As the weather gets warmer, standardized testing gets closer. Spring is testing season, so teachers and students alike are starting to feel the pressure! Here are some tricks, in no specific order, to get your students prepared for the big day while minimizing the stress.
1. Give them practice questions
While there’s no way to know what’s on the test beforehand, you can get them acclimated to answering multiple choice questions. Teach them how to read the question thoroughly for keywords they might have missed, go over the process of elimination in case they get stuck, and remind them that it’s okay to skip a question and come back to it later. And don’t forget to warn your students about the misconception that “multiple choice” means “easy”! It’s unfortunately not true!
2. Hand out… mints?
You read that right. A study by the University of Cincinnati found that the smell of peppermint helps people focus for extended periods of time. By handing out a few mint candies to each student before the exam, you could be helping them stay focused through the entire testing period!
3. Give your students as many mnemonics as possible
Using visual and retrieval cues is an excellent way to help your students recall information while they’re testing. For example, if your students have been learning geography this year, tell them that the American Great Lakes are also HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior). Memory devices such as this are sure to aid your students in a pinch!
4. Color code your review material
Color is another great way to help your students retain and recall information. During your review sessions, write practice questions and study materials in specific colors according to the subject. For example, math is blue, science is green, etc.. The color correspondence will help compartmentalize the information, so when they read a science question, they can “think green”! Bonus points if you can hand out the matching color highlighters during the exam too!
5. Ease test anxiety in the class
Remember that test anxiety is a large contributor to poor marks. Test day is a big deal for students, and many worry that their score is a reflection of their intelligence and character. It’s hard for them to understand that these tests are to measure the district at large rather than their individual performance, so it’s important to remind them that no one is out to stump them. Relieve test anxiety by emphasizing the importance of growing from our experiences— if they’re not happy with their marks, they can try again next year. You can even give them something to look forward to, like a movie and snacks the next day so it’s not overwhelming.
6. Incentivize testing
Students most likely don’t see or understand the purpose of standardized tests. When they take a test in their classroom, they know the results almost immediately (thank you, teachers!). They learn from these results, and they grow. When they take standardized tests for the state, these tests are placed on a pedestal, and students often don’t see their results until the next school year—when they have all but forgotten about the test!
Incentivize students leading up to the test and after. Testing adds a lot of doom-and-gloom to the school atmosphere, and after Christmas, gears all change toward testing. Set milestone makers while gearing up for the tests, and reward students for hitting these markers. After the tests, regardless of how the students did—especially because you won’t know—as long as they tried their best from your observations, reward them for working so hard and doing their best. Did someone say ice-cream party, extra recess, or a movie day? Involve them in their rewards by allowing them to choose and vote on what they will receive for their hard work!
7. Keep students moving
Students are told to get plenty of rest and eat a good breakfast before taking the tests so they are not tired or hungry and can perform their best. However, what happens when they are told to sit still and quiet for an hour or more? They are going to get restless and uncomfortable. Spend time showing students different proven seated stretching techniques and deep breathing exercises to use when they are testing. During test breaks, allow students to move around by creating a path for them to walk and show them easy exercises or yoga they can do near their seats to release some of their energy.
8. Practice pacing
A major skill in standardized testing is pacing. It’s one of the most important skills to succeed! In the weeks leading up to testing week, emphasize how struggling on one question doesn’t mean they’ll struggle the rest of the exam. Agonizing over a difficult question will only slow them down!
9. Write short essays
Depending on their grade level, your students might not be used to writing a full essay in a short period of time. Most are used to taking home a prompt and working on it over the course of a few days. During class, designate some time to get them used to writing a full essay: introduction, thesis, supporting paragraph, and conclusion, within the standardized testing time.