When the wood is properly fitted together they form a rectangular block.

But how could eleven plus parents do the Wiggly Block Test at home?

It is easy – take a large slab of butter. (I am not sure if it will work with margarine – but if it does please let all of us know.)

Cut the butter in nine blocks – in a wiggly manner.

Re-freeze the butter.

Lower the temperature in the kitchen as much as possible. Take the butter out of the freezer. Invite your prospective eleven plus candidate to re-assemble the butter blocks.

If your child can solve the problem before the butter melts then you know your child will certainly pass the eleven plus and go onto study engineering at university.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

DNA and the Eleven Plus

Will scientists ever find the gene within our DNA which will determine eleven plus success? Imagine if your child could have a simple blood test – or a swab – and you would then know if it was worth your while helping your child towards the eleven plus.

When Crick and Watson, in 1953, identified the double-helix they discovered the importance of two strands coiled around each other. When the strands of the helix are separated each provides a template for the synthesis of an identical strand.  Each strand has the same genetic information.

We now know that hereditary information is stored as a specific sequence of bases. Will one day the geneticists ever seek to find the elusive `eleven plus’ gene?  

You move house to a new area – within the zone of the local grammar school. You take on a new mortgage and commit yourself to thousands of pounds – just so that your child can have the best possible education. As your child moves into Year 4 you take that search on Amazon for the wonder DNA testing kit.

Amazon returns the results of eleven different `Eleven Plus Testing Kits’. Do you go for the cheapest option or the best product? Does it really matter – you are already committed to your new home and mortgage? Can you ask other families about the reliability of the tests? Will Amazon offer a money back guarantee?

The fate and the future of the `Wonder Eleven Plus DNA Testing Kit’ is in your hands!

Friday, June 07, 2013

The Eleven Plus Logic of a Big Mac.

You are trying to help your eleven plus child to think logically. You suddenly remember all your work in the sixth form when you were studying proportional calculus. You recall your mathematics teacher discussing tautologies.  You explain to your ten year old that one meaning of the word is that everything is true in every possible interpretation.

You are not sure that your eleven plus child is actually listening. There is no eye contact. You wonder if spending all this time on eleven plus work is actually going to pay off in the end.

“You mean that if I say that I am hungry and feel like a Big Mac, that it is true and I really want a Big Mac?”

“It is bit more complex than that, my dear. We are discussing experiential and symbolic levels. Do you understand?”

“Not really. Can I have a Big Mac, please?”

“If we were counting using actual Big Macs we would be organising our thoughts in an experiential manner.”


“If we counted using the bits of card around the Big Mac, we would be counting using symbolic terms.”

“You mean the covering of the Big Macs is symbolic – and the real Big Mac is what we eat?”

“Exactly. I am proud of you.”

“Please can we go now?”

“Where would you like to go?”

“To get a Big Mac, please.”

(The logic of a ten year old!)

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Is the Eleven Plus a Sound Investment?

I have a book, published in 1929, which outlines `The Case for Nursery Schools’. A person called E. Chataway bought the book in 1942. What E. Chataway thought of the book is hard to tell.

There is a most interesting chapter on `Some Financial Considerations’. If I may quote: “The actual average annual expenditure on food for ten nursery schools is £4.00, of which £3.00 is repaid. The average cost of school day is 3d a head of which an average of 2d is received from the parents.”

Eleven Plus Questions:

Is encouraging your child to attend a Nursery School a sound investment?

Is 2d worth at least ten times as much today?

Do children find positive good in studying for the eleven plus?

How can you tell if all the time and effort that is put into helping a child pass the eleven plus is a sound investment?

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Beyoncé and the Eleven Plus

If one member of the family passes the eleven plus is it likely that others will follow suit? If we look at the Bach family we can see prodigious musical talent. Their profession was music – and fifty-three Bachs held posts as organists, cantors or musicians over a period of around a hundred years.

One of the family was Johan Christian Bach who was the eighteenth child and the eleventh son. He was appointed music master to Queen Charlotte.

(If there are any current eleven plus families out there with eighteen children – we would love to hear from the eleventh child.)

Do children learn to cope with different types of verbal reasoning if the instructions are set to music? Would the music of Beethoven be better suited to coping with opposites – or should families and eleven plus tutors use the songs of Beyoncé?  Should children learn long division with country and western songs or should the family have to put up with the `Black Eyed Peas?’

Think of the sales of guitars, pianos, and double basses as parents buy their eleven plus teaching tools. Think of mothers and fathers settling down after the evening meal to write little eleven plus songs. Look at the pleasure and the excitement of working out a simple tune to:

Bicycle, Biennial, Binary and Binomial
All start with Bi.
This implies that two of something is involved.

In a binomial distribution
The random variable
Has two possible outcomes.

Biscuit, billion, billiards and bimbo
All start with Bi
Beyoncé, however, starts with `be’ so she’s not involved.

In a binomial distribution
The random variable
Has two possible outcomes.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Can learning Python help with the Eleven Plus?

