To use the current buzzword, we are living in unprecedented times. Never have children missed weeks of vital learning under such circumstances and, with no prior examples to follow, parents are feeling perplexed and concerned. Nevertheless, the Eleven Plus exam looms large. With no clear idea of when schools will re-open, how do parents ‘home-school’ to the standard expected by the test? Especially whilst everyone’s mood, resilience and patience are themselves being tested by lockdown! To help, here are our top tips for how to manage the demands of preparation during this difficult time.

Maths and English: 

Year 4 and 5 students learn maths and English skills which will carry them through their secondary school education. It is therefore crucial that these foundations are laid solidly. Whilst teachers will support students to get back on track when they do return to school, this remedy may come too late for pupils sitting the 11+ exam.

The 11+ paper rigorously tests arithmetic with ‘quick-fire’ sums and worded questions that require reasoning. A daily mental maths challenge is helpful. Online games you can use include Hit the Button for times tables and division facts, and Daily 10 for levelled practice in all four operations. To keep them motivated, celebrate improvements they make in speed and accuracy.

To keep practice of reasoning work interesting, mix written practice with fun activities. Sit down with your child, a shopping list and a budget and ask them to help you work out an online shop. Use a pedometer on your family’s daily walk then help your child to measure everyone’s stride length and see how well each person’s step count aligns with the distance you have walked. Make sure to ask them what they have learned from the task.

English skills examined include comprehension, vocabulary and spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG). Reading is vital and lockdown will pass more quickly for your child if they have their nose in a good book! The ‘Cadwaldrw Quest’ series by S. L. Ager is an ideal choice, incorporating a wealth of 11+ vocabulary into an exhilarating plotline. Children should engage with a variety of reading materials, from plays to newspaper articles, so if your child is a reluctant reader, let them take their pick – non-fiction on a favourite subject is a good place to start. You can also try audio books – Audible has many freely available to download. 

Hopscotch has been making a resurgence under lockdown and can be used to teach SPAG! Adapt the hopscotch grid by putting ‘Spelling’, ‘Punctuation’ and terms like ‘Adjective’ or ‘Noun’ in the boxes. If your child lands on a spelling square, call out a word for them to spell. A jump onto ‘Adjective’ means giving the definition and an example. Reaching punctuation could mean write down a sentence that you say aloud. Keep it fun by allowing them to write their answer in chalk on the pavement!

Verbal and non-verbal reasoning: 
These tricky topics tend not to be taught in schools, so the lockdown is an opportunity to put time into practising them. Students who have already been preparing will soon reach the stage where they need timed practice. Begin by timing exercises that they complete in their workbooks and progress towards full practice papers. For everything you need to run realistic practice tests at home, check out Flying Start’s Mocks in a Boxwhich comes complete with pencil, timer, sticker chart, exam guide and an appealing mascot! 

For children who began their preparation more recently, it is important to take a balanced approach. Avoid feeling the pressure to ‘hot-house’ your child – in lockdown conditions, this could spell disaster! Mix resource-based practice with fun activities. Minecraft, Lego and picture puzzles like ‘Spot the Difference’ are excellent ways to develop non-verbal and spatial reasoning skills; whilst verbal reasoning can be improved by word puzzles (think crosswords, Boggle and anagrams) and word-based board games (Articulate, Codenames and Apples to Apples Junior are great options!). 

At Flying Start, we understand that many parents are feeling overwhelmed by home-schooling requirements and the thought of the 11+ exam. If you need a little expert help, we offer a range of online courses, including our new online-only six-week 11+ preparation courses for children in years 4 and 5. 

Plus, check out our Virtual Learning Support and Advice Facebook group where experts are on hand to answer any questions you may have about home-educating!

by Kaitlin Lloyd, Flying Start Tuition

Need a little help? Flying Start Tuition is an award-winning tuition centre offering maths and English courses for children in primary and secondary school, and support with exams such as the Eleven Plus and GCSEs. During the Covid-19 lockdown, we are also offering one-to-one and small group support with schoolwork.  All classes are currently running online in interactive virtual classrooms. 

Flying Start are Ofsted registered and accept Childcare Vouchers and Tax-Free Childcare.  Bursaries are also available – please ask for details.

For further information, contact:
t: 01494 772 898