11 Plus Creative Writing – Essay writing guidance

Helping children with creative writing

Most tuition centres are not set up to help children effectively because they don’t have the time to mark a whole classroom of scripts and sometimes don’t employ staff who can mark work. Equally its very difficult for parents to know where to start as to a large degree the books that are available don’t deliver a step by step process.

There are some core guidelines that will help children to improve

Practice and revision of work is very important. Whenever children write a piece they must then, a couple of days later, revisit it critically and think about how they could improve it. This process of self-criticism and correction allows children to naturally develop their skills. Their stories naturally become better first time out.

What areas of creative writing should children focus on?

The common areas where most children could improve are as follows:

1/ Spelling and punctuation – Getting the basics right is very important. Children should read through their work critically and correct errors. The better an impression they can make (few mistakes) the greater their scores will be. It is also the case that demonstrating their knowledge of punctuation also helps (e.g. Correct use of direct speech).

2/ Simplicity of plot  Children often have a limited amount of time to write. Examiners do not expect them to come up with a complicated plot with numerous characters and lots of action- children who attempt this always fail. Simplicity is essential , children need to get used to the idea that a very simple plot with a limited amount of action and very few characters is the right way forwards. They will then find they have something they can deliver properly in the time that they have.

3/ Descriptions, descriptions, descriptions – Having grasped the idea that simple plots with limited action work best children will then find that most marks can be gained by describing characters and action well. Children who think through a number of descriptions as a sort of descriptions bank often do very well in these test. They automatically have some good vocabulary or turns of phrase to describe people or situations or emotions or the environment and they can use these naturally as they tell their story.

4/ Using accurate language – Naturally as part of developing their descriptions children will think about interesting vocabulary and turns of phrase and also about using literary devices ( such as similes). Additionally though they should steer clear of obvious such as like or said or good- they will find more accurate vocabulary exists should they give it some thought.

5/ A sensible ending – Children sometimes fall foul of this by using endings such as ‘and then I woke up’ . Examiners will be marking lots of scripts and so this sort of ending will naturally attract poor marks. Children will find that if they develop a simple story and describe it well then they will have the time to naturally bring a story to its conclusion without needing to revert to odd endings.

A  final word – handwriting – With increasing screen time sometimes children lack well developed handwriting skills. Children either write illegibly or cannot write quickly enough to get a story out in the time available. There’s no easy way to resolve this other than practice. If children are writing practice stories and revising them then they will find this allows them to naturally develop their handwriting.

11 Plus Creative writing example topics and tasks

Tasks vary by area. In Essex for instance currently they ask for circa ten sentences on two topics. One tends to be more factual, the other more descriptive. Other areas like Kent or schools like St Olaves or Henrietta Barnet ask for more extensive writing- while tasks can change year to year this could be a creative writing task lasting 40 minutes.

Whatever the task or length children will benefit from focussing on the six areas (above) that we have identified above.

We have developed a list of sample creative writing topics and tasks which you could you to start writing at home.

11 Plus areas asking for creative writing, essays or extended writing

Kent – set a  40 minute creative writing task for all pupils but it is only marked where they need to decide on the last few students to take.

Kent Medway – As Kent, 40 minute creative writing task but only marked in a few cases.

Essex (all schools apart from Chelmsford county high school for girls) – 2 Extended writing tasks. One factual – how to make toast as an example and one more creative  such as describe your pet or your favourite animal. They ask for a few sentences on each.

Devon – The following schools ask for creative writing as part of their 11 Plus test- Colyton, Torquay Boys, Torquay Girls, Churston Ferrers, Devonport Girls

Surrey – Tiffin Boys and Girls schools, Wilsons and Sutton Grammar school, Nonsuch and Wallington schools

St Olaves School

Henrietta Barnet School

Trafford – Altrincham Grammar School for boys

Wirral – St Anselm’s College

Yorkshire – Crossley Heath and North Halifax School