Monday, April 18, 2016

12 Ways to Keep the STRESS Out of Testing

It's about that time! The big end-of-the-year tests are about to hit your favorite classrooms all over the country. Many kids just roll right through them, but for many it is a very stressful time. We all know stress impacts how kids do on these tests, so it's really important for all of us to find ways to help keep kids stay relaxed. The truth is, some kids will always freak out with tests, but a few simple strategies may just help keep the "heebie jeebies" at bay!

1. Teach the art of taking an exam. Your students will take LOTS of tests in their student lives, it's important that they know how. Tips such as:  how to fill in the circle completely, how to eliminate answers that don't make sense, and just concentrate on the top two possibilities. Reading the questions at least twice  and every now and again check to see if the number of the question and the number on the answer sheet match. I ALWAYS had at least one student get "off" and need to take important time to fix their error.

2. Stay calm yourself. Kids pick up the anxiety of the teacher, fear is infectious.. Yes, I know the implications of testing can be huge. (That's a blog post in and of itself....not a very nice one.) But stay calm and carry on.

3. When students come into school during testing week, have relaxing music playing and the lights a little lower than normal. For morning work do games, or other relaxing activities. Even pictures to color are a relaxing activity for most kids.

4. Try to find some way to make testing days special. My grade level team wrote a request to the PTA  to buy Chick-Fil-A sandwiches for all of the kids each morning of the test. I can tell you, every kid came to school all week thrilled that it was testing week. A hungry kid doesn't do well on any test. It doesn't have to be anything that big. One year I gave each student a mint at the beginning of the test. There was research at the time that the smell of mind helped clear the mind. That may, or may not, be true, but the kids looked forward to it, and it made the beginning of the testing session a little more fun. I also gave my students two recesses during testing week. They love that.

5. Before handing out the tests, do some deep breathing exercises and stretching. Your students have probably been sitting since they came into school, and even if that is only 20 minutes before the test begins, kids need some movement before they get to work.

6.  Start each testing session off with a joke. It can be dumb, that's ok. If you need some ideas go to:  There's LOTS of sites to get kid's jokes on the Internet. You might even want to post one joke a day on the door for kids to read as they come in the door. Nothing relieves stress like a good laugh.

7. As you go from one section of the test to the other, make sure to do some form of movement. Tensing and relaxing different muscle groups is a great way to relax. I like to start with the face, and move down to the toes.

8. Make sure everyone has at least two pencils. If you pass out pencils to students, make it more fun by telling them that you were very lucky to have found lucky pencils for them. They were created especially to help kids do well on tests. Say it with a quirky smile, and they'll enjoy the joke too-plus you never know.....

9. Make sure everyone has gone to the bathroom and has had a drink before test time. I forgot this never happened again.

10. Make a big deal about not giving homework during test week. Make it special in any way possible.

11.  When blood flow is low, concentration goes with it. Tell students to "shake a leg" if they are feeling tired during the test. Just bounce one of their legs for a minute or so.  This might be something you could practice on the days leading up to the test, so it's not a new idea and doesn't get "overdone".

12.  If there is time, review answers. Kids often get finished before time is up. Impress upon them how important it is to go over questions and reread the directions. It is amazing how many careless errors can be caught.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Meet Children's Book Author, Jennifer Maschari

Image courtesy of Open Image Studio

Ever since twelve-year-old Charlie Price’s mom died, he feels like his world had been split into two parts. Before included stargazing and Mathletes and Saturday scavenger hunts with his family. After means a dad who’s completely checked out, comically bad dinners, and a grief group that’s anything but helpful. It seems like losing Mom meant losing everything else he loved, too.

Maschari's first book, "The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price" is a suspenseful, amazing journey about finding the balance between remembering and moving on. It is a combination of fantasy and realistic fiction that pulls in all readers, but rings especially true for those children who find themselves in the same situation. 

If you have been looking for an author to Skype with, you can't do better than Jennifer Maschari! She offers a FREE 20 minute Skype session to classrooms, after school clubs, Girl and Boy scout troops, and book groups. If you are interested, click on this link to reach her blog and get all of the information you need:

The idea for the book came from her own experience. When she was in fourth grade her father became ill and passed away when she was 16. Her experience working through grief gives the book its authentic feel.

Students will be very interested in the editing and revising process authors go through. Her book went through many drafts. Maschari says that she found the job of the copy editor very interesting. It is the copy editor's job to sort through all of the little details, and make sure everything makes sense. She reports that the copy editor pointed out that Charlie had on three different outfits during one short period of time, so that had to be corrected. The copy editor also checks details like the time it takes to go from one place to another, and grammar.  Maschari is currently working on her second book, and has already rewritten all of it expect 12 pages. Revising is not easy! That book will be out sometime in 2017.

Jennifer Maschari started writing when she was four years old. The first book she remembers writing was based on the book "Corduroy" She remembers that her mother put plastic wrap around the first and last pages, so it looked like a book. She continued writing in elementary school. She wrote poems in the style of Shel Silverstein, and lots of stories. She has one book that she wrote, but has not been published that I personally have read. It's hilarious, and one I hope will be published at some point.

For those teachers who have their own book they would like to publish, Jen reports that the most important factor in getting published for her was joining an on-line writer's class through Media Bistro. It helped her become a better writer, and helped her make important connections. She also suggests reading lots of current children's books to see what is going on in publishing. She says that it is important to focus on improvig your craft.

If you have read "The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price" be sure to leave a comment below! It is remarkable indeed!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Rounding Freebies!!

Here I am in Ohio in April looking at snow.  Sigh.  I decided to cheer myself up by making a couple of buggy rounding printables that kids will really enjoy. The first one is for tenths and hundredths, the second is for hundredths and thousandths. Both include a grading saves valuable time when grading! Students can color the pictures once they have finished answering the questions. Thanks to Ron Leishman for the terrific clip art! Now, if we can only get a few real bugs here in Ohio, I will not complain!! Just click on the link below the printables.

Games are always a fun way to reinforce rounding skills. Here are a few of my favorites!

This site has a number of fun rounding games for third and fourth grade, correlated to the Common Core!

This fun games is correlated to the Common Core for third, fourth and fifth!

LOVE this one because you can choose to use decimals or not!

Hope these resources are helpful! Rounding takes a lot of practice, might as well make it fun!

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