Would working through exercises from the programming language `Python’ help some of our eleven plus children and their parents? Some eleven plus children may occasionally use the well-known words: “In a while!” “In a while can mean three minutes or three hours. There may even be some who would make the `while’ last three days! Learning elements of Python may help.

In Python there is a something called a `for loop’. It is possible to print the words, “I love work” five times with the command word `print’.

>>> print (“I love work”)
I love work
>>> print (“I love work”)
I love work
>>> print (“I love work”)
I love work
>>> print (“I love work”)
I love work
>>> print (“I love work”)
I love work

In Python you can use a `for loop’ to reduce the amount of typing and repetition.

>>>  for x in range (0,5)
                Print (“I love work”)

I love work
I love work
I love work
I love work
I love work

The command is to start printing the words `I love work’  at 1 and stop at 5.

Think now of the time that will save the average eleven plus family over a year!

You could start a `for loop’ from 1 to 100 for bed time, eleven plus work, tidying the bedroom, and feeding the dog.

Think now of your child’s favourite computer urging him or her to do a little extra work! What a coup!   

Monday, June 03, 2013

The Eleven Plus and Eggy Bread

Why are there recipes for Eggy Bread or French Toast in cookbooks for girls and boys? We know that after parties, Christmas and any time there has been extra catering, we may have left over bread. Of course the birds deserve some of the left overs. We can also use them in our cooking. (The left over bread – not the birds!)

Before feeding the birds,some of us will cut off the crusts and dry and brown them in the oven. They can then be rolled fine with a rolling pin and stored in an airtight tin for bread crumbing.  The purists among us will want to use a mixture of brown and white crusts. Why? I have no idea!

Back to French toast or Eggy Bread.

2 medium eggs
75ml milk
25g butter
I tablespoon cooking oil
4 slices of bread

Break the eggs in a shallow dish. Heat the butter and oil. Dip the bread. Cook for two minutes – then turn the bread.  Add whatever your child desires. (I have never tried eggy bread with vanilla ice-cream.)

Now if you drizzle syrup over one master slice and then enjoy yourself with patterns on five slices of eggy bread, you could be coming close to solving some elusive eleven plus questions. You could try this at home!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Breakfast and the Eleven Plus

We must surmise that many parents of eleven plus children ensure that their offspring eat nourishing food on the day of the examination.  The `good breakfast’ does seem to be highly desirable. “Come dear, eat your breakfast, you need the fuel. You have a busy day.”

“But Mum, I just don’t feel like eating now. Maybe I’ll eat something after the exam.”

“Just try to eat something. You know that over the years be have tried to synchronise meals however busy or worried we are.”

“Yes, Mum. You have said it before a healthy family eats together.”

“We do have a few minutes. The word breakfast means to break your fast. You have not eaten since last night.”

“I know, I know. You have also said that most breakfast cereals have too much sugar. I don’t want too must sugar I don’t want to be wired.”

“There is just time. Would you like me to cook you a full English breakfast? We have bacon, sausages, eggs, tomatoes and beans. I can also do some fried bread. You like fried bread don’t you?”

“No thank you. I just don’t like back pudding.”

“Well you must have something before you go to the examination. You don’t want cereal, you don’t want toast. You don’t want eggs. What do you want?”

“Nothing, thank you. Can you get me an energy drink on the way to school, please?”

“No. I refuse. I don’t like energy drinks at the best of time.”

“Aw, Mum.”

“Please just have a little toast.”

“O.K. then. Do you think, Mum, that the Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, ate breakfast before he blasted off into space?”

“Eat your toast.”

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Eleven Plus Changes

I sometimes feel that it is a pity that eleven plus children are not encouraged to learn a language. Would there be a huge outcry? I wonder.

Exercise One

Translate some of the following:

Germani  cum Romanis fortiter pugnarverunt.  Milites audacious resitere ac fortius incipunt.

 We know that pugnacious is something to do with being ready to fight. We can probably also guess that the German tribes and the Romans were unhappy with each other.

We also know that audacious means very bold or daring. There is also the word resitere which may have something to do with resistance. Could milites have a connection with military?

Put an eleven plus child onto the trail – and excite the child with the possibility of discovering and deciphering words – and then sit back and enjoy the enthusiasm. This may be a lot more interesting than asking for the anonyms of a series of ten words.

Example Two

Translate some of the following:

Metode: 1 koppie gesnayde artapples. 4 koppies warm melk. 2 eetlepels botter, 1 teelepel sout, 1 eatlepel meel, a paar stukkies uie, peper en sout. Kook alles saam.

Translating this passage may challenge some children – but if they were helped with understanding where words come from, then new worlds may open up.

What, for example, could the word metode be? Of course, method.

`koppies warm melk’ – would this be something to do with cups of milk?

Could we guess at `peper en sout’?

Much of the present eleven plus seems to be a series of exercises aimed at imparting knowledge. Why can’t the eleven plus child enjoy learning without being burdened with a large number of explanations and cautions?