During our Easter holiday course, the year 5s were learning about 3D and spatial Non-Verbal Reasoning. We were learning how to draw 2D elevations (plan view, side view and front view) from a given 3D shape, but we were also trying to figure out the 3D shape and draw it using only the given 2D elevations. This is much more complex and is not a question type which appears in the 11 plus papers however doing these types of questions helps the child to fully understand the properties of 3D shapes which in turn helps them answer questions which are in the 11 plus such as the CEM style papers which include questions on 3D and spatial Non-verbal Reasoning.
During one of our holiday courses, we were working through a Non-Verbal Reasoning paper one section at a time, marking the section and then going over the questions the children got wrong. Now, it was a reasonably tough paper and it was the first full paper these year 5 children had attempted.
All was going well and the children were getting scores reflecting the difficulty of the paper, their individual ability as well as how far they were through the 11 plus course.
We reached the third section (Non-Verbal Reasoning series), marked it and totalled the scores out of 12. It was at this point where one of the top children in the class broke down, put his head in his hands on the table, and began to cry. He had scored 1 out of 12. Nothing would bring him around for us to continue with the class and go over the section.
After a couple of minutes of trying to console him, I began to talk to the child sitting behind him who happened to play chess and tennis for the county. I knew the other child was listening at this point albeit with his head resting on the desk.
“How long did it take you to get your first decent serve?” I asked.
“Two years,” he replied.
“How long did it take you to win your first game of chess?” I asked.
“About 3 months,” he replied.
I then asked the class, “how long do you think it will take to get a decent score in a Non-Verbal Reasoning section? Longer than 6 minutes right?”
The whole class agreed.
You are never going to master something instantly and there will be at least a few occasions where it will be difficult and quite a few where you will make mistakes. Learn from these difficulties and mistakes and try not to let it bring you down or put you off even trying as this is where the learning actually takes place.
The moral of this story is if at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again.
We have all heard the saying ’practice makes perfect’.
Well, that saying is not exactly true- it needs some further insight and explanation.
Take for example, writing your name.
How do you know that what you have written is correct?
When you first learned to write, you had to be told that in English, we write from left to right. You had to be told what the letters were and you were taught to make the connections between those letters to make sounds and eventually create words.
Now imagine that you had only ever written your name once in your entire life. Would you remember how to do it so many years later? You would be able to write your name but would have to think about it. It would not be instinctive, automatic and natural.
The same is true of most things, whether it is mental agility or physical exercise. The brain is a muscle and needs to be exercised in the same way that you would exercise your body.
Nothing is easy
Unless you know how,
What was not easy then,
Might seem quite easy now.
What is hard when you’re three
Isn’t hard when you’re four,
By the time that you’re five,
You will know even more.
It’s not practice, but deep practice that makes perfect. So what is deep practice?
Deep practice is effectively breaking down the components of practising anything, whether it is learning to play tennis or your times tables.
The first step is to break it down into small, manageable pieces.
The next step is to focus ONLY on those small pieces and repeat the practice of them.
The final step is to review what your mistakes were when practising and correcting those until the process ‘feels’ natural.
Studying is a skill in itself. How to study is a very important skill that very few schools teach. Apart from things like note taking and colour coding, setting small achievable targets is the best way to create that route to your end target.
Setting goals for studying, when done consistently will pay massive dividends. Start this process early with your child so it becomes second nature.
Use this simple 5 step method to help your child achieve throughout their academic journey:
Step 1- Dedicate
Have a dedicated space within your home.
Clear all clutter and distractions from the area. Set it up with all the relevant items needed (writing/rough paper, pencils, highlighters, dictionary etc.). Make the area pleasant so there is no angst about working there.
Step 2- Keep it real
Plan (be realistic!). Become best friends with your schedule.
Work out whether you are a lark or an owl and put together your schedule accordingly. If you work better first thing in the morning, then set your routine for that time. Studying when you are at your best will allow you to power through the mundane and boring stuff that you will otherwise put off, and later regret doing so.
Step 3- Consistency is key
Focus, focus, focus!
Break down to individual components (topics or areas of learning and sub-area within that).
Set each piece of work to last no more that 45 minutes, then take a break and resume. Constantly look at your tasks and whether you are meeting your targets. Evaluate and readjust if you need to.
