All the joy and excitement of this special time of year is upon us. Do we really need to be preparing our children for the Eleven Plus now?
To this we would suggest it’s time to change things up. This is our 'no guilt' approach to preparation over the break. Eleven Plus readiness does not have to be all workbooks and flashcards. It is widely accepted that the easiest way to learn and remember is by enjoying the learning involved. We think this applies to all times of year, but perhaps it is especially relevant during this festive season.
It’s hard for most of us to settle to onerous tasks when all around us looks fun, so let’s put the fun into the Eleven Plus!
To start with, vocabulary; put flash cards and word lists away, it’s time to play games! - Hangman, Boggle, Scrabble, Consequences, Apples to Apples junior, Articulate, Sequences and word searches. The Big 11+ vocabulary Play Book has adapted over fifty fun activities to keep minds active whilst learning vocabulary of the level needed.
To get your child's 'maths brain' working, you need look no further than all those brilliant board games that have been gathering dust in the cupboard since last December. Some of our old favourites are Monopoly and Connect Four. Many others require quick mental arithmetic.
We highly recommend that you use playing cards with your children over the break. During tutoring we have discovered that card games have been played less and less in recent years, maybe as a consequence of the increased use of computers or video games. We discover that many children do not know the four suits, the number of cards in a suit or the number of cards in a pack. Meanwhile, Eleven Plus questions involving play cards occur quite regularly, and familiarisation can help a lot.
Cluedo is brilliant for deductive thinking - the exact type of critical thinking that is ideal for Eleven Plus questions, whilst chess and draughts are indispensable in developing critical and strategic thinking.
Hopefully bringing these games out will prove such a hit that they don't go back on the shelf come January 2nd to gather more dust for Christmas 2020.
Likewise, Lego and jigsaw puzzles can develop spatial awareness, a vital component of non-verbal reasoning. In our family we usually lay a 1,000-piece Christmas jigsaw on a table which we all gradually put together (though Dad does a lot of it)!
Aside from games, if like myself, you are not a big baker, this may be a good time to start and try it with your child – following recipes, accuracy with measuring both quantities and time are essential to success; whilst baking is a fantastic way to teach fractions, ratio and proportion.
Managing money for gift buying, working out percentages of sale prices and organising lists are all good Eleven Plus skills.
Christmas can also inspire higher level reading! Classic stories such as The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson, The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit and The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, are all great Christmas reads. You may even like to try a little of Dickens' Christmas Carol or A visit from St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore ('Twas the Night Before Christmas' ) and discover some wonderful, unfamiliar vocabulary.
Meanwhile there are a large number of apps available that can help with vocabulary, maths and non-verbal reasoning, depending on the device you use. We feel that these also have a place over the Christmas period – especially if you have a long journey to make or are particularly busy! The only problem I encountered with these (and I encountered it with all three of my children), is that the temptation to switch to a less educational app on the quiet was just too enticing for them, and so we kept the use of apps to a minimum.
Hopefully these ideas will put your mind at rest about having a more relaxed attitude to preparation at this special time of year, where we are particularly reminded that teaching our children the importance of love, generosity, family and friendship, beat passing the eleven plus any day!
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas!