3 Techniques for effective 11 Plus Preparation

Poor studying habits is one of the major reason for the under performance of most children preparing for 11 plus. Most parents do not put much thought upon effectiveness of the techniques used. Imbibing correct studying habits can make a huge difference in the 11 plus preparation and the overall learning.

Let’s first look at the popular but not so effective habits that many children inherit from their parents.

Ineffective studying habits for 11 plus

Some of the habits that don’t work or are ineffective

  1. Long hours of study
  2. Memorising the material
  3. Studying the same material (or subject) for longer periods of time
  4. Reviewing one topic repeatedly before jumping on to the next one
  5. Reading and re-reading the text
  6. Highlighting the most important topics and then reviewing that
  7. Reviewing using the notes

Effective studying techniques for 11 plus

At KidSmart we are constantly looking at the researches published by various organisations in our quest for understanding how the learning works and how to make learning better. Let’s talk about the three most important learning strategies that KidSmart users follow.

Test before learning the content

The pre-test strategy involves answering the questions before learning the content. The pre-test method enhances the learning and improves retention even if the questions are answered incorrectly. The research show that “even failing a test or taking a test before learning new information, can lead to stronger memory for that information than spending the same amount of time studying”. KidSmart users benefit from this technique as the app tests the child with questions for new topics before presenting learning content.

Spaced practice learning

This practice is a bit difficult to start with, as our brain has a tendency to forget a lot. This technique is all about spacing the learning to multiple days instead of trying to learn all in one go. When you answer questions correctly you should park the questions and attempt again in 3-4 days to improve retention. KidSmart users do not need to manage this themselves as the app automatically space out the worksheet practices and repeats the question multiple times over a few days to re-enforce learning.

Interleaved worksheets

Interleaving is a practice technique where related topics are mixed such that the consecutive problems require different approaches. It enhances the ability to find and then apply the right approach to a problem. A contrasting practice is a method where a set of problems that require the same approach are practiced in a block until mastery is achieved. Research work has suggested that interleaved practice is a more effective method of learning subjects like Mathematics. KidSmart worksheets are interleaved where every other question requires a different approach.

Adopting the right methods of learning can make a massive difference in the learning and retention ability of a child. At KidSmart we develop content with the intention to enforce maximum learning and retention. By using the KidSmart app your child benefits from all of the effective learning methods without you having to do anything.

Register for a 14 day free trial now

KidSmart is the 11 plus preparation app for children in year 3 to 5. It has hundreds of worksheets for children to solve with hints and explanations. An in-built dictionary integrated with Oxford dictionary and vocabulary building modules.

Find out more about the app and the pricing plans.

Top 5 benefits of laying the 11+ foundation as early as year 3

Portrait of smart schoolgirls and schoolboys looking at the laptop in classroom

The 11+ Exam is a pivotal point in your child’s education. As it will most likely dictate their future path in life, it is perfectly natural to want to start preparing them for it as early as possible.

As you likely know however, the 11+ Exam is not easy! It is designed to not only test syllabus concepts are deeply and truly learnt, but also to wheedle out “the most academically able children” with questions designed to throw less astute pupils off track.

To be able to tackle these topics effectively, students need to ensure they have a solid foundation in the principles of English, Math and Verbal/Non Verbal Reasoning. This is absolutely vital, so for those in years 3, 4 and possibly 5, 11+ prep should focus almost entirely on the development of these core skills.

Although it is not beneficial to start throwing 11+ questions at students before their 11+ foundation is set, there are some ways to build familiarity with them and improve test confidence at a younger age.

So, below we have listed the top 5 reasons to start 11+ prep from as early on as year 3. These are some of the key principles that we have build KidSmart App around.

1. It allows you plenty of time to set a routine

When it comes to learning, getting your child into a regular routine makes all the difference. If they are used to sitting down for a short amount of time each day and focussing properly, they will develop their knowledge and skillset far quicker than if they did longer sessions over a shorter period of time. With KidSmart, you are able to see how regularly your child is using the app and how they are doing in the progress section.

2. 11+ concepts can be introduced early and slowly 

Many 11+ questions are different from the questions students will come across at school. In particular, verbal and non-verbal reasoning papers are designed to test innate ability and to not be coachable for.

In reality there is no magic to these, but if the child has not seen this type of question before the exam they are likely to be completely thrown on the day. So, what you can do is slowly introduce the concepts in bite size, manageable stages, and provide plenty of opportunities for practice.

The first 11+ like questions KidSmart gives to younger students are simplified versions of the real deal, giving them a nice stepping stone approach to follow.

3. Students can study at their own pace

By allowing plenty of time, students can take as long as they need to fully get to grips with topics and techniques of 11+. With apps such as KidSmart, you get the extra benefit of AI that reacts to each child’s abilities and responds by adjusting the difficulty to match their speed of development.

4. It reduces stress

By removing the need to ‘cram’ at the last minute, your child will be far less stressed when exam time comes around. They will perform much better if they are relaxed and comfortable in the knowledge that they have been steadily practicing for years.

5. Students get the opportunity to apply the lessons in other scenarios.

By being able to apply their learning at school and in their own time over long period, their level of understanding becomes far deeper and more ingrained.

For more information on how KidSmart App can help your child prepare for 11+, book a demo via Facebook message. Or if you would like the app, take a look at our pricing plans here.

Why your child loves reading but hates writing?

You have known it from day one that your child is smart. He/she learned to read faster, learned to speak faster, and learned to walk faster. Your child has great imagination, is a story teller, and asks intelligent questions. He/she loves reading and you have loaded a rack full of books for your child to read.

You feel great and rather proud to have a child that smart. You can see a great future ahead until you present your child with a writing task. You expect your child to be good, if not great, in writing given the love he/she has for reading books.

You are now confused and start looking around for better books that you can throw at your child. After all, everyone you speak to suggest that better writing is the result of frequent reading. In most cases, it helps; reading improves imagination and could tickle the creative neurons in your child’s brain but your child could be suffering from other issues causing them to refuse to write.

Causes

There are many reasons for why a child may not enjoy writing but we are going to talk about only two of them

Hand Strength and how to fix it

If a child does not do much writing then the finger muscles do not develop making writing a struggling task. Fortunately, finger muscles like any other muscles in the human body can be trained and with regular writing can make it less straining.

Any exercises that involve using a pencil and paper can help develop the physical strength required for writing.

Writing Anxiety and how to overcome it

Overcoming writing related anxieties require a very different approach than fixing muscle strength issues. You must first understand what writing anxiety is and what might be going on in the mind of a child when confronted by a writing task.

The last thing you want to do is to browbeat your child into writing. That will only add to the frustration and result into your child disliking it even further. Even worse, if it turns into a phobia. The writing anxiety like many other anxieties has its root into fear and contempt.

Fortunately, this anxiety lives in the mind and can be overcome but first, we need to understand the fears related with writing anxiety so we can craft an informed plan of action.

Fear of getting judged as inferior or dumb – Anecdotally, this is the biggest fear that plagues most writers and results into children disliking writing. No one wants to get judged and stamped as dumb or inferior.

Fear of contempt – Failing to write or write properly could trigger remarks from parents or teachers that could be interpreted as contempt even when the intention was not the same.

Fear of working hard – Writing is not easy, it requires lot of hard work in learning about the subject or topic before you could write anything about that subject. My nephew was asked to write 2 stories about his visit to London during his holiday. This requires him visiting the various places in London, pay attention to the details, collect postcards and useful information etc.

Fear of comparison – The fear that ones writing would be compared with another child’s writing and whose writing is always considered as creative and better.

Fear of inferior handwriting – If a child cannot write in a neat and tidy manner then that could result into handwriting fear when parents, teachers or others start pointing at their handwriting.

Now that we understand some of the fears associated with writing anxiety, the first step that we should take is to admit that such anxiety does exist. Acceptance plays a vital role in overcoming any type of anxiety.

Parents and teachers need to be a lot more supportive and appreciative of the efforts rather than the actual work. Ask your child to write just a few lines about something that they are familiar with rather than giving a topic that they may not feel comfortable about, know less about or require research.

