Reducing Stress on Testing Days
Reducing Stress on Testing Days

Now that the STAR-testing window is upon us, I am often asked for ideas to help students during this stressful time. There are many “go to” strategies such as giving the students’ healthy breakfast and snacks and positive reinforcement, but I have some other favorites:

  1.  I say, “Let them chew gum” or the Spanish translation, “permita que masquen goma” in many of my schools.  The simple movement of chewing gum can have a calming effect on students, especially students with ADD/ADHD.  It can also help kinesthetic learners focus.
  2. Use of aromatherapy, music, lighting, and desk re-arrangement can help reduce anxiety and stress.  But remember not to overpower the students with these aromas in the classroom or they will be hightailing it out of there.  Hee!  Hee!
  3. Replace dread with anticipation and make the learning fun.  Review test materials with games; such as Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and Deal or No Deal.  Have the students help make up some of the questions.  Also, have an engaging and high-energy student (or other individual) host these games.  
  4. Giving the students a “magic” or “special” pencil the first day of testing can help.  Also buttons or stickers. Asking parents to send an encouraging note in the lunch bag or backpack can put the student in a positive frame of mind. 
  5. Encouraging physical activity can also help. Crazy dances, inventing new ways of walking (the most requested is my crab walk), silly voices, and energy enough for 10 people have never failed me. These have even worked on the dastardliest of creatures, the middle school student.

Ultimately, if we work as a team (parents, teachers, support staff, and administrators) to positively encourage and give students the academic, behavioral, and social/emotional tools that they need throughout the year, students will already be prepared when STAR testing comes around.