Having a better chance of scoring highly in the eleven plus you need to focus on vocabulary, an area that many children find difficult.

What to expect during your 11 plus tests?

The 11 plus test is designed to assess whether grammar school is a suitable choice for your child. More importantly whether or not if it is the best place for your child to thrive. The 11+ is broken up into four main areas so in the assessment you can expect questions based on English, Maths, Non-Verbal Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning.

Improving Vocabulary Skills for the 11 Plus

Vocabulary can account for 10% to 15% of the marks in the 11+ exam so your child really needs to make sure they do well in these questions. You’ll need a good quality children’s dictionary – children nowadays use the internet to look up definitions but sometimes the definitions online are confusing. A lot of times they don’t know what they are reading so its better to use a dictionary that uses language they can easily understand.

Probably the most important way of teaching a child new vocabulary is to first introduce the word and then place the word into context and then repeat this a few times so they really get the meaning. This is generally the way we learn when we are very young and continues to work even when we are older. If your child asks you the meaning of a word its a perfect opportunity to provide an explanation but normally just by hearing the word in context the meaning will become obvious. If they do ask you the meaning get them to look it up in the dictionary as a first step.

Varying the Teaching

To make it more fun sometimes you can ask them to use tools like Siri on your phone. Kids really like using technology and it adds a bit of variety so that learning new words isn’t too boring. Another way of improving vocabulary is by using flashcards and colours to help your child recommend difficult words. Your child should help make them and will definitely remember many of the words because of this. Try to vary the way you make the flash cards to again trigger your child’s memory; you could use felts, crayons and paint. On the reverse of the card put the definition so that when you test your child the answer is readily available.

To further expand your child’s vocabulary you could use a thesaurus and also write the synonyms too. I suggest you write one or two words that your child already knows the meaning of and then write the new words next to it to help expand their knowledge. Flashcards should become part of your daily routine so stick them on your fridge and get your child to look at them at meal time and test them in the morning while having breakfast. You could even test them on the way to school in the car or as you walk along. Don’t do this all the time because you can go overboard but a couple of times a week will help your child’s recall.

It’s also a good idea to put some words away for a few weeks before pulling them out again to see what has been remembered. It is particularly important to point out prefixes and suffixes in words and any other clues that a word has in order to determine its meaning.

Bond, CGP and other books

There are also a number of Bond and CGP books with verbal reasoning questions that can help your child pickup on patterns, synonyms or antonyms. Spread out all these techniques, there’s no need to do all of this in one week. The 11 plus is all about having understanding as well as recall. One week you might want to focus on new words and cut back on some of their other homework.

If they don’t know how to pronounce the word then they need to practice saying the word out loud by reading story books or following audiobooks which can add a little more context around the word. Reading out a word can help them to grasp the definition as well.

Some more tips on increasing vocabulary

1. Conversation, conversation, conversation

Speak to your chldren all the time and most critically don’t overly dumb down your language. Young children will learn the most difficult of words so itis important to immerse them in new vocabulary from the start. It is truely amazing the amount of words a young child learns and the wider the vocabulary the better a child can score on the 11+.

2. Read and listen to your child

You should has regular reading time with your child where you not only read to your child but also listento your child reading. Firstly the interest you show to reading will help your child love reading, secondly you will be modelling the correct reading style with appropriate intonation and pronounciation, thirdly you will provide feedback when your child is reading. It also gives your child an opportunity to immediately ask about vocabulary they do not understand.

The above routine should not stop even after your child can read independently. Children enjoy listening to stories especially from books which they find too difficult. Find books and material which interest them and use non-fiction too. You’ll be surprised at how interested they are when you read an article on the first Space X launch !!

If you do the above religiously you will be amazed at how quickly reading skills, vocabulary, and comprehension develop.

3. Play word games

As well as playing the traditional eye spy and scrabble types games you can try something like going through the alphabet and providing a word for each letter in turns. Another variation is the last letter of the word as the first letter of the word you need to think of or simpy as many words as possible for one randomly chosen letter in the alphabet.

All these games will provide your child with useful skills that will be helpful when its time for the 11+.

4. Make sentences for new words

Make new sentences of the word – this really helps your child understand how the word can be used. Also if the word has multiple meanings it can help your child understand the subtleties of English. It’s one thing knowing how to say a word another knowing what it really means and using it in your own context. Weekly spelling tests are excellent way of introducing new vocabulary but an added exercise it to create new sentences using the words ! This proves that the child really knows wha the word means – an invaluable skill that is very useful for the 11+.

5. Write, write, write and write some more.

Writing is difficult for most adults, only because they didn’t do enough of it when they were children. The first step in writing is to just write ! It doesn’t matter what the topic is, it doesn’t matter about spelling and sentence structure, children just need to start writing. Everything else can be fixed later. Although there is no set 11+ section that requires a written piece of work – if your child can write they can read and understand words better. Have a weekly journal, choose topics for your children or simply ask them to write about their day. Review their work and provide feedback to help them improve, but don’t be overly critical about grammar and punctuation – it takes time to develop a plot and technical details are the last thing on a child’s mind. The bottom line is to just write.

6. Create a daily word

This tip is something I did with my kids and it worked wonders. Use letter magnets to make new words every day. Use your fridge as the wall or a magnetic white board which is visible from the place at which you eat your breakfast. The word can then become a topic of conversation and can be used in sentences to help understanding. An easy but very effective way to help your child learn new words. You could even reward your child for using the new word during the day !

7. Have a dictionary and thesaurus

It is essential that these two books are accessible to your child at home. You will be amazed at how they’ll just start looking up words for fun. You could also reinforce their use by asking for synonyms of new words you’ve introduced or ask them to expand their writing a little by using richer adjectives and adverbs. Reinforcing the use of new words by simply being a part of your child’s learning journey will help your child to grow their vocabulary and hopefully pass the 11+with flying colours.

If you have some tricks please let me know in the comments below…