Teach your child to adopt iterative approach to writing where they do not write the whole essay in just one sitting instead they revisit the writing in multiple iterations. When given enough time some children may feel more comfortable about writing.

Follow me on facebook at KidSmart app to get notified of the other blogs that can help your child excel and to learn about how we are developing modern tools to help enhance the learning for your child.

Kumon, Khan Academy and KidSmart – how to compare?

When trying to get your head around what exactly is on offer with a new product or service, as many of you will be doing right now for KidSmart App, it is handy to be able to compare it to ones you are already familiar with.

Like our founder Baljeet, you are probably acquainted with the likes of Kumon and Khan Academy. So, in this post, we take a look at the service provided by these companies, detailing the pros and cons of each, then compare them to KidSmart App.

Kumon

Also created by a dad who wanted the best for his child, Kumon is founded on the principle of mastery through short, incremental assignments.

Kumon is a bespoke program that focuses on Math and English. Instructors undertake an initial assessment then tailor-make a study plan for each individual student.

It is recommended that the student study for 15–30 minutes for five days of the week and complete another two study days when visiting their local Kumon Center. Study is in the form of pencil and paper worksheets and the worksheets increase in difficulty in small increments.

Pros

  • Kumon provides students with practice studying in a traditional learning environment
  • Worksheets are structured in such a way as to provide comprehensive coverage and understanding of topics
  • As Kumon utilises pencil and paper, students get the chance to improve their writing skills

Cons

  • Unlike app based learning, the student will need to wait to see whether they were right or wrong, so they won’t ever get the dopamine hit that is so valuable when it comes to information retention (learn more about this here.)
  • Kumon learning is one dimensional and therefore not hugely inspiring
  • The absence of variety leads to boredom and lack of concentration
  • There are no built-in-incentives to undertake the work, so parents often have to provide supplementary bribes to unengaged children
  • Kumon is based on rote memorisation technique which has faced criticism as ineffective for younger students
  • Kumon fees vary; but initial registration is typically £30 then a monthly single subject fee of around £60 per child, making it fairly expensive
  • Worksheets do require some adult supervision, as do visits to the local Kumon Center

Khan Academy

We have to admit, Khan Academy is pretty cool! This online platform offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard so learners can study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom.

They cover a wide range of subjects, including math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more. They have resources for all ages and offer specialized content through partnerships with the likes of NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT.

The technology behind the platform is state-of-the-art and adaptive to identify strengths and learning gaps.

Pros

  • It’s totally free
  • There are lots of great videos which will benefit students who learn best by this medium
  • Khan Academy works in real time, showing students errors so they can correct them straight away
  • There is an extensive resource library that will inspire keen students in a huge range of topics
  • Great to provide further support on topics covered but not fully understood in class

Cons

  • It is primarily geared up for the American market and not specifically to UK exams such as 11+ or the techniques required
  • Because of the wide scope of topics covered and it being free, there are large gaps in the syllabus and topics aren’t covered in a systematic, failsafe way
  • There is no gamification or incentivisation built in, so students need to be motivated to learn for themselves or by a third party
  • When students get a question wrong they get sent back to the beginning and lose their ‘mastery’ status which often proves incredibly frustrating
  • There is no support functionality built in, so if a student gets stuck they can’t get extra help from a tutor
  • Very few lessons provide real world examples to help illustrate the subject beyond the abstract

KidSmart

The primary reason Baljeet created KidSmart was because these services (and a plethora of others) didn’t quite cut the mustard when it came to keeping his daughter Avni properly engaged and learning at the same time. Avni has a very limited attention span and has set the bar really high when it comes to user experience and engagement.

We hugely appreciate the work Kumon and Khan Academy are doing to help students. As you can see, they both have many highly commendable features and strengths but KidSmart’s strength lies in delivering a holistic and engaging learning experience to help students truly maximize learning, retain information and re-enforce concepts by adapting to each child’s individual needs.

“For us, learning is not memorization of facts but the development of cognitive abilities and cultivation of a growth mindset.”

