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 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.
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.
As a tutor, I have come across many children who find school work easy. Despite having natural ability and being ahead of their peers, children who are perceived as highly intelligent often seem to have character traits that bind them together. I talk about “perception of intelligence” because it is the perception of being intelligent which can truly damage a child, not the fact that the child may have extraordinary mental abilities.
These are the four points that have stood out to me with the children I have worked with (there are actually much more):
- Seeking perfection
Children are often told that they are intelligent by those around them. This adds to the internal pressure that they feel (as clever children often feel) that they need to be perfect. They thus identify themselves as “the clever one” in their peer-groups.
- Inexperience in failure
Naturally, many of these children past most of their early years being able to accomplish most of the academic tasks set by their teachers. This means that they may lack the experience of real failure, which is important for well-rounded developmental.
- Lack of mental resistance to failure
As a consequence of not failing in their young days and the need to seek perfection, some children take failure in their later years particularly hard.
- Difficulty relating to others in their peer group
If others perceive a child to be intelligent, and the child, in turn, believes this idea, this can lead to isolation in social situations.
As an educator, my role is not merely to facilitate learning, but to understand the issues affecting a child. At every point, I have to always be aware of the words I am using when working with children. If anyone has comments about the points I have mentioned or has experience dealing with these issues, please feel free to comment.
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.