I know I always underestimate how long I need so I double the time I think I need.
Step 4- What, why, how?
Allow time for creativity.
Make sure you allow down time. Relaxation is an important part of the cognitive function. It gives the brain a chance to process and assimilate information. It also means you are recharged to go again.
Ticking off completed items as a visual chart will prove to give great satisfaction and will also help motivate. Use a rewards system to help motivation, whether it is that second chocolate or a new top.
Step 5- Rinse and repeat
Evaluate – Be honest.
Learn from your past mistakes (the best way to do this is to keep a journal as part of the end of day routine).
What do I want/need to achieve? How will I do it? What are the component parts that make up how I do this? How long do I need for each component?
If you need to go over something that you were not completely sure about, reallocate some time to it, but this time look at where you fell down rather than the whole item again- break it down into smaller parts to isolate what the problem is.
Working through test paper after test paper is not learning.
If you had asked me at the age of 9 or 10 what goals I had set, I would have probably told you that you were crazy, but as an adult, I can now appreciate how important it is to set goals.
Why should you set goals?
The easiest explanation is the analogy of the boat drifting at sea, letting the currents take it where they may. There is no planned route.
When do you set goals?
It is never too late to set goals. It does not matter if they are changed or even not met. The important thing is there is an end goal in mind so that you are working towards a target. This helps create focus and direction.
How do you set goals?
There is no one right way to set goals, but I would suggest you think about isolating particular areas or topics and then thinking about where you want to end up. For example, if it is maths, think about what you currently know and what knowledge level you want to achieve. Then look at the time frame in which you want to do this.
In my experience, the most successful method is the whole-parts-whole method:
Look at it as a whole, break down into bite size pieces and then piece the whole thing together at the end.
For example the CEM 11 Plus Exam:
Think of it as the exam, break down each topic area and the components within that. Then once the learning and revision have taken place, at that point practice the exam. In my opinion, there is no point in doing test after test if the subject knowledge is not cemented in.
Based on that can you answer the following questions?
- Where do you (or your child) need to get to/what do you want to achieve?
- Where are you currently on a scale of 1 to 10?
- What steps do you need to take to achieve 10? (This will probably consist of several different things).
- What are the component parts that will help you get there?
- How much time do you have to achieve this?
- Is it manageable in this time frame?
Look out for our next blog post which will provide a 5 step method on how to help your child achieve throughout their academic journey.
If you would like further information, then feel free to email me and I will gladly respond.
Selective schools have been a prominent feature of our system for a long period of time. Many would be correct in considering them to be particularly competitive, as the demand for places is huge. Depending on the area, children need to achieve on average between 75% and 80% to be in with a chance of gaining a place. 7 out of 8 parents would fail the Eleven Plus Exam. I suspect that with the added time pressure in the exam, the pass rate amongst parents would be even lower.
It is no secret that Teresa May, our current Prime Minister is lauding the grammar schools. She herself is a product of that very system. Therefore, it is worth considering the possible changes that could eventually take place in UK Education. These changes will probably happen over a relatively large period of time or be shelved by the next government. Interestingly enough, there have been discussions between some key ministers and the Grammar School Head’s Association (GSHA), which have shed some light on the future of selective education.
From the discussions, it appears that there is particular enthusiasm for, as The Times have dubbed it, “Super-selective grammars“. In a nutshell, the “brightest 10%” of the general population will be selected for places at these grammar schools and selective testing will be integrated into our school system. Of course, these are merely preliminary discussions, however, they illustrate how we have increasingly turned to the East for educational inspiration (standardised selective testing is the norm in the Orient).
Finding the right 11 plus tutor can be tricky, especially with new tutors and centres popping up on a daily basis. Be sure to find a tutor that suits your needs and whose teaching style works well with your child and keeps them motivated and engaged.
The best and most reliable source is word of mouth. Make sure that your tutor not only helps your child to pass the exam for your chosen school but also helps prepare them for when they are there. If they get in and struggle to keep up with the fast pace it could be damaging to their self-esteem. Talking to other parents in and around the local area is a good place to start to find the right tutor for your child.
Remember to make sure all staff are DBS checked. It’s also worth noting whether they are members of The Tutors’ Association (TTA)