Baljeet Dogra, Founder of KidSmart

Below we’ve listed an array of facts about KidSmart so you can build a nice clear picture of what we offer.

About KidSmart

  • KidSmart content authors have several years of 11+ tutoring experience.
  • Mixtures of content types to ensure students are kept engaged. Including videos, games, jokes and traditional worksheets with real world examples
  • Results shown in real time so students can correct errors straight away.
  • The perfect level of gamification to maximise learning and to continue to engage the child with different gamification strategies – learn more
  • Over 2000 questions added to the database (and counting!)
  • Tutor support available anytime through messaging functionality and optional services to book one-to-one lessons.
  • Geared up for UK curriculum. Particular focus on CEM and GL 11+ exam formats.
  • Built expressly for the modern, touch screen generation
  • Built-in and personalisable incentives to undertake the work
  • Focus on self-learning and building confidence
  • Various reports instantly available to parents/tutors so they can adjust the learning experience to suit their child
  • Parents have a lot more visibility of the progress and direction
  • Most importantly, parents can provide feedback and request new features.
  • Simplified pricing plans with flexibility to switch at anytime makes decision making much simpler for parents. When combined with offers, promotions and referral options you can pretty much get the app for free. Offers & promotions are regularly posted on KidSmart Facebook Page and in the parents community.

To find out more about how KidSmart works, you can book a private demo of KidSmart App, either by messaging us on Facebook or write to us using this form.

Gamification for learning – we found the formula

Like our founder Baljeet, those of you with children who’ve tried primary education apps and websites already will know there are very few that cut the mustard when it comes to keeping children engaged. There are, of course, many games available that do keep their attention, but sadly these don’t deliver much value on the education front.

Our founder created KidSmart App to address this need for his daughter who has a limited attention span. The key to keeping his daughter engaged is gamification, which when used correctly can support learning in several ways. Below we dig a little deeper into this topic and then outline the features we’ve incorporated in KidSmart to maximise the benefits of gamification.

“The benefits of gamification is not a new concept. Gamification as a strategy is used in many other industries, including education, to improve engagement but at KidSmart we are focusing on how best to use gamification in the learning process to maximise it’s benefits”

Baljeet Dogra, Founder of KidSmart.

Attention & Retention

Brain research tells us that when the fun stops, learning often stops too. Students need to be engaged, motivated and feel minimal stress for information to flow freely through the affective filter in the amygdala. It’s under these conditions that they achieve higher levels of cognition, make connections, and experience “aha” moments. 

On top of this, what really turbo-charges learning is when the experience is pleasurable, as this is when the brain releases dopamine. Dopamine works in two key ways. First, it is a neurotransmitter that activates our “reward center”, so the more dopamine that is released, the more we want to repeat that activity. Second, dopamine stimulates the memory centres and promotes the release of acetylcholine, which increases focused attention.

“At KidSmart, we have put our research into maximising engagement and motivation by using multi-level gamification. There are gems to mine, KidCoins to earn, stickers to collect, personalised prizes to suit each child’s individual taste, trophies and more”

Baljeet Dogra, Founder of KidSmart

KidCoins, stickers and personalised prizes

When your child gets a question right, they are awarded KidCoins. Sometimes, to add more excitement, these are accompanied by gems that vary in value and rarity. But getting these goodies is just the first level of ‘yay’ they experience using the app. 

Those who score 100% on a worksheet receive a sticker. Scoring 100% is not often easy, so to keep kids motivated, we’ve included the ability to retake a worksheet when you get a question wrong – so they can try again for the all-important sticker!

Two more endorphin-releasing features (that are particularly adored by Baljeet’s daughter Avni, year 5) are trophies and personalised prizes. Students are awarded a trophy when they hit their monthly target. This is set by parents and can be adjusted to make sure it’s challenging but not impossible.

What really is a winner when it comes to motivation is how KidSmart gives your child the opportunity to win real-world gifts that you pick! As a parent or grandparent, you know exactly which gift, gadget or day out they desperately want – and will work hard for. So all you need to do is set these up as a reward in the app and set the price to an appropriate number of KidCoins. When your child has enough KidCoins in their bank balance they will be notified that they can receive that reward – and will be sure to let you know toot suite! 

