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Testing, testing, testing…

It is that time of year again… it’s testing season! In California, students in public and charter schools are taking the new Smarter Balanced Assessments, aligned to the Common Core Standards, for the first time! The stakes are high… teachers have been working hard to prepare students and now it is students’ chance to show what they know on the test. This time of year is stressful for everybody: teachers, students, administrators and even parents. Since emotions are contagious, if students are anxious teachers might become agitated too! In an earlier post, I discussed how SEL can help teachers deal with the daily stress of teaching. SEL is also a powerful tool to help students be better prepared for this taxing time of the year. Try to incorporate these routines before, during and after testing to keep a positive testing environment in your classroom.

Before: Let students name their emotions about the test. Naming emotions reduces the intensity of emotion processing in the brain. When students identify their feelings, they increase self-awareness and can better navigate their emotions before they start the test. You can do this activity as a pair-share, in small groups or whole group discussion.

During: Take brain breaks. Brain breaks are short periods of time when we change the kind of stimulus we are giving to our brain; brain breaks refresh our thinking and help us discover new insights. They generally involve movement or music and they are a lot of fun. A great resource for brain breaks is gonoodle.com, a free website that will generate brain breaks based on your grade level! If you need an activity to help students focus their attention, you can do breathing exercises or play relaxation music.

After: Have students write a reflection log. Reflection helps students look back and evaluate their progress and achievement. If students will be taking another test later that day or the day after, ask students to reflect on a) something that went well during the test and b) something that they’d like to do differently next time.

The testing season is probably the most stressful time of the year for schools. Teachers, administrators, students and even parents might feel anxious, overwhelmed or worried about students’ achievement on the test. Teachers can keep a positive testing environment in their classrooms by creating time for students to name their emotions, take brain breaks during testing and write a reflection log once they are done. What is your stress level during testing season? What strategies or activities are you doing with your students to keep them focused? Please share in the comments below!

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