Helping Students Through the Challenges of State Testing

State testing is just around the corner, and the pressure is building. We had the first of three math inservices today on how to help our students with the dreaded technology enhanced items, and our state has just notified us that the released items are available for us to use to practice.  I do not know about you, but just talking about all of this makes my stomach feel a little queasy.  Imagine what this means for the kiddos who are 9-10 years old?  Obviously, some practicing helps our students feel confident that, "Hey...I've seen this before. I know how to do this."  Too much practice gets boring and can create anxiety, so it's up to us to find the balance both for students and for ourselves.  

One way to know that our students know the content is to continually weave in review so that previously taught material stays fresh in the mind.  I am not talking about daily language review, but rather, practice with center games, for partner work, writing assignments, and projects.  Tie in research projects that can help your kids keep the ideas "on the front burner".
Students have a magical way of sensing when we're having a bad day don't they?  Likewise, we know very well when they're having a bad day too.  It shows up in their behavior. Kids who get stressed easily struggle to hold it together, and we can get a lot of bang for the buck if we fill them with positive feelings. Look for the information they know, praise that A LOT, and weave in the information they don't know (yet) into your next lesson.

Students and teachers can lose a lot of anxiety by getting lots of activity.  I won't get too crazy in listing ideas here as there has been a lot of discussion about brain breaks and Go Noodle.  If you look on Pinterest, you can find an endless supply of online movement activities and games.  I have a Pinterest board for Brain Breaks which is not very big.  You might search for other boards. Teaching Momster is one blogger with a great Pinterest board for brain breaks to look for.

Many students find it helpful to have a "cheat sheet" to use as a reminder of the important information to remember to do.  In math, it might be a formula sheet.  In reading, it might be reading vocabulary and the "look fors" associated with each. The students notes might be relaxation tips or reminders to self to ask for a break when needed.  After all,once testing starts, we can't ask or offer this to them.
As we get closer to test day, keeping the routine of conversations where we can listen and reassure our students is important. Take time to read to your students books that may provide them with outlet options. One of my favorite counselor authors is Julia Cook, and many of her books are perfect for offering students advice to help them through challenging times whether it's divorce, bullying, or test anxiety.  Here are a few titles that are worth pulling and using.
    

The last tip I thought I'd share is to keep a sense of humor always. Humor is an amazing medicine that can heal.  There are so many humorous animal posters out on Pinterest.  Why not have a poster of the day shared on your Smartboard?  Let your students create their own humorous posters to help themselves relax.  I suspect many art teachers would agree that creating artwork helps the body relax. Here are a few images that my daughter thought were hilarious.  I put them on my funny animal pictures board, and you're welcome to borrow any you like...for free! LOL!    

Best wishes to you as you face the tough days ahead and may your kids make it through happy and relaxed.

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