Top 10 Ways to Combat Test Stress

When our students hear the word "test" they cringe and you can see the fear on their face. When we start to talk about the standardized test, that fear turns to panic and sheer horror. Thoughts flood their minds, "I'm going to have to repeat 5th grade! My parents are going to ground me forever if I don't pass this test. Maybe I can pretend I'm sick and get out of the whole test. I wonder if I broke my writing arm if I would have to do it?"

After 40 years of combined teaching at grade levels where standardized tests are administered, we have developed a TOP 10 LIST that we think will help not only your students, but yourself cope with the "stress of the test."

#1: Treats!
What student, or teacher for that matter, doesn't love treats? About a week before the test begins we read a letter to our students about how their parents can bring in healthy snacks and healthy drinks on the days of the test. This gets the students excited. You can find the FREE letter by clicking here.

#2: Morning Meeting
It is important to start off testing days with a short morning meeting. For those of you that have never done this, don't worry. Students need to be acknowledged and appreciated, especially on testing day. First, it's a simple greeting in the morning to everyone. We have used a koosh ball to throw around the room, have the student give high 5s to each other,  and do a pinky shake to name a few. Next is a quick share. Some topics that we have done during testing are: raise your hand if you ate breakfast today, raise your hand if you got at least 7 hours of sleep and so on. The third activity is a cooperative game. This is a time to get up and do an activity together. The favorite activity of our classes is the beach ball toss. We bring a beach ball into the classroom and pick 3-4 students to be in a circle. Their goal is to see how long they can keep it in the air. Then we pick the next group until all students have been picked. The final part of the meeting is news and announcements. This is where we share what part of the test they will be doing that day, when snacks are, and any other events happening during the day. Students like to know the routine ahead of time.

#3: Stress Chain
Students always bring worries with them to the state test. To combat this, we created a stress chain activity that we do the day before the test. What the teacher needs are various colors of regular size construction paper. Take each piece of construction paper and cut into about 8 equal strips.  Hand out two different colors of construction paper per student. Tell them that you want them to write their worries about the test on the paper. Some examples are: "I might fail. I might not know an answer. I will get nervous and forget everything I know..." After they have finished, have the class help you make them into chains by looping them together and stapling. Take the completed chain and tell the students that you are going to hang all their worries outside the classroom door. So when they come in to class tomorrow they are to leave their worries at the door! You can find a printable version of the directions for FREE here.

#4: Test Taking First Aid Kit
Another fun idea is to create a test taking first aid kit for the students to "use" during testing. The kit includes items that students could use during the test. Check out the contents of the bags and the FREE activity here.
#5 Brain Breaks
One important thing that you need to do with your class is to take brain breaks when portions of the test are complete. This could be the time that  you have your snacks, or when you do some quick movement activities (jumping jacks, running in place, wiggling arms and legs..). Students need the time to get up and move around. Click here to purchase over 50 Brain Breaks that your students will love!

#6 Sharpened Pencils
Before testing begins, we make sure that EVERY student has at least two sharpened #2 pencils in their desks. We also make sure that we have a can of sharpened pencils available too. The last thing you want is for a student to panic when s/he breaks a pencil.

#7 Bubbles
It's not what you think! No, we do not allow bubbles in our classrooms, but that could be fun. Instead, we are talking about those fun bubbles that students need to fill in on the test booklets and/or answer sheets. If your students are grades 4 or higher they can probably do this on their own. If they are in a lower grade, we would ask for assistance from an aide in the school or someone that can help you do this ahead of time. If your students are doing this on their own, make sure to give clear directions. Something fun to do at the end, would be to give them a blank bubble sheet and have them make up designs. If your tests have move to computer-based assessments, bring in some bubble wrap for each student and let them pop away!

#8 Music
During our brain breaks we often turn on music to let the students unwind. Sometime it might be soothing classical music, or other times it is the music we downloaded on our ipods/devices that has more modern (appropriate) songs that the students would enjoy. They love it! Stations like Pandora have some great selections too!

#9 Basketball Trash Shooting with stress chain.
At the end of testing, we take apart our stress chain and hand back the pieces. Each student gets two shots at the garbage can after crumpling them into balls. They have a blast with this!

#10 Ice Cream Party 
What better way to celebrate the end of testing than with some ice cream. You become the students' waiter/waitress and serve them ice cream and various toppings. Check out the letter that we send home to ask parents for items for the party here

Those were 10 tips that we have used in our classrooms. We would love to hear what has been successful for you! 

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