February 5, 2016

Got Test Stress? 5 Ideas for Easing Student Anxiety

Are your students stressed out about an upcoming test? Here are five ideas on how to ease their anxiety and leave them feeling calm and confident instead.

Testing is stressful for teachers, but even more so for students, especially as more and more states require "exit exams" or include proficiency on standardized tests as a graduation requirement. It's a lot of pressure at such a young age, so it's no wonder you've got students biting their nails and on the verge of tears as testing season approaches.

The best way for students to be at ease with testing is for them to feel prepared. I recently wrote about nine effective ways to prepare students for standardized testing, but there are also times when you need to step back and give your students a break. Here are five ideas on how to do just that.

1. Administer this "fake" humorous test. Set up your desks in rows or your usual testing formation. As students walk in the door, hand them their "test." Make announcements such as "you may only use a number 3 pencil," "there is absolutely no talking," and "this is a test" in your most serious teacher voice. You are bound to get questions like, "when did you tell us we were having a test?" or "what do I do if I don't have a number 3 pencil?" Do your best to brush off these questions and remain serious (this is a challenge for me). Tell students to begin their tests. After a sufficient level of murmurs and giggles has built up as students realize that this is not actually a test, explain to students that this is just a joke and ask them to generate their own ridiculous test questions on the reverse side.

Are your students stressed out about an upcoming test? Here are 5 ideas for easing their anxiety and leaving them feeling calm and confident instead.

2. Create a YouTube playlist of Pixar short films or you can check out mine here. Most are less than five minutes long, hilarious or touching, and perfect for reviewing literary terms. You can use this plot mountain diagram to review terms like exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, setting, characters, mood, and conflict.

3. Use Kahoot! or do another game-like review. You can check out my Kahoot! reviewing literary terms here and play it with your class. The site has tons of other free, teacher-created Kahoot! games you can search through and play.

4. Hand out peppermints to your students and read an article like this one about the stimulating and soothing effects of peppermint on your brain.

5. Have students write motivational notes to themselves discussing the test taking strategies they will use to be successful and how they will calm down if they start to get stressed out. They likely won't be allowed to have their notes out during testing, but they can read over them just before the test to help ease last minute anxiety.

Have other ideas for relieving students' test stress? Share them in the comments below. Best of luck to you and your students!

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