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learning vocab for 11+ Any brillinat ideas?

(32 Posts)
steppemum Wed 05-Nov-14 14:47:31

Hi, dd1 is year 5 and will do the 11+ next September. We will be preparing her ourselves. I have just downloaded some great lists of synonyms and antonyms and words with more than one meaning.

I am looking at the lists and just wondering how to make learning them in any way interesting?

Anyone got any ideas for fun ways of increasing her vocab? Dd is very able, but I am aware that despite wide reading, her vocab is her weakest point, hence starting with it now.

Any suggestions welcome

Notsuretoday Wed 05-Nov-14 15:24:54

There is a website called freerice which is really good

steppemum Wed 05-Nov-14 17:05:08

well, I have to disagree. Freerice has a set vocab list. It tests you on the meaning of the word. Some of their definitions are a bit hmm maybe because they are a bit American. (and therefore the meaning may be slightly different)

It doesn't, however, test synonyms, antonyms, homophones or the other one whose name I can't remember (one word, 2 meanings)

Also, the vocab isn't necessarily what you would choose for an average 10 year old.

So, while I am happy for her to play on freerice, I am really looking for games or ideas to introduce and learn all of the above.

steppemum Wed 05-Nov-14 20:34:34

bump for evening traffic,

anyone got any fun ideas for games to play to try an get some of this vocab?

I am stumped for ideas sad

Notsuretoday Thu 06-Nov-14 08:15:39

Well you're welcome anyway smile

For my dd's I found a vocab list and she looked up definitions in the dictionary.

Also we used freerice (!) and they read lots.

They both passed for Pate's...

irisha Thu 06-Nov-14 09:01:39

I am afraid I can't recommend any "fun" and "gamey" type activities. We went the old-fashioned way.

Read together (one page DD, one page me) stuff that was more advanced vocabulary wise than what she'd read on her own (or even if she'd read it, she wouldn't check out meaning of words she didn't know, would just use context), underlined words she wouldn't know or what I would say "interesting" words, made flash cards for those with including definition, synonym/antonym and then kept a box of these and kept coming back to them. We did max 5 words per reading (otherwise it becomes a chore) and would aim to learn 10-15 new words per week + reviewing words from previous weeks. You can buy a plastic box (index card box?) + dividers at WH Smith and keep it on the dining table. We had three sections - new, kind of know the meaning but not getting them 100% consistently, and still learning. Then we'd shuffle cards from section to section depending on progress.

It also makes sense to learn Latin and Greek prefixes, suffixes and roots for the main ones like bio, geo, graph, psyche, etc - makes it easier to guess/derive meaning that you don't know.

The reading together also helped with comprehension/writing as we'd also discuss literary techniques, kept a note of amazing metaphors/similes etc.

Key is to keep this balanced and turn bedtime reading into a chore but you don't actually have to do this for hours - as long as it's regular, mid of Yr5 should give one plenty of time.

Another thing is you have to read non-fiction as well as there is specific vocab that you won't find in fiction - we read Aquila, How it Works, Discovery Box, cooking books (when cooking, great for weird ingredients), First News and also some adult newspapers/magazines (very limited) as the latter would often have really advance vocab (e.g. a smallish article from the Economist, The Week, etc)

PastSellByDate Thu 06-Nov-14 12:42:33

Hi Steppemum:

DD1 passed 11+ but due to distance/ not wanting to travel on buses on her own - ultimately opted for very good local comp (we're lucky we're in a good area).

DD1 started 11+ venture with English side of things very weak.

We used freerice

We used literacy games on Woodlands Junior School: especially - How many words can you make game under spelling games and activities:


I got this tip off the 11+ forum for my region - have your child read high quality fiction (buy one of those classic children literature packs from the book people - 10 books for £10 - things like The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, Kidnapped, etc...

Whilst they're reading these books - have them make a note of any word they don't know. (get them a nice notebook for the task). Have them guess the possible meaning at the time and then have them look up the actual meaning. DD1 was a bit lazy on all of this - but I'd have her read to me 2/3 times a week - and I'd pick her up on any words she was clearly just glossing over - so 'translucent' for example - I'd say what do you think that means? If she didn't know I'd get out ye olde dictionary (OED abridged or on-line free dictionaries) and make a big production of searching out the word and discussing the meaning. Oh my it says it's from the Latin..... First used in 1590 ... my.... I remember that year well.

