Children become aware of rhymes early on in their educational development, as it appears in phonics and early readers. Rhyming texts are often more fun for younger children to read, as they find it catchy and notice the song-like character it can give to a piece of writing. A child’s understanding of rhyme and knowledge increases as they grow older.
Building a child’s understanding of language and how it functions is critically important and continues throughout their school life. There are many types of rhyme: end rhymes, slant rhymes, internal rhymes, rich rhymes, eye rhymes and identical rhymes. There is a heavy focus on end rhymes, internal rhymes and slant rhymes (often called half-rhymes), but it is interesting to know about all the varieties.
As children reach secondary school, they learn more about the effect that rhyme can have on a reader and how it can alter pace. I tend to show older children the effect of rhyme by initially focusing on rap, as all forms of rhyme is particularly prevalent in rap.
Older children also learn how to label a rhyme scheme and by KS3/GCSEs, they are able to name a specific scheme. For instance: alternate rhyme (ABAB), enclosed rhyme (ABBA) and rhyming couplets (AABB). This knowledge is critical when attempting to identify the form of a poem. For instance, a Petrarchan sonnet consists of 14 lines, starting with an octave using enclosed rhyme (ABBACDDC), followed by a sestet of variable rhyme scheme. Often this is a accompanied with a change in tone or resolution.
Recognising rhymes and building an understanding of how language is structured at an early age, can form the foundations for success in later years.
If so, can self-control be taught?
When I read that The Marshmallow Experiment was replicated yet again, it got me thinking about why this is.
The Marshmallow experiment is one of the most famous social science experiments. The first time this experiment was carried out was in 1960, by a professor at Stanford University.
In this experiment, young children were offered a marshmallow to immediately consume or 2 marshmallows if they waited 15 minutes. The results were then linked to educational attainment, higher SAT’s scores and even lower BMI. In other words, the children who were able to wait for the 2 marshmallows generally did better in later life.
This would suggest that behaviours such as self-control cannot be taught. If you extend that to education, does it mean that every child is born only with fixed traits in learning?
This experiment has been replicated with some sort of twists over the years. Almost all of them have drawn different conclusions from the original.
The Marshmallow experiment has been repeated yet again, this time to test results looking at social and economic conditions, and this time, the conclusion is that children from poorer backgrounds fared worse.
Yet in another very similar experiment, Cameroonian children showed that they waited twice as long and complained a lot less.
To my mind that puts the social equality theory into question.
Also, what if the child does not like marshmallows, or they simply think that two marshmallows are not worth the wait, and they may have waited if there were more?
I would also say that this has not taken into account the massive impact of things like social media and the internet. It also does not take into account the differing personalities of each child.
Young children are said to be impulsive and to live in the present moment, with no concept of the future. To add insult to injury, children are said to grow up with a sense of entitlement and the need for instant reward. There is the perception that the more technology reliant a child is, the shorter the attention span.
If we extend this to academic success, does it mean that this will lead to poorer grades in school?
Across my many years of tutoring, I have seen and worked with children who had set their goals and were determined to achieve them- whatever it took, while others were simply happy to coast. Some children are simply not academically inclined.
As a tutor, I believe that whilst self-control is important, determination is equally as important, if not more so. This along with guidance and practice is surely the key for any achievement, academic or otherwise.
Our year 4 and year 5 11+ students have recently been learning how codes questions work in Non-Verbal Reasoning. There are a few techniques you can use to answer these types of questions more quickly and more accurately.
The first thing to do is look at the different position numbers and find shapes which have the same letter in the same position number. For example the following question has 3 letter positions, each of which represent a different element of the shape.
We can see that the first and second shape both have the letter ‘A’ in the first position. We must then look at these shapes and see what element they have in common with each other. In this case the only thing they have in common is the fact that they both have a dot inside the main shape. ‘A’ stands for dot. Therefore ‘B’ (a different letter in the same position) must represent a shape having no dot.
At this point we look at our question shape to see whether it has a dot or not. It does, meaning the first letter of our answer is ‘A’.
It is best to fill this in as soon as you have worked out this element rather than trying to work out all three letters at once at the end.
Are there any more positions with the same letter in both?
