3 Last-Minute Strategies to Prepare Your Students for High-Stakes Testing

Monday, March 18, 2013 -- Scott Sterling

Let’s be honest; it’s March. If you hear or read the words “test” or “assessment” one more time, you’re liable to scream. My apologies, but bear with me.

If your curriculum is aligned to your standards and you’ve been following your curriculum all year, I don’t see the point in cramming. If anything, it could increase any test-related anxiety your students may be facing.

Rather, I see value in preparing the kids for the test itself, meaning the marathon that is sitting in a desk for 8-10 hours over a few days, a lot of it waiting quietly for permission to begin the next section of the test booklet.

Believe it or not, the students are probably not worried about what questions they may encounter on the test; they’re worried about taking the test itself. Here are some helpful tips that will help your students train for the “marathon”.

Look into seated stretching

Have you ever sat in your classroom desks? If you have, you know that stretching can offer some serious relief to tired students. Spend some time researching effective stretching while seated, like this video from the Mayo Clinic, and then share the techniques with your kids. Not only will they thank you at the end of testing week, but they will also thank you with improved focus and (hopefully) higher scores.

Create a culture of positivity before the test

As Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.” Start getting the kids thinking about what will happen when they meet their testing goals. Perhaps squeeze in a quick writing assignment asking the kids to picture themselves in honors classes next year/graduating/going to college/having a cool job. The mind is a powerful weapon and has a unique gift for making things happen that don’t seem possible.

Add “catering manager” to your resume

It may seem outside your responsibility, but a lot of research has been done on the effects of food (specifically, lack of food) and test performance. You will want to make sure your students are well fed before testing starts every day. In low SES schools and neighborhoods, that might mean stocking up on granola bars and other snacks before testing week. In my district, the local McDonald’s restaurants offered a free breakfast for kids on test days. Look into offers like that and make sure the kids know about them. You might also want to try some peppermint, apparently.

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