The ‘Five a Day’ Summer Challenge Blogs - English
By Sarah Collins
13 Aug

After the last few months of home learning, few parents are keen to launch into even more work over the summer holidays. Nevertheless, after all the challenges you have overcome, you are now in a unique position to build on this shared knowledge to help your child through the 11+ entrance exam…and this is why this summer’s Revision Challenge has a bit of a twist to it.

Speed, accuracy and mental agility are essential to achieving high marks in the 11+ entrance exam and we don’t want you to miss the opportunity of 11+ exam success, even in these difficult times. Consequently, this series of blogs builds on work your child has already put in using minimal desk time to give maximum results.

Exercising both before and between periods of study is proven to have an immediate and positive effect on both memory formation and concentration. There are also clear longer lasting results with the memory and learning area of the brain growing with physical exercise.

Each of the four blogs will look at a different subject: English, maths, verbal reasoning, and non-verbal reasoning. All follow the same format using a combination of activities to boost concentration, confidence and build mental agility.

See it as the learning equivalent of healthy eating! 

Each blog includes:

  • two activities, which include some form of physical activity
  • two short desk-based learning activities
  • answers and a final review

Discussing the answers is an important part of the process to enable your child to check their understanding and improve accuracy.

If time is limited, pair exercises 1 and 2 on one day, then 3 and 4 on another; finally reviewing all the answers together shortly afterwards.

The English challenge focuses on spelling and vocabulary.


The 11+ English Revision Five a Day Challenge

1   Animal workout

Part 1: Breakfast challenge

A game to test spelling using animal names. Ideally for three or more people.

Before beginning the game, nominate somebody to keep score and look up any disputed words on a smartphone (passing this to a neighbour if they are involved in the challenge). If only two people are playing, the words can be looked up at the end to solve any disputes.

  1. Choose somebody to begin: this is Player 1.
  2. Player 1 begins the game by thinking of an animal and challenges the person to the right (Player 2) to spell the animal’s name out loud.
  3. Player 1 must verify if the word is correctly spelt and if it is, Player 2 gains a point.
  4. If Player 1 thinks the spelling is incorrect, then they should spell it themselves. If everybody agrees the animal is spelt correctly by Player 1, they gain a point otherwise no points are awarded.
  5. Player 2 now gets the chance to think of an animal and the game continues following stages 2–4 above.  
  6. Continue until at least 15 animals have been spelt correctly. Add up the totals and declare the winner!

Note down the words that were difficult for discussion in the review time.

Part 2: Active challenge

A game to test vocabulary knowledge using animal names. Two or more players.

You will need a tennis ball and cricket/rounders bat and a smartphone. The game is based on French cricket. Before beginning the game, nominate somebody to keep score and start the timer on the smartphone. The winner of the Breakfast challenge is Player 1.

  1. Set the timer for 15 minutes before beginning the game.
  2. Player 1 begins with the bat and nominates Player 2.
  3. Player 2 throws the ball to Player 1 who hits the ball for other players to chase.
  4. If the player catching the ball does so without it bouncing, they take the bat and challenge Player 1 as if they were ‘the catcher’ in point 5.
  5. If the ball is caught after it has bounced, the catcher is challenged by Player 1 to think of an animal beginning with a letter of their choice.
  6. If the catcher can think of an animal beginning with this letter, they get a point; if they can’t, Player 1 gets the point.
  7. The catcher now gets the chance to throw the ball (becoming Player 2 in point 3) and the game continues.
  8. Finish the game when the timer goes off, add up the scores and declare the winner.
  9. If the same people played both games, you can add up the total score for each person to find the overall champion!

A wide range of vocabulary is essential in achieving high marks in both English and verbal reasoning tests. This type of game helps to build and consolidate vocabulary whilst stimulating a child’s ability to think quickly and accurately. Speed of response is another essential skill in these tests.

2  Ambitious adjectives  

Use this activity directly after completing the Active Challenge (above) to help your child focus on the task effectively.

Download the sample page from the English Workbook: Spelling and Vocabulary (ages 9 –11) and let your child have some time in a quiet room to complete the crossword. 

11+ English Spelling and Vocabulary Workbook

Explain to your child that they can arrange the words in any order and the size of the grid they end up with doesn’t matter. They may find it helpful to produce a grid in a word processing or spreadsheet program and copy and paste extra columns and rows as they experiment moving the letters around.

Why not have a go yourself and see who gets to a finished crossword the quickest!

Creating crosswords has a number of benefits when preparing for the 11+:

  • developing spelling knowledge (important for marks in both English and verbal reasoning)
  • the ability to think though problems creatively (a key skill in all subjects)
  • spatial awareness (an element in the non-verbal reasoning tests)
  • cryptic clues (used in many verbal reasoning questions)

3  Comparative and superlative routes

Once your child has finished the crossword, have a quick snack and go out for a walk of at least 20 minutes to enjoy this game. This exercise is suitable for two or more people.

Take it in turns to spot people, animals or objects using comparatives and superlatives to describe them. The objects should be compared or described using a continuous chain. For example:

Ralph is taller than Mum; Mum is fitter than Dad; Dad is heavier than that plant pot; that dog hairier than the plant pot; that dog is the farthest away; that dog is the greediest.

