My students and I are currently in Crunch Mode… unfortunately, this does NOT mean that we spend the day doing stomach crunches or eating Crunch bars … although I wouldn’t mind a Crunch bar marathon Instead this is what we call the last few weeks before our high stakes testing begins. For most, this is also the time when anxiety levels are through the roof. Especially in my state (Florida) where student retention is decided based on test scores. Anxiety is horrible and can cause everything from stomach aches, sleepless nights, inability to think clearly and even hives! YES, I actually had a parent break out in hives one year due to stress.
Although we can’t change the fact that our students have to test, we CAN help them deal with their anxiety. If you’re unsure where to start, here are 8 tips to get you started…
1. Practice Breathing Exercises
In my school, we call our relaxation technique S.B.G. or STOP, BREATHE, and GO. When students feel frustrated during a test, they stop + close their eyes, breathe in through their nose + out through their mouth (2 times). Then they continue with the test. We practice this technique throughout the school year so that the students become very comfortable with it. We also go over how to do it quietly at our seats so as not to bother others. Click here for a FREE copy of the bookmark.
2. Positive Self Talk
Teach your students to eliminate words such as “I can’t” or “I don’t get it” from their vocabulary. In order for them to succeed, they must first BELIEVE IN THEMSELVES! I’m a strong believer in the power of positive thinking, so I teach my students all about affirmations.
Instead of “I can’t” we practice saying “I CAN do this, I just need some more practice”. Before testing day, have your kiddos students brainstorm positive phrases such as “I WILL pass the test”, “I WILL do my best”, “I WILL succeed”, etc… Post them up around the class or let the kids take them home to display on their bathroom mirror. This way they can read their affirmations every morning while brushing their teeth.
3. Test Taking Tips
Come up with a short list of testing tips you want your students to use and remember. Post them in the classroom, and review them frequently. You can even have your students draw an illustration of their favorite tip or as a group project have them make a colorful poster illustrating each tip. I’ve created these bookmarkers for my kiddos to use during our crunch time.
4. Give Your Students A Sneak Peek
There’s nothing worst then going into a test blind or not knowing what to expect. That uncertainty is enough to make anybody anxious. So prior to the Big Test, make sure your students know the format of the test, understand how long they have to complete it, and know how many days of testing they are going to have. It’s best to go through testing simulations where students have to complete practice tests under the same conditions, time restraints, and testing format as the actual day of testing. Also, make sure that you explain to your students what is going to happen come test day and what they are allowed to do once they finish their test.
5. Be Positive
If students see YOU anxious, nervous, and a bundle of nerves, they are going to feed off of your energy and begin to feel the same emotions. So despite any reservations, hesitations, or even palpitations that you might be feeling, bundle them up and don’t let your students see you sweat! Save the meltdown for when you are alone with your fellow 3rd-grade teacher BFF’s! Whenever you are in front of your students, tell them how WONDERFUL and SMART they are and how much you BELIEVE in them. Tell them that they have been working really hard all year long and this is simply their time to shine and show everyone how much they have learned and grown! Let them write letters to each other encouraging their classmates!
6. Speak To Your Students’ Parents
Keep your parents informed. With ample time, send home a letter informing them which days their child will be testing so that they don’t plan their trip to Orlando on that day (although some will do it anyway). Also, tell your Nervous Nellies NOT to share their concerns in front of their children. It always amazes me how some parents don’t realize that they are actually causing their children’s anxiety.
7. Motivational Messages
On testing day, share motivational messages with your students. This can be either in the form of a morning message that you write on the board for all to see when they walk into the classroom or inspirational messages written from their peers. For my motivational messages, I have a top secret project that I complete with my parents’ help. You can read more about it here and here.
8. Plan A Party
You read correctly… Plan a party. You and your students have been working tirelessly to prepare for the Big Test. So why not reward yourselves with a party, but I’m not talking about an ordinary party with pizza and cupcakes. Instead, I’m talking about a celebration just like the one mentioned in the book The Big Test by Julie Danneberg.
Be creative and think of fun games such as Pin the Passing Score on the Big Test or Teacher Says (like Simon Says) where one student pretends they are the teacher and gives fellow students commands to follow such as write your name on the paper, or bubble in answer C three times on your test. What’s important is that after spending the past few weeks in Crunch mode, you and your students deserve a moment to let loose and have fun. There’s only so much prepping you can do at this point…so let go!
I hope these tips were helpful…
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I wish you all the best of luck during testing season! May the odds ever be in your favor