By Teachers, For Teachers
You’ve probably read a lot of articles on how standardized tests are making students stressed out. However, it’s not just the standardized tests that are stressing students out, it’s any test. As children move up in a grade, tests gradually get harder. The harder the test, the more stressed out students become. Luckily, there are a few teaching strategies that you can employ to help beat this test stress. Here’s a few de-stressing teaching strategies to try.
Teachers have been using deep-breathing techniques for years as a way to calm their students’ nerves before a test. Mindfulness is yet another way to breathe deeply and learn to be in the moment. In fact, studies show that using this technique can help to reduce stress, boost memory, help cognitive flexibility, and can even help children focus: All of the things that our students need when taking a test.
Before a test, take a few minutes to have your students connect with their breath and their bodies. Start by having students sit comfortably in their chair with their feet planted on the floor, and their hands in their lap. Have students close their eyes and focus on their breath. Instruct them to listen as they inhale and exhale. Have them try to lengthen their breath each time they inhale and each time they exhale. If they feel they are unfocused, instruct them to count up to ten each time that they inhale and exhale. This is something students can do anywhere and anytime they feel anxious before a test.
If you’ve ever scanned the classroom while your students were taking a test, you’ve probably noticed the majority of them are wiggling around or squirming in their seats. This is because your body needs to move. More and more studies are finding that our bodies are connected to the way we learn, and the more we incorporate movement while we’re learning, the better we’ll connect to, and understand, the information that’s being presented.
Many of today’s teachers are now implementing flexible seating -- think exercise balls, wobble seats, and standup desks. These types of seating help students learn and move at the same time. To help relieve some test stress, try changing your classroom seats. If you’re unable to do this, then have students get some type of exercise in before the test, like walking around the school, dancing, or playing a quick game like an academic relay race or a beanbag toss.
Releasing stress through the power of music may just be the thing to beat your students’ test stress. According to psychologists, listening to music can have a major relaxing effect on not only your mind, but your body as well. Soft music, especially classical music, is known to lower blood pressure and decrease stress levels. Even if your students don’t like classical music, just playing it ever so softly in the background as they take a test can help reduce anxiety and stress.
Essential oils like lavender are known to help calm nerves, while peppermint is known to help both stimulate the brain while calming nerves. The only problem with using essential oils in your classroom before a test is that you have to make sure no one is allergic to any of the scents. If they aren’t, then you can use a diffuser to spray the oils into the air. Many teachers swear by using these oils, so it doesn’t hurt to give them a try on test day.
Remember back when you were in school and you were always told to throw away your gum if a teacher caught you chewing it? In today’s classrooms, the teachers aren’t taking the gum away from their students, they’re actually passing it out for their students to chew. According to research, chewing gum may help reduce stress. One study found that when participants chewed gum, they had reported lower levels of anxiety, increased alertness, reduced stress levels, and increased performance. So the next time you’re going to give a test, try passing out some gum to help beat that test stress.
Help take the pressure off of your students’ minds by giving your students some perspective. Teach them how to look for patterns within the test, maybe there’s an answer within the question. You can also help them keep an eye out for frequent errors that former students may have made. This will help them not make the same mistake that others have made in the past.
Another way to calm their nerves while building a positive mindset is to help the students be aware of what they already know about the content on the test. You can talk about what they’ve learned thus far during homework, quizzes and group work. You can remind them that they’ve got this, and that one single test is only going to measure what they remember about those specific questions you’re asking, not everything they’ve learned in class.
Learning how to stay calm before and during a test is important if you want your students to achieve success. All of the teaching strategies listed above can help them do just that.
How do you beat test stress in your classroom? Please share your tips and teaching strategies in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com