It's spring and for most of us that means we are about to move into what could be one of the most stressful times of the year. State testing season is upon us and more than anything, it is important to keep your classroom environment a positive one. Kiddos want to do there best but with some grades facing 3, maybe even 4 tests in a one month period, stress and anxiety levels can definitely hit an all time high!
This is my first year in a STAAR testing grade and it has been intense! I love teaching fourth grade and all that comes with it but won't deny the stress that comes with want my students to perform to their full potential. I know that if I am feeling it....they are too.
Here are a few tips that I have picked up along the way this year that have helped lower testing anxiety:
It All Begins with YOU!
Yes...you. What you feel they feel. It comes out even when you are really trying not to let anyone see it. Take care of yourself and find ways to relax. Use the data that you have collected to drive your instruction and to make the most efficient use of your time. Plan your lesson carefully and with precision so that you can guide your students learning. BREATHE.....and remember...your kids need you to be their role model. They need you to show them how to take the anxious energy that comes with state testing and channel it to meet and challenge even our own wildest expectations.
Make test prep FUN!
We are having an absolute blast practicing all the skills that they have learned through fun themed weeks, games and competition! Camp Write Along was our week for review and test prep for the 2 day writing STAAR and I could literally see the stress melt away as they worked through the fun camp activities of the week. The focus was no longer "the test" but more about celebrating all the amazing things that we have learned this year to become amazing writers.
Next week, we will be having Beach Retreat which will be our time to lounge and relax as we comb over all the awesome skills that they have mastered in math and reading. I CAN'T WAIT...and neither can the kids!
Everyone LOVES a little competition!
Rather than wasting away time running of worksheets for the kiddos to do, turn that review from boring to fabulous by playing games to engage the students! I have purchased and ABSOLUTELY love the templates that I have bought for games such as Family Feud, Jeopardy, Are You Smarter Than Your Teacher and so many other quiz shows! Talk about student engagement and instant fun!
We all need them....yes....even you! Taking a moment to stretch, move, sing or dance is almost like a reset for any lesson you may be teaching. When I see my students starting to look as though they are reaching the maximum potential....we stop. We do something to get us moving and change our train of thought and then we are ready to hit the ground running once again. Read your kids. They will let you know when they are ready and it will greatly improve stress and anxiety in those last few days of test prep!
Show a Lot of LOVE!
This is when our kids really need us to step it up and show them just how much we love them! Affirmations of a job well done make a huge difference. Celebrate the successes....both BIG and SMALL! Make it a team effort where your class is a network of friends that will encourage and support each other. Start a class tradition (like a lucky charm or a special cheer) to foster an environment of support for your students. Bring in your administrators, parents and staff to show your students that they are AMAZING and that everyone around them truly believes they will work to their fullest potential and show there very best work.
I wish you all the very best and hope that each of you have a wonderfully "stress free" testing season!
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