My daughter’s favourite is buying “Make a parent clean your room” gift card.

Baljeet Dogra, Founder of KidSmart

Not making life too easy

Another important factor in keeping students motivated is not making the topic too straightforward, or so difficult that they give up.

To address this, KidSmart App uses adaptive technology to work out the right difficulty level for your child. But again, every child is different, so after experimentation, we realised the need for parents to have additional control. This means that if at any point your child feels stuck, you can just relax the difficulty level to help boost their morale right back up again.

Another intriguing feature in the ‘not too easy’ category is that children have to pay (using their precious KidCoins) to see explanations. Now, on first hearing this, we’re sure you will be a bit bemused as to why we put a barrier in between your child and new information. But, fear not, this feature was actually suggested by Avni, and makes a lot of sense!

Avni pointed out that by making all explanations free, it was too easy for her to cheat! It meant she was simply reading explanations all the time, often the same ones multiple times, and busting her way through the levels. By having to pay for an explanation, Avni was utterly determined to ingest the information so she didn’t have to pay twice, i.e. it actually ensured she was learning.

A healthy dose of variety, mystery and competition

To keep a child’s attention, it is important not to be predictable. So we’ve incorporated plenty of features in KidSmart to surprise children and keep them on their toes.

These include dopamine-rich experiences like receiving a ‘double reward’ or ‘triple reward.’ These are bestowed at random when kids answer questions correctly. They come with a firework display and boost the child’s KidCoin count, so are highly exciting.

We’ve found our testers are also greatly intrigued to find out which Sticker they will win next, so this is a strong motivator to score a perfect 100%. Then there are a few extra treats that pop up at random to keep students entertained, such as jokes, funny videos, and Super Mario style games!

KidSmart app shows a joke

The final factor we’re mentioning here is the option to have a healthy bit of competition. With KidSmart, you can connect with friends – and compete! This is another one of Avni’s favourites.

Would you like to try KidSmart App? Register here for early access

Follow us on facebook at KidSmart app to get notified of the other blogs that can help your child excel and to learn about how we are developing modern tools to help enhance the learning for your child.

Is subvocalisation impeding your child’s reading speed?

Image designed by Vectorpouch

The human brain has the ability to read and comprehend 1000 words per minute (wpm) but most of us can only read in the range of 200-250 wpm. Most of us read at the speed at which we talk, which is on an average around 150-250 wpm.

At this rate your brain is only working at 25% of the speed that it is capable of. But what is the reason for this low performance?

The inefficiency in the reading speed is caused by a behaviour called subvocalisation which is more of a habit than an affliction. This behaviour is the process of reassurance using auditory means. In layman terms, it is the habit of saying the words in your head when reading and is one of the main reasons why people read slowly and have trouble improving their reading speed. 

This habit is induced by our schools and teachers who have taught us to say the words loudly while reading when we first learned to read during the early years. We were then asked to say the words in the head instead of saying loudly.

When your eyes read the words the visual signals are wired to the brain for processing but your brain is looking for reassurance from the auditory sensors on the word before completing the processing and this leads to a delay in comprehending which results into slow reading speed. 

Subvocalisation or the habit of saying words in the head or out loud is not all bad. It is sometimes useful when the reading material is a bit difficult to understand due to its terminology or vocabulary that you are not familiar with. This can be a useful way to improve the vocabulary but knowing when to use it and being able to control it determines how effectively you can benefit.

The trick to read faster is to reduce the amount of subvocalisation. It is not possible to eliminate it but there are things you can do to minimise it. 

In my next post, I will talk about how to help your child minimise subvocalisation and improve their reading speed which has a direct impact on their ability to comprehend text. 

Follow me on facebook at KidSmart app to get notified of the other blogs that can help your child excel and to learn about how we are developing modern tools to help enhance the learning for your child.