We found reading through the majority of the Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events books during Year 5 was a real help - lots of fun words/ word play going on there. Same with the Harry Potter books - Diagon Alley said quickly is diagonally, for example. Lots of Latin word play too.


steppemum Thu 06-Nov-14 13:08:24

notsure - sorry, I didn't mean to be snappy. Thanks for posting. It is just that lots of people recommend freerice, but I think it doesn't quite hit the spot that we need.

Thanks irisha and pastsell by. What you have both said makes a lot of sense for dd. She is a great reader, but I think she skips over/doesn't absorb the vocab, so starting with what she is reading sounds good.
I have a lot of the classics on my shelf (from my childhood) my kids won't touch them! She has read Harry Potter, though I wonder now if she read it out loud how many words she was sliding past. I was looking at Lemony Snicket in the library and wondering if she would like them, so we will start there I think.

ds is at grammar, year 7 but he had VR test only and so I learnt how to do all the VR stuff, and then they changed the test in our region!

I have some wonderful vocab lists, from the CEM website, but to be honest they are pretty daunting, I have just counted up - 500 synonyms and antonyms - Eek!

PastSellByDate Thu 06-Nov-14 13:46:13


rather than learning words by rote - which rarely stays with you long-term - try playing scrabble or bananagrams (but allow your DC to use a dictionary) - bonus points (or in our house sweeties) given for new word and explaining to us oldies what it means.

It sounds like your area has gone for a more mixed approach to testing (not just VR) - here in Birmingham it's equal between maths/ English Comprehension/ VR and NVR. I think the advantage of something more mixed is that ultimately VR is a more minor component.

one of the things we found with CEM format - was that vocabulary style work (antonymns/ synonymns) often had the hard word in the question with easy words your child would know for solutions. So decoding things like prefixes/ suffixes - identifying the root of the word really can help sort out meaning.

Oddly enough with english/ VR DD1 said that watching lots of documentaries/ various museum trips (with us & school) + lots of reading helped more than word lists.


steppemum Thu 06-Nov-14 13:53:34

I know the official advice is to read more. Wide choice of styles and slightly harder books, non fiction etc.

The thing is I know dd reads well, what I don't think she does is take on board the new vocab.
I have also heard that just ploughing through word lists doesn't work, hence the request for ideas!

We have the CEM format now, and I am pleased, because any work I do with dd will also help in school, unlike the VR stuff.

I think we will base it all on reading and use words from the books she reads, looking up meanings and so on.

I am a bit of a pain (according to my kids) because I am always doing things like pointing out prefixes. My Grandfather was a real word buff and it has rubbed off a bit (although I only have a fraction of his knowledge)

Very encouraged with your dd's comment as that sounds like our family

iseenodust Thu 06-Nov-14 14:01:13

DS's head is big on audio CD's as an aid to expanding vocabulary. All those classic books your DD doesn't want to read can be found on CD (many at your library). DS age 10 wouldn't have read Treasure Island but the cd went down well.

steppemum Thu 06-Nov-14 14:15:11

interesting isee - I read out loud to dd (which she adores, and won't let me stop!) and we have read some of the classic that way.

We are working through Narnia books at the moment, she wants me to read out loud because I 'do the voices!'

It definitely has more old fashioned traditional vocab.

ohtobeanonymous Thu 06-Nov-14 19:32:46

Gosh I feel like a lazy and neglectful parent...I do nothing like this with my children!

PastSellByDate Fri 07-Nov-14 06:52:31

Hi Ohtobeanonymous

You're not 'lazy and neglectful' nor should you see yourself this way...

Here in Birmingham at least - where grammar schools are part of the state school system & totally free to pupils - admission is by competitive CEM style 11+ exam - which includes comprehension tasks on extracts from books well beyond the normal diet of most 10 year olds.

Most parents are facing a choice between state comprehensive senior schools which struggle to get 40 %- 50% of pupils to 5 A-C GCSEs or the grammars which get 100% to that level - with something like 85% B or better. Now obviously they're the cream of the crop - but coupled with fears on the social side of ordinary senior schools (bullying, gangs, drugs, etc...) and in this area the main options both in special measures - I don't blame any parent for getting serious about the 11+.

But Ohtobe it is entirely optional. If you don't value this you don't have to encourage it/ support it/ do it.