You may want to secretly look at a list of comparative and superlative adjectives on the internet to move the chain along, just in case somebody gets stuck!

Word definitions:

Comparative adjectives

These words are used to compare two people, animals or things. Comparatives are created by adding a suffix (group of letters) to the end of an adjective. For example:

Adjective                                 slow

Comparative                          slower


Superlative adjectives

These words are used to show a specific quality of a person, animal or thing. Superlatives are created by adding a suffix to the end of an adjective. For example:

Adjective                                 slow

Superlative                             slowest


Working with word groups is useful in 11+ exam preparation for…

  • building familiarity with structure in grammar for use in writing tasks
  • understanding terminology sometimes tested in comprehension exercises
  • expanding vocabulary and rapid recall of words in verbal reasoning tests

4  Write from wrong

Use this activity directly after completing the Comparative and Superlative Routes walk (above) to help your child focus on the task effectively.

This exercise is taken from page 18 of the English 11+ Revision Guide. Allow your child 15 minutes to complete the task in a quiet room. They will need paper and a pencil.

11+ English Revision Guide

Find the mistakes in this passage, circle them and then rewrite the complete passage, correcting the mistakes.

Suddenly, the ship swaied from side to side, battleing the enormous waves. The couragous captain controled the sails and the crew rallyed together to bail out the water. The choppyness of the water worsened and the boat tiped over dangerously. There was no merryment aboard that day. Everyone franticaly worked to survive.

Correcting passages is useful preparation for the following areas of the 11+ entrance exam:

  • spotting mistakes and correcting their own spelling in written exercises
  • spotting mistakes in similar exercises in electronic spelling tests
  • similar exercises in some English tests

5  Answers and final review

Keep a notebook for writing spelling lists and comments when beginning their 11+ revision so you both know where to go to when revising tricky areas.

Set aside 20 minutes to talk through this ‘Five a Day’ challenge. Talk generally about what your child did and didn’t enjoy when completing the activities. This may give you some clues to areas where they may need a little more work or support for their 11+ test preparation.

1   Animal workout

Review any difficult animal spellings you all came up with and make sure they are noted on a spelling list in your 11+ notebook.  

2 Ambitious adjectives

There are many different ways this crossword can be created. How the clues are numbered isn’t important as long as it is easily understood.

We have shown one version of the grid and followed the clue numbers from the workbook for ease of reference. As long as the clue is a good attempt at explaining the word, it doesn’t matter if the clues are cryptic. Try to work out how the author of the answers has created cryptic clue 2 as an extra exercise.

Add any words your child had difficulty with to the spelling list.

Crossword example

  1. ambitious (4 across): If this is how you are, then the sky's the limit.
  2. cautious (5 down): Careful! Feline broken and sounds like you, stands before debts.
  3. conscientious (3 down): Diligent
  4. nutritious (2 down): Good for you
  5. superstitious (8 across): This is what you are if you won't walk under a ladder.
  6. pretentious (6 down): Opposite of modest
  7. infectious (7 across): Catching
  8. fictitious (1 down): Made up


3  Comparative and Superlative routes

Discuss any words that your child had difficulty with on the route and begin a list of difficult words in the notebook.

4  Write from wrong

Compare your child’s passage with the text below. The bold words show the correct spelling of the incorrect words.

Add any words they had difficulty with to their spelling list.

Suddenly, the ship swayed from side to side, battling the enormous waves. The courageous captain controlled the sails and the crew rallied together to bail out the water. The choppiness of the water worsened and the boat tipped over dangerously. There was no merriment aboard that day. Everyone frantically worked to survive.

How we can help

The written activities in this blog are taken from the Galore Park 11+ revision and English revision ranges.

You can find many more written and family activities in the English and Verbal Reasoning 11+ Study and Revision Guides. These books are designed for quick bursts of 30-minute revision with separate topics broken into two- or four-page sections with questions at the end of each one.

11+ English Revision Guide11+ Verbal Reasoning Study and Revision Guide

If you enjoyed the activities here, these guides can work as a way to provide a comprehensive 11+ revision programme. There is a range of tests covering each section in the book as well as a mock 11+ test at the end. Most importantly, all answers are explained so you can always help your child to understand the areas they would like to improve.

Follow on with 11+ English Practice Papers when your child is ready to build their confidence and time their responses. Practice Papers 1 and 2 contain 12 model tests progressing in difficulty and pace to the most challenging tests set by any independent schools.

11+ English Practice Papers

Add in the 11+ English Workbooks for activities to practise these skills (25 original activities in each book and 50 smaller activities in the Spelling and Vocabulary book) and you can be confident that your child can face the exams with the best possible preparation.

11+ English Workbooks

Sarah Collins is the author of our 11+ Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning Study and Revision Guides and is an expert in all things 11+. Learn more about Sarah here.

Tags: 11+, 11+ English, 11+ Revision, 11 plus, English, Entrance exams, Exam Preparation, family, independent schools, learning, practice, revision, Revision Guide, revision prep, Revision Tips, school entrance exams, Verbal Reasoning, Workbooks

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