Read 30 Books in 30 Days..drum roll

Group of people reading and borrowing books

OK, I agree that I made the title a bit dramatic. I am not promising that you will be able to read 30 books in 30 days after reading this article but you might be able to do that by using the tools I have mentioned in this blog.

If you are thinking whether it’s possible or not then let me inform you that last year AccelaReader hosted a 30 day book challenge to make people read a book, on an average, in 60-120 minutes.

(My intention with the title was to grab your attention and I hope that I succeeded in doing that. Let me know in the comment if it worked or not.)

The goal of this post is to talk about a few tools and courses that can help you improve your reading speed by up to 3 times.

One of the main reasons of slow reading is subvocalisation, as I explained in my previous blogs and so minimising subvocalisation should be on the top of your list if you need to improve your reading speed. But it does not stop there, you need to then train your brain to read faster.

Trying to do it yourself by keeping track of your speed and then forcing yourself to read faster is like going to a gym without a trainer. You will get results for sure but the results would come slower and it would not be as good as like hiring a trainer.

There are tools that can help your child read faster. These tools use a technique called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) to train your brain into reading faster.

AccelaReader –  allows you to change various settings and your reading speed. You can copy any text into the tool and then read using the RSVP tool. If your child finds the speed to be hard then you can reduce the speed and try again.

Spreeder – works just like AccelaReader and comes with 7 speed settings.

ZapReader – It’s a free service offered by the Spreeder team.

Apart from these tools you may also want to consider enrolling into speed reading courses for a guided track to progress.

SuperBrain – offers a free taster session. They claim to increase the reading speed by 3 times with this course.

Spreeder – apart from offering a product they also offer courses.

Why increase the reading speed?

The improved speed will have a considerable impact on the comprehension ability of your child. It comes with the following benefits,

  • improve concentration and focus
  • maximise comprehension
  • improve memory and retention

At KidSmart, we are learning about the various speed reading techniques and connecting with the experts to explore the strategies. We intend to add tools in the app to help improve the reading speed of your child.

Stay tuned and join our parents community on facebook to be the first to know about when we have added the feature.

Follow us on facebook at KidSmart app to get notified of the other blogs that can help your child excel and to learn about how we are developing modern tools to help enhance the learning for your child.

Chewing gum can improve your child’s reading speed

In my last article I touched on what subvocalisation is and how it affects the reading speed. Now, it’s time to look at the ways to improve reading speed. 

If subvocalisation is the cause for low read performance around 150-250 wpm then surely the solution to the problem would be to reduce the impact of subvocalisation or minimise subvocalisation itself.

First things first, if you have forgotten what subvocalisation is then it is a habit wherein you say the word in your head while reading. The side effect of this approach is that your reading speed is limited by the speed at which you can say the words, also called the talking speed.

Most people read at 200-250 wpm but you need to be reading at least at 450 wpm to stay competitive in this age of information. 

Let’s look at some of the ways you can teach your child to improve reading

  1. Chewing gum – the idea is to distract your mouth and brain from saying the words. Chewing gum can help trick the brain into thinking that mouth is busy doing something else so skips the auditory reassurance. 
  2. Use your finger as a guide while reading – practice to put the finger on the word after the word you are reading and then let your eyes chase the finger as you read. Slowly start to increase the speed at which you move the finger.
  3. Be conscious of your breathing – the trick is to occupy your brain in doing something other than trying to say the words in your head. 
  4. Use peripheral vision – to read the words before and after the word you focus on. This is harder than it sounds and takes time to master but once you get the grip of it, it takes your reading to a whole new level. Imagine looking at just two words in a line but reading the whole line. 
  5. Force yourself – to read at higher speed than your current speed. Set a timer and try to break your record wpm. 
  6. Eliminate the fear – from your head that you may not be able to comprehend what you read faster. 
  7. Stop re-reading text – re-reading trains your mind to read with additional care and thus falls back to the “say words in the head” approach. 

In my next post, we will look at some of the tools that we can use to help with improving the reading speed.

Follow us on our facebook page at KidSmart app to get notified of the other blogs that can help your child excel, to learn about how we are developing modern tools and find out about the awesome work that our team is doing to help enhance the learning for your child.