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.
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.
We have all heard the saying ’practice makes perfect’.
Well, that saying is not exactly true- it needs some further insight and explanation.
Take for example, writing your name.
How do you know that what you have written is correct?
When you first learned to write, you had to be told that in English, we write from left to right. You had to be told what the letters were and you were taught to make the connections between those letters to make sounds and eventually create words.
Now imagine that you had only ever written your name once in your entire life. Would you remember how to do it so many years later? You would be able to write your name but would have to think about it. It would not be instinctive, automatic and natural.
The same is true of most things, whether it is mental agility or physical exercise. The brain is a muscle and needs to be exercised in the same way that you would exercise your body.
Nothing is easy
Unless you know how,
What was not easy then,
Might seem quite easy now.
What is hard when you’re three
Isn’t hard when you’re four,
By the time that you’re five,
You will know even more.
It’s not practice, but deep practice that makes perfect. So what is deep practice?
Deep practice is effectively breaking down the components of practising anything, whether it is learning to play tennis or your times tables.
The first step is to break it down into small, manageable pieces.
The next step is to focus ONLY on those small pieces and repeat the practice of them.
The final step is to review what your mistakes were when practising and correcting those until the process ‘feels’ natural.
Do you struggle with exams? Find your mind wandering? Doodling over your notes?
While going through school I found myself choosing more creative subjects such as Design Technology and Music. I loved creating things from scratch, whether it was a new product such as a speaker system in D.T. or a new composition in Music. This is still true to this day.
As I finished my GCSEs and moved on to A levels I found it more and more difficult to memorise and recall facts when it came to revision and taking exams. I now know that this is due to the fact that the right side of my brain is more dominant.
The brain is divided into two equal sides or ‘hemispheres’. We use both sides of our brain on a daily basis. The left side of the brain controls the right side of your body and the right side of the brain controls the left side of your body, however, each side is used for very different tasks when it comes to thinking and carrying out tasks.
The left side of your brain is more logical, verbal and analytical. It handles things like speech, language, facts and mathematical calculations. It also deals with things such as rationality, strategy, details and rules.
The right side of your brain is more creative, non-verbal, intuitive and curious. It also helps us to deal with images, understand context and tone of voice as well as comprehend music.
Neither being more left brain or right brain orientated is better than the other, they are purely two different ways of thinking and although everyone uses their whole brain for different tasks or a combination of both sides for some tasks, the classroom environment seems to favour left sided thinkers more. A large part of exams and learning involve recalling facts, analysing data, logical computations, details and rules. This can leave the right sided thinker feeling quite neglected when it comes to learning and exam taking.
The good news is that once you know whether you are more right brained or left brained, you can use this to your advantage. For example, instead of trying to remember a mathematical equation as it stands, make it more visual. Use things like flashcards, find a way to relate it to an image or story. (‘Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain’ to memorise the colours of the rainbow is a good example of this). This will make it much easier for you to remember and recall at a later date.
Once you find out which side is dominant, try doing tasks which use the less dominant side. For example, if you are dominantly left-brained, have a go at some more creative activities. Practically every person has the ability to use both sides of their brain more equally and by doing exercises to boost your less dominant side, you can work your way towards ‘whole brain thinking’
This 30-second test will tell which side of your brain is more dominant as well as the balance between the left side and right. Comment with your results!
My result was L 31 / R 69
Image by Allan Ajifo
These are the seven key technical tips that will help you write a better English essay for your GCSEs.
Many students seem to have little idea about how to plan. Plans need to be logical, structured and indicate the purpose of each paragraph. There are different methods of planning. However, a good plan will keep you disciplined. An essay is supposed to be an ordered piece of writing. Working out timing (how long will you take to write paragraphs) is also a key aspect of planning (you can usually do this before the exam).
- Acknowledging Reader/audience/viewer response
Often students fail to mention how a poem/play/film will affect somebody. When I was taking exams as a student, I remember being egocentric; I would talk about how the language was affecting me, but I would sometimes fail to mention how it could affect a “third person”. Many students forget this. Students have spent many years thinking in terms of themselves. They thus will often use “I” in essays and focus on how something is affecting them. Remaining objective is the key.
- Addressing and explaining the evidence
Students, by the time they take GCSEs, usually know that they need to include evidence. However, they often want to include many examples rather than talk in depth about a single example. They are thus failing to receive marks for deep analysis.
Background knowledge is often the key to understanding why a poem, novel etc has been written in a certain way. For instance, Storm on the Island by Seamus Heaney cannot be understood fully unless a student understands the political background behind the poem. A student cannot achieve a top mark without proper consideration of the background.
This is probably one of the more difficult of the skills. Linking involves taking evidence from one part of a poem/novel/play etc and explaining the relationship between it and another part of a poem/novel/play. In a comparison essay, a part of one poem can often be linked to a part of another poem.
- Discourse markers
Discourse markers are words and phrases that maintain the flow of a text. Most children use “because, so, however”, as they have built up the habit over the course of their school life. Key Stage 3 and GCSE children should be using them more frequently and with greater variation.
To achieve the top marks, do all of the above consistently. The top achievers not only do all of the above, they constantly do it.
By Jonathan Strange