In this case the answer is yes. Shape 1 and shape 3 both have ‘X’ as the letter in position number 2. What element do shape 1 and shape 2 have in common? They both have a border. ‘X’ must stand for border and ‘Y’ must stand for no border.
Our question doesn’t have a border so it’s second letter will be ‘Y’. Again fill this in as soon as you find it.
Now in most cases there will be a position number where all the letters are different. It is always best to leave this until the end as we have already ruled out some of the elements of the shapes.
In our question, the 3rd position is where all of the letters are different. What is different about all 3 shapes? The shapes themselves. So ‘N’ must stand for square, ‘M’ must stand for star and ‘L’ must stand for pentagon.
Our question shape is a pentagon so the 3rd letter will be ‘L’.
See if you can work out the answer to the question in the second picture. Comment with your answers.
To learn more about these question types as well as others you can refer to RTG Non-Verbal Reasoning Book 1 on Amazon as well as practice questions and learn about Non-Verbal Reasoning from the ground up.
For more difficult questions as well as practice papers see RTG Non-Verbal Reasoning Book 2 on Amazon.
Recently, the year 6s have been learning the difference between facts and opinions. They have been using this information to learn how to write realistic newspaper articles.
We spoke about how newspaper articles are a mixture of facts, opinions and even persuasive writing. The writer of the article will have an opinion (every person does) on the subject and they use facts, opinions and opinions masked as facts to try and convince you, the reader, to agree with them.
The task this week was was to write two newspaper articles relating to London Zoo closing down; one where the writer agrees the zoo should close and one where the writer doesn’t agree.
We discussed several techniques such as masking your opinions as facts and using survey data to sway your argument. For example “9 out of ten people agree the zoo should stay open”. This could be true however what if the only people you asked were people who worked at the zoo and wanted it to stay open so they weren’t out of a job!
The class were very involved and interested in the topic and all did very well!
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.
To learn more about 3D and Spatial Reasoning check out our book on Amazon:
The Olympic Runner is about a runner who is unfairly stereotyped by critics. Rhyming-couplets are used throughout the poem to reflect the steady and fast pace of the runner. There is also a subtle use of irony that makes the poem particularly effective – see if you can spot it.
This poem is a useful teaching tool for KS3 and GCSE students, because it is both fairly easy to understand and uses many structural and language techniques. The non-literal elements are also easily understandable.
The Olympic Runner
The sun beat down so hard it burnt his back,
His feet ate the dust as he ran the endless track,
The wind gave him wings and the miles flew by,
He was gunning for gold, for victory he’d die.
Critics had a field day when he entered the arena,
They could have knocked him down with a feather,
“Sideways you can’t see him through a 50-cent coin,
Bones on a cold carcass make up his manly loin.”
“His feet so long he will surely fall flat on his face,
Legs stretch down like two bamboo poles in place,
From the land of famine he gets not his daily bread,
If he wins, we’ll eat our hats,” in mockery they said.
As he touched the finish line, the crowd went wild,
Cheers heard across the land by every man and child,
His heartbeats so erratic they were beating out of time
If he could take a shot at his critics it’d be no crime.
Sweat streamed down, pooled like rivulets on the floor,
A warrior back from the battlefield, battered and sore,
Standing tall as a Brobdingnagian, the anthem sung
The joy so sweet, he could taste it on his tongue.
He was so tired he felt he could sleep for a year
The cynics struck dumb, had no cause to jeer,
‘A man in a million’ were the headlines that day
“Not a mere man but a giant in spirit,” they say.
By Jacinta Ramayah
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.
The trend toward making everything gender neutral (unisex in old money) is gaining momentum.
Canada is introducing gender-neutral passports. Citizens will have the option of M, F or X on their passports.
John Lewis has announced that all its children’s clothing range will be ‘gender neutral’ from now on. This means that instead of the label reading boy or girl, it will now read ‘boy and girl.’
When I heard this, my first thought was, is there a third category that I am not aware of? Are we heading towards every child being called it, rather than he or she in order to not offend anyone? Does it mean that boys will have the option of wearing skirts to school, or that girls will no longer have the option to wear skirts? Now that would be true equality, I thought!
It seems some schools are also following suit. The TES reported that Priory School in Lewes, East Sussex has banned girls from wearing skirts to make their uniform gender neutral. It reports the reason is ‘to make the uniform gender neutral for transgender pupils and to deal with complaints about the decency of short skirts.’
