Tips & Tricks

8 Ways to Help Ease Your Students’ Test Anxiety

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 :0) 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 for teachers, students, and parents alike. Especially in my state (Florida) where student retention is determined based on test scores.

I’ve seen first hand how HORRIBLE anxiety can be. It can cause so many symptoms ranging from stomach aches, headaches, clammy hands, nausea, sleepless nights, anger, frustration, inability to think clearly and even hives! (Yes, I actually had a parent break out in hives one year due to stress)
We can’t change the fact that our students have to test, what we CAN do is help them deal with their testing anxiety. If you’re unsure where to start, here are 8 ways you can help…
  • 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 and close their eyes, breathe in through their nose and out through their mouth (2 times), and then go on or continue with their test. We practice how to do this quietly at our seats so that others aren’t disturbed.
    • 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 and close their eyes, breathe in through their nose and out through their mouth (2 times), and then go on or continue with their test. We practice how to do this quietly at our seats so that others aren’t disturbed. Click here for a FREE copy of my S.B.G. bookmark.
    • 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 about affirmations. Instead of “I can’t” students can say “I CAN do this, I just need some more practice”. Have students brainstorm positive phrases such as “I WILL pass the test”, “I WILL do my best”, “I WILL succeed”, etc… and have them post it up around the classroom or take them home to display on their bathroom mirror. This way they can read their affirmations when they brush their teeth, wash their face, style their hair… you get the picture!

    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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!
    • Speak to Your 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 anyways). 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.
    • 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.

    • 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… If so, then please share the love by pinning the image  below to Pinterest so that other teachers can benefit as well!  Here’s to S-T-R-E-S-S  F-R-E-E testing!

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1 Comment

  • Reply
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    May 31, 2016 at 5:56 am

    It is an useful post. I think it will definitely work. I will try your tips. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Keep sharing more tips.

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