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7 Ways to Make Standardized Testing Less Stressful

Standardized testing season is just around the corner.  It can be a VERY stressful time for both teachers and students.  Over the years I have tried a zillion different things to help students relax and get through the tests. I was inspired to ask my students what had REALLY helped them to relax and do their best.  Without further ado I give you 7 Ways to Make Standardized Testing Less Stressful:

1.  Breakfast at School
Our school hosts a free breakfast before school on the first day of testing.  Students arrive early and head to the cafeteria. Breakfast choices include yogurt smoothies, bagels, fruit, cereal, and drinks.  Students, teachers, and staff members sit together, eat, and chat.  The kids can head out to recess when finished or stay inside and hang out with friends in the cafeteria.  The breakfast started with parent volunteers donating time and supplies and has evolved into a breakfast funded by the school.  It is a wonderful way to start the day and to ensure that all students have a full belly.

2.  Movement Breaks
My students love, love, love to move!  After the bathroom breaks and desktop clearing is finished we begin our special pretest movement break routine.  I use GoNoodle to get the students moving.  We begin with a fun Zumba routine to get our hearts pumping.  The students get to be silly, shake out the wiggles, and be loud!  Then, we choose a calming yoga routine to relax our minds.  Dancing + yoga = happy kids.

 


3.  Quick Write
Before we begin the test I pass out a single sheet of paper.  I ask my students to write how they are feeling about taking the test.  When finished they fold it in half and write their name on the front.  I collect it from them and move on with the test directions.  Students will often write about how nervous or stressed they feel.  Putting those thoughts on paper and getting rid of them (by handing them to me) helps clear the worries from their minds.  After everyone has completed the test session I hand out the papers again.  This time I ask them to write about their feelings now that the test is finished.  Most students will write that the tests weren’t as hard as they had thought.  I love this activity because many kids will see that the worry was actually worse than the test.

4.  Days Between Sessions
We have two days of testing for ELA, two days of testing for math, and two days of testing for science.  Yay 5th grade in MA!  We decided to try scheduling our two days with a break in between instead of testing on consecutive days.  It seems to have helped the students stay more focused.

5.  Gum
Yes, that’s right – gum.  My students can bring a few pieces of gum and/or small mints to school on testing days.  Tic Tacs or Life Savers are fine, but I don’t allow large peppermints.  I don’t think having to do the Heimlich during testing would be fun for anyone.  🙂  The kids love being able to chew gum! And, believe it or not, they spit it out when finished without complaint.

Computer-based testing adds another layer when thinking about gum chewing during tests. As long as my students are responsible I allow it.

6.  Fun Testing Signs
I like to hang fun signs up on testing days. I am a HUGE Harry Potter nerd, so I created a Wizard testing sign.  I also have bubble gum and donut themed signs.  Click on the link at the bottom of the post to grab them.

7.  Extra Recess
An extra recess after testing is the ultimate reward!  Who doesn’t love the chance to run around outside and play?  Of course in New England, we sometimes have snow to contend with and have to rely on free time in the classroom.  😉

Standardized testing is something we all have to do on a yearly basis.  Helping students through the process can be tricky.

How do you make testing better for your students?

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    Comments

    1. Great list! We do all of the above as well, except for the extra recess. We "save" the extra recess for a nice day. That way the kids don't rush through the test (some need the FULL DAY to finish it).

    2. When I tested in private schools, I always provided healthy snacks, and allowed for stretch breaks. I also had a joke book that we'd read between sessions to try and keep the mood light. Great tips-thanks for sharing!

    3. Nice post and blog. We used to chew gum during testing – until we had to take the tests on the computer in the lab. Love your design, too!

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