Does your child have an 11+ writing paper coming up in a few months time? Here is how you ensure that they produce something really special on the day…

1. Beforehand tackle any glaring issues.

If handwriting isn’t fluent and joined then get hold of a practice book and fix it. 2-3 minutes per day for a week or so and it will be done. The same goes for mis-use of capital letters, or inability to write in proper sentences – writing 2 or 3 sentences a day in a new diary or notebook should sort that out. Make the diary entries funny, encourage them to squeeze something outrageous in and joke about not being able to spot it.

2. Plan to spend half an hour together brainstorming words and ideas.

Choose three simple settings. Perhaps a beach, open countryside and a busy town. As a family you can do this at the table together. List types of birds you might see there (pigeon, house sparrow), trees (pine, willow), plants (samphire, honeysuckle) under the three headings. What might you see in the distance there? Underfoot? Overhead? What buildings might be there? What can you smell? Hear? Comment on the weather, season and time of day (morning or early evening etc. not 12.37pm!)..

3. On another day, spend 10 minutes linking the vocabulary and ideas into four or five sentences.

4. They will need to prepare a conversation that could go with any of the three settings.

There should only be two characters and they should only say one or two things each in total. But explain what they are doing as they are speaking, or how they respond. Here’s an example from An Awfully Beastly Business by Dave, Matt and Guy:

‘Afternoon, Ulf,’  Orson said, laying the tree trunks on the ground. The giant dusted his hands on his shirt. They were as big as shovels.

‘Sorry I’m late,’ Ulf said, jumping off his quad bike. ‘I overslept.’

Ask your child to copy this exact format, substituting their own characters and actions. And bingo! You have a conversation paragraph to slot in after the opening descriptions you planned above.

5.  The rest of the story can be put together in a moment, if you type and your child chats…

Next paragraph, simply change the weather and temperature. It creates a bit of tension.

Then something has to go wrong. Just a simple thing – a trip, losing their way etc. Try to avoid massive events (alien landing, plane crash).

Finish the story however seems to fit.  Three to five sentences should do it. Type the whole lot up for your child and encourage a regular read-through, so that they will have some pre-prepared ideas ready to go when the clock starts ticking.

6. Remind your child that a well-planned story like this doesn’t have to be finished on the day. The order of events shows the examiner that it was all in hand, so don’t be tempted to rush at the end.

7. Come up with as many story ideas as you can, and ask your child to pick which setting would fit best and what problem might happen. That will build confidence before they go into the exam. You don’t have to write them.

That’s should do it. Remember that tight sentences are key, so focus on step 1 from now, if you know it is likely to be a problem. The prep stuff after that can be done in an hour together if that’s all the time you wish to spend on it.