Bishop of Llandaff Church-in-Wales High School in Cardiff has introduced unisex toilets. It is reported these toilets have cost the school up to £20,000.00. (Many would argue that money would be better spent on classroom resources). The school has said these toilets have been installed as a practical solution and it is not about gender.
For me, this raises more questions than it answers. For example:
- How will this neutrality transfer into job equality?
- What difference will it make to your job prospects if you wore a skirt or trousers to school?
- Does that mean that girls will be objectified less and be treated as serious prospects for top jobs?
- Most of all (being a cynic), what is the reason behind this new trend.
The answer lies in economics. We are now, more than ever competing on a global scale, so our workforce is compared to the global workforce and in the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Goals (17 of them to ‘transform our world’) with a target of achieving them by 2030. Gender equality is goal number 5.
In the UK, equal pay was only made statutory 37 years ago, yet currently, according to Prowess only 17% of UK company owners are women, whilst in 2015 a survey found that 5.5% of company CEO’s were female. In 2011 there were more than 20 boards of FTSE 100 companies, that were all male. Today there are none.
On average, men still earn 16 to 18% more per hour than women.
Academically, girls consistently outperform boys, but when it comes to the workplace, women consistently fail to keep up. However, on closer inspection, it is much more complex.
65% of boys compared with only 43% of girls take up Maths at A Level out of those that have achieved grade A’s in their GCSE Maths. Only 29% of all students are female Further Maths students; a crucial subject if you wish to study a STEM subject at degree level.
More than likely is the role of family responsibilities, which are not shared equally. Women are much more likely to take career breaks and often will not go back to a full-time job. But as women begin to gain financial parity, will this become less relevant?
Surely, rather than worrying about skirts and trousers, the focus should be more on hidden gender biases in the curriculum. For example, look at the historical stereotypes of men and women, or the tokenisation and objectification of women in our class resources.
If the underlying structures are reorganised to create and promote gender equality, this will surely have a much greater impact than what style of uniform is being worn to school.
It is clearly a mammoth task, but one that I feel cannot be avoided if true gender equality is to be achieved.
Can pushing children through the curriculum too soon be detrimental to their development?
The challenge in front of teachers and their students is vast; education has so many stages and levels, so much to learn and such a finite time to do it all in. The temptation is that, once they can do something or have shown an understanding to move them onto the next stage. But, is this the right thing to do? It may seem logical to move them forward when they appear ready but when are they ready? Some teachers may say once they can do something half a dozen times, independently, then they are all set to progress but is this true understanding, do they really understand the concept which will, in turn, enable them to grasp more complex ideas?
Currently, education systems around the world are redirecting their efforts to a different teaching style. The buzzword ‘mastery’ is prevalent throughout schools in the UK and beyond and especially with regards to the teaching of mathematics. With a very quick browse of school websites, you will see statements such as ‘The Mastery-learning model forms the basis of our teaching approach as we aim to ensure there are no gaps in children’s subject knowledge.’ This kind of statement suggests that in previous years the approach was different and in turn led to gaps in children’s development.
Mastery is definitely an ideal that should be part of a school’s ethos when learning. Ensuring that children have plenty of time to observe, comment, understand, apply, evaluate and thus learn is imperative. One of the main concepts in this mastery approach is to allow students to practice a skill within a variety of contexts without increasing the difficulty or changing the focus of the learning. For example; 6 times tables, First you might group items by 6; then start counting in sixes; then create arrays of the 6 times table; then maybe make links with the ‘law of commutativity’ e.g. 5 x 6 and 6 x 5 both equal 30.
There are some who think that this approach is one that could hold back more able children, as they are introduced to more advanced topics too late for the ability they have to advance. This is a very good point and with some children, it should be considered. If you as an educator or parent feel their understanding is sound and concrete then, of course, yes they should be moved on to more advanced work. However, for most children, an increase in variety and deeper thinking questions can provide much more scope in their progression.
I personally believe it is a good approach and that all educators should at least consider some of the benefits of a mastery-style approach. As a teacher myself, I would hate to think that my students had been rushed through aspects of the curriculum (mainly to ensure they are ready for testing) and then they find later in their education they struggle with a concept because of their lack of true understanding or mastery.