Comprehension and Creative writing- two very important features of the 11 plus English tests are not separate entities. Children can learn skills to navigate both these aspects as these are essentially English skills.
Watch the video below on how your child can learn and apply these skills.
Read the text below the video and take notes.
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So how can children marry both these aspects and get better at them? Writing can be an eclectic collection of thoughts, ideas and plot, peppered with dialogue and sprinkled with literary devices, hidden meanings… the list goes on.
First things first
The first thing you have to make sure is when trying to understand a text in front of you is to be ‘present’ when reading. By this I mean- focus when reading. This will assist you to understand the text in front of you, help you answer the questions that follow and absorb some of the techniques that the writer has used. All of these things will help you both with answering comprehension questions correctly and attempting a writing task.
So, how can you go about learning these skills?
Read, Read, Read! Read the title and try to glean information of the text to follow. Read the introduction to the main passage (usually in bold). This will help you to gain an insight into what the text will be about. Read a few sentences at a time and with concentration.
Train your ears. Get your ears to listen to the words you are reading. Be engaged with the text. Do not just read on auto-pilot.
A Movie scene- Visualize the scene when you read a sentence or passage. Try to form images and scenes in your head as you read the text. Visuals are more easy to form and remember for later.
Read around, under and above lines and words. Focus on the words you know and then try to read around the words that you are not familiar with. Derive the meaning using this ‘nearby’ information and you will be able to understand the meaning of an unfamiliar word contextually. If there is a question that asks you to look at a specific line (Line 3 for eg), read the lines before and the lines after to get the whole picture.
One more time. Re- read the text. This will help a child with forming the whole picture of the text in her mind.
What is your idea? Look for the key idea- is it a person? An event? An object? The key idea will be repeated several times.
Question first or text first? Depends on what suits your child. There is no rule. Few tutors believe that reading the question first helps children who are able and can easily put together the main idea by looking at the text and identifying the concept. Other children can misinterpret the idea of the comprehension, so reading the questions first may not work in their case.
Learn to eliminate– Multiple choice questions can be confusing so it is important to keep the context of the question in mind. That is how that question or information relates to the main idea of the passage. MCQs can give a false sense of peace that you have answered them correctly. Remember, the test is not for taking guesses. The answer choices may and most likely will include very close choices. It is important to understand what the question is asking and eliminate the incorrect answers. Rule out options.
Effect- When a question is along the lines of ‘What effect does a [a particular word] convey’, it usually means- What impact? What reaction? What’s happening to you, as a reader, when you read that? What do you see? What do you feel?
Creative writing- All writing that a child does has to be clear, and easily read. I am not just talking of handwriting but the content of the writing.
Am I showing off too much? This is something that children should be wary of. Be careful about not using too many literary devices. Often, less is more.
Upgrade your verbs. Use that vocabulary dictionary in your brain and choose better verbs. Example: Run- sprint, bolt, gallop, dash.
Keep it real- Go over your writing and ask yourself if the metaphors, similes you have used are sounding real. If they are not, try and use realistic ones.
Out they go! Take out superfluous words. Use 1 or 2 adverbs. Instead of – He ran quickly, try- He sprinted.
Divide and conquer– Do not use all the describing words at one go. Spread your description in your writing. This applies to when you describe a character and list his physical description or when describing feelings.
Also read ‘The 11+ English Exam – A Recount’
Sheena Chan, Founder of Equality Tuition and Sheena Ager, author of The Cadwaladr Quests series of 11 plus vocabulary novels have mentioned most of the points covered in this article in the free, interactive class on The 11 plus Journey Facebook group. Collated, with inputs from Sabah Hadi, Founder of The 11 plus Journey.