State testing Season has arrived! Monday it begins ~ the test many students (and teachers) dread all year and many stress out about. It shouldn’t be this way. Why is there so much time, attention and resources given to a test? We participate in professional development all year that reminds us that good teaching includes connecting curriculum to things previously learned and making real world connections. Never in my class would I ask students to complete a task I haven’t prepared them for and never in class would I refuse to help a student when asked, but that is exactly what is expected of teachers during state reading and writing tests. Students are given a prompt and some articles then asked to complete a writing task on their own. Sounds easy enough, but to those who are in the classroom, we understand that there is a lot more than handing a student a prompt and saying “write”. It’s frustrating for sure, but there’s not much we can do about the process, but there is a lot we can do in the classroom to help ease the stress.
First I’m going to say RELAX! You’ve put your heart and soul into teaching this year so let your students do what you know they can! You can’t control what they write, you can’t intervene, you can’t do this, or that, so just breathe, have a positive attitude and encourage your students to SHINE! If you are stressed out about the test the students will be too.
Second, prepare the students for the type of test they will take. Some teachers spend weeks before the test and cramming for the test and taking practice tests, but I have found that students tend to burn out faster. Instead, I use my warm up time to discuss they types of questions they will face on the test. I want them to be familiar with the format but not worn out by practicing. We review test taking strategies including knowing when you need to take a break and when you should push yourself. I want students to think more globally about their test taking abilities instead of on the state test I need to this and on the district test I need to something different and on a classroom test I need to do something entirely different. I try to teach students to learn the skills and strategies that work best for them no matter which test they are taking.
And finally, start each testing day with something fun! I used to make little treats for students but with increased class sizes it is no longer affordable. Instead I try to find fun things to get the students relaxed before they start the test. A few years ago, my teaching partner and I found some fun test anxiety relieving videos from youtube (songs, teachers being silly etc…)that we showed before testing. Some years, I’ve taught students chants like many sports teams do before games. Testing in my district is two weeks long (for just my subject area) so I needed to find something that was sustainable and affordable. They will have just finished two weeks of math testing and one week of science testing, so I want to energize and encourage them at the same time. This year, I’m going to have a positive affirmation bucket they can pick from as they come to class each day. (Click here for free PDF Encouraging sayings for testing) My 8th graders, I’m sure, will find it silly at first, but I know as the weeks progress they will look forward to them. I will sprinkle a few treats and prizes along the way, but making the testing environment a relaxed environment will relieve student stress. Don’t get me wrong, we will take the test seriously, but I want students to look forward to coming to class for testing rather than dread it.
I know this time of year is crazy, chaotic and stressful for both students and teachers, but don’t let the stress of testing take away your enjoyment of teaching. Remember that you are a professional and you work hard every day. I’m not saying if your students don’t perform well, you won’t be upset (or receive other criticisms), but as I tell my students all the time, be confident in what you know, you know!
Happy (stress free) State Testing Season!