For us, with DD1 attending a primary school with a dysfunctional literacy policy - (no working lending form school library, no books home in KS2, children selecting guided reading books and therefore pressuring children to always chose short, easy books, etc...) embarking on a diet of higher quality literature was both enjoyable and beneficial.

iseenodust Fri 07-Nov-14 09:58:51

DS's yr6 English homework a couple of weeks ago was based on a short passage from Swiss Family Robinson. It hadn't occured to me they would actually use such texts. blush We are not in a grammar school area.

irisha Fri 07-Nov-14 10:16:54

Ohtobe, it depends on your starting point. English is not DD's native language and we actively encouraged our own language at home all the way through beg of Yr 5, i.e. reading, CDs/DVDs, TV, magazines only in our language + a Saturday school for that. So clearly English took a back seat - I believed what everybody said about school being enough every day and English would take over anyway. Well, it didn't. Her vocab in English was average for her age whereas in our language it was vastly superior and nobody would believe she never actually lived in the country of that language.

So what I am saying is if kids come from an educated home where sophisticated language and vocabulary are the norm, where good quality literature is being read as a matter of course, where you read and discuss newspaper articles, have quality dinner conversation as a family etc, you don't actually need any of the special vocab work, only technique. My DD knew the vast majority of the words we worked on - just in the wrong language for 11+. So we had a rude awakening and a crash course in vocab building. So you may not need to do any of this vocab work with your DC if the starting point is good.

That said, she loved it and now is enjoying English at secondary a lot more than at prep and doing very well indeed to my surprise as she also has dyslexic tendencies.

steppemum Fri 07-Nov-14 11:54:44


we didn't do much for ds, we waited until 2nd half of year 5 and then did familiarity with the papers, exam technique for 1 hour per fortnight. He passed and is at grammar school.

But since then the exam has changed. I have no intention of paying for tutoring, or doing loads at home, but I want to quietly work on her vocab, as it doesn't at the moment reflect what she reads. If we start now and do a little bit regularly, I hope it will help. Improving her vocab will help in school whether or not she goes to grammar, so it can't hurt.

But even if we weren't going for grammar, I would still read out loud as long as they wanted me to, ds until about age 10, dd1 still wants it at 9. (they read to themselves as well) And we do talk a lot in our family, discuss stuff over dinner, put the world to rights etc etc. So they get a lot of input that way.

Toomanyhouseguests Fri 07-Nov-14 14:01:41

My DD sat the super selective grammar test for our area. She did OK, top third, but not high enough for a place. It was CEM. She said that she didn't even attempt more than 15 to 25% of the maths questions. (She said there were 3 maths sections.) So her vocabulary/reading comprehension must have been rather good to carry three such low scores in the maths sections.
We never studied any lists. She just reads a lot. About a book a week. We've always let her choose whatever she wants, never pushed "improving" books. They would have just bogged her down. We also continued to read to her before bed through year 4. That way, she was listening to more complex narratives than she could have coped with on her own and it was building her up in a pleasurable way.
As an aside, I don't know any child to pass the CEM who didn't practise doing copious, timed maths mock section. Speed is crucial for the math. We didn't bother, because we knew we were not competitive anyway, and that sort of training would be a waste of time for the exams we are seriously aiming at. But if your heart is set on a CEM school, I would say that timing is very important.

steppemum Sat 08-Nov-14 10:57:31

Thanks for that toomany.

Maths is her strength, she is a high fligher in maths, so I haven't really worried about it, but I will have a think about timing. Fortunately she loves tests, so a quick timed test would actually be her idea of fun. hmm

Toomanyhouseguests Sat 08-Nov-14 12:23:56

Your DD sounds like a dream child to coach for the 11+! I wish you all the best luck.

We bought a 2 pack of Bond CEM practice tests to do before the actual test. They seemed very difficult. My DD said they were true to the test. I then read on the 11+ Forum that everyone found them harder than the CPG CEM practice tests. (We never got to those.) So, in my mind, they are the ultimate test. If she is able to "breeze" through those, you know she is rock solid.

HocusUcas Sat 08-Nov-14 14:04:55

Just a thought , my Kindle has a facility where you can highlight a word and it gives you the meaning. It's so easy she may be more likely to look a word up there and then than if she has to make a note and go to a dictionary. OK it means investment in a Kindle - but an idea FWIW

steppemum Sat 08-Nov-14 23:11:15

toomany - I had to prepare ds 2 years ago and he was a nightmare, so dd is my payback!

Toomanyhouseguests Sat 08-Nov-14 23:26:01


ohtobeanonymous Sun 09-Nov-14 18:00:36

What is CEM?

If speed is the issue, then DD is doomed. Lots of thoughts in her brain but not much urgency with completing questions...

Toomanyhouseguests Sun 09-Nov-14 19:51:23

CEM is brand of 11+ tests that some grammar schools use. I think any grammar school 11+ test will have some element of time pressure. My impression from gossip, was that CEM was particularly tight on timings.

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