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: http://jokes4us.com/miscellaneousjokes/schooljokes/kidjokes.html 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 ONCE....it 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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