It's no secret that exercise helps get the mind focused and releases those beautiful feel good hormones we all desperately need when life feels a little tough. Because of this, getting some exercise as a class around test time will certainly help keep those stress levels down. Do a class workout (I usually pick two students to be the personal trainers for the session), play a sport, do some yoga, or follow a dance video on YouTube to get moving and relaxation levels improving!
2. Meditate & breathe
Carry out some meditation exercises with your students before the test. There are plenty of meditation audio videos available on YouTube. Plus, you can use meditation to help teach students breathing techniques to help calm nerves.
3. Teach positive self-talk
You could do this in conjunction with meditation by inviting students to close their eyes and imagine feeling calm and confident when taking the test. Here's a quick example - 'Some questions may seem like large monsters to begin with, but with a few deep breaths you read the question again and find it starts to shrink . . . you read it again to find it is starting to make sense . . . you read yet another time to find that it's just a cute bunny, you may need to take a look one more time and then finally you'll know what to do.'
4. Play games and do fun activities for review
Making test review time fun will help keep the stress levels down. You could easily do this by incorporating games into your review lessons or you may like to try a math mystery, project or quest to keep them working hard whilst also keeping it exciting and fun.
CLICK HERE to find a large range of Math Mysteries, Projects and Quests.
5. Have healthy easy snacks available for your students
Explain to your students what the snacks are for and set some guidelines to keep it all in check. Point out that you have chosen these snacks to help keep minds fresh and energized to deal with testing. It is for help and not a party.
Some good food examples include: air-popped popcorn, apple slices, plain crackers, orange wedges and bread sticks. (Keep it high carbohydrate but low salt and fat. I recommend nothing too exciting so that it doesn't distract the students and will be seen as a source of nourishment rather than fun.)
6. Make sure students are comfortable
Check to see if all students have adequate seating and desk space to take their desk. Ensure lighting is appropriate in all areas of the room. Keep windows open, make sure the lights work well in the classroom.
Freezing or sweating during the test is a massive distraction and will reduce concentration. So, make sure the temperature is just right for everyone.
7. Encourage & Reassure
Before a test, I like to:
- Remind my students that I believe in them,
- Tell them that the best they can do is to try their best,
- Assure them that while these tests are important, they are not life threatening or the end of it all.
I also like to tell students not to discuss the test afterwards. Students talking about questions and sharing answers has a tendency to cause more unnecessary doubt and stress than ever! If possible, follow up a test with a fun activity or game to help students move forward from the test.
I hope these tips help ease the stress faced during testing time. I wish you all the best of luck and calmness!
In the image above, it shows a guide to give your students some idea of what you expect and how they could go about this activity. I recommend giving your students a guide for the first few times doing this just to help them get the idea of the activity. You could use post-it notes (like in the image) if you wanted to do a group effort page to begin with, and then get students to place them on a page to share their ideas. You could also just get students to split the page into four sections around the number in the middle if you prefer to keep it independent work.
Allocate four 'guidelines' you want students to follow when making the number. For example:
1 - Use operations to make 25 (add, subtract, multiply or divide)
2 - Include decimals or fractions (or make it a challenger box appropriate for your grade level)
3 - Draw it
4 - Make word problems
Now I expect at least one thing done for every box from all of my students, but the point of the activity is to push them to make 25 in as many ways as possible in a set time frame (I give my students 10 minutes). Once the ten minutes is up, I invite students to share one of their ideas with the rest of the class. I encourage and praise ways that seem super creative and stand out from the flock.
All students I have done this with start to love it once they get the hang of it. In fact, it almost always seemed to give several students a sense of competitiveness as they tried to get the most problems down on their page and come up with the most creative ways. You will be amazed how some students may grow in their way of approaching the task every time it is done.
After a few times with the guidelines, I then no longer have to tell my students to do the four sections. Instead, I give them complete free open range and challenge them to come up with the most interesting ways to make the number! I get them to simply set up a page in their workbook as in the image below, give the number, set the timer and off they go. I always state that I expect to see the page looking full just to nudge on the few that need it. When it comes to reflection time (we only spend a few minutes on this), I encourage students to share their most creative idea to make the number. The encouragement and sharing (I found) helped those few students who were stuck on only ever doing the simple stuff like 99 + 1, 98 + 2, to move on to trying to think of other ways to do it.
It really is a simple and straightforward activity, that can also be a great 5-10 minute filler if you have a gap in math time. Every class I have done this with, despite their grade level, actually end up enjoying this math activity. It is something every student can attempt, the answer is always right as long as the answer is the given number. Better yet, their brains get a good warm up as you transition on to the main part of your math lesson.
PLUS . . . if you ever find you need a few more minutes to prepare for an upcoming lesson this also is a great yet meaningful emergency activity to do while you get your stuff sorted out.
A 21st century School Teacher, Mother, and Wife.
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