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Swot Up blog - hints, tips, news and events from the 11 plus swot world
  • Healthy food brain foodIn a previous post we talked about how important food was for keeping your child ready to study. It makes sense to give them a great breakfast to start the day, and make sure it's the right balance of nutrition. It's not just about 5 a day, although that's a perfect starting point. Here's 7 great food sources and ideas to keep you and them on the right path.

    1. Omega 3

    Omega 3 acids are widely believed to be one of the best sources of nutrition for brains in children and adults. It can be found in oily fish, some nuts and avocado.

    Salmon and tuna are the quick wins for this one, so think about recipes like spaghetti puttanesca (tuna with tomatoes and olives) or salad nicoise (green salad with tuna and hard-boiled eggs). Mashed avocado is an easy one to slip into a sandwich.

    2. Iron

    Iron feeds energy levels and mental alertness. Leafy green veg such as spinach works well for this.

    Try stir frying spinach with tinned tomatoes and browned turkey mince if they're not keen on the flavour. Serve with tagliatelle.

    3. Antioxidants

    Most fruit and veg contains a wealth of antioxidants, great for the memory. Plop some berries in their morning cereal, or whizz to a smoothie.

    4. Whole grains

    Complex carbohydrates improve memory and keep energy levels consistent to avoid that mid-afternoon lull. A porridge breakfast can help, perhaps with honey, and if they can't stand brown bread try the half-brown half-white varieties.

    5. Choline

    Found in eggs and nuts, choline is a great boost to the memory. Scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast is a brilliant breakfast, and you can top many dinners with lightly toasted nuts, e.g. pine nuts over a pasta dish, or walnuts with cauliflower cheese.

    6. Calcium

    Calcium has long been held up the great way to strengthen bones. Dairy is the key here. Some pre-sliced cheese is a quick way to cram some calcium in a sandwich or wrap. Tofu is also a surprising source of calcium, so consider using that in your next stir-fry or spag bol.

    7. Water

    Last but not least water is essential for keeping the digestive system fluid and rehydrating the brain. Why not try home-made lemonade? Get them to help too.

    Image copyright William Cho. Original image can be found on Flickr here.

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  • Don't Use Said!We found a great Flash video over at the National Grid for Learning Cymru that explores great ways to express yourself when writing up conversation. Rather than using "said" it makes a strong case for using a more descriptive term to indicate that someone has spoken.

    It's a great tip for pupils sitting the English exam, but great advice for anyone! It makes the text more colourful and expressive.

    Besides this, the site is a great resource of learning strategies and advice for pupils of any area.

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  • Empty plate finished dinnerYou've got them doing times-tables backwards, their spelling is perfect and they see non-verbal reasoning patterns in their sleep! But is your child nutritionally prepared for the exam?

    Feeding the tummy with the right foods is almost as important as feeding the mind with the right revision for effective study. Someone who hasn't eaten enough or is dehydrated will not concentrate as well as someone who's packed with nutritious and sustaining food and liquids. 

    Brain food

    Although research is always shifting in this area as we uncover more about the cognitive functions, everybody agrees that breakfast is the best way to get the kids on the right path for the day. Studies show that breakfast helps attention, nutrition and weight control, so there's no reason not to give them a great start. Also try to eat breakfast with them. Not only are you setting an example but it's an important social activity.


    The suggested intake for a child between 7 - 10 years old is:

    Calories Protein Calcium Iron Fat Saturates Salt
    Boys 1970 28.3g 550 mg 8.7 mg 76.6g 24.1g 5g
    Girls 1740 28.3g 550 mg 8.7 mg 67.6g 21.3g 5g

    Source: Government's Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA) Report 41

    You should try and balance your meals around these numbers, and take care when reading labels in the supermarket. Check back soon for guidance on how you can serve up winning meals and snacks every time.

    Image copyright Leo Saumure Jr. Original image is on Flickr here.

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  • Fountain pen italic handwritingWe get a lot of questions asking us about the importance of handwriting in the eleven plus exam. Should they be trained in formal joined-up writing? Are marks lost through scrappy script?

    As you may have found from teaching your child to write, forcing them into a certain style can slow them down as they re-train their hand. The 11+ exams are of course against very strict time limits. Your child is faced with a dilemma; write fast and possibly untidy, or italics and slower.

    How is it marked?

    Fortunately, there seems to be no accepted style for gaining marks in the exam. As a comparison, the KS2 mark scheme for English has the following paragraph:

    All pupils need to develop a serviceable handwriting style which is legible, clear and encourages the reader to engage with what has been written. This assessment of handwriting is based on pupils’ ability to write legibly and fluently in a sustained piece of writing. Judgements will be made on the basis of the legibility and clarity of the handwriting throughout the longer task, supported by a closer look at the size and position of words and letters. This assessment of handwriting is based on pupils’ ability to write legibly and fluently in a sustained piece of writing.

    And the top marks "for handwriting" are gained by:

    The handwriting is consistent and fluent with letters and words appropriately placed. The handwriting maintains a personal style to engage the reader.

    Clear is best

    Which essentially means as long as the handwriting is clear, consistent and structured there should be no barrier for any particular style of handwriting. So rather than ensuring they write in full italics all the time, ensure your child strikes a balance between legible and swift.

    Image copyright Bill Bradford. Original image is here on Flickr.

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