By Lani Aquino
While testing season likely doesn’t conjure up visions of puppy dogs and rainbows, it also shouldn’t conjure up a sense of doom and gloom. Surviving Navigating testing becomes a much smoother journey when there isn’t such an abrupt shift in learning. Think Mr. Miyagi with the wax on wax off and fence painting that may have seemed illogical to Daniel-son at the time, but it served its preparatory purpose. There was more of a cadence marked by slow and steady wins the race than a last ditch effort.
It’s likely a rarity that a testing window appears out of nowhere. The mere formality and design of most testing sessions requires lengthy planning and logistical structuring. While this behind-the-scene’s structuring doesn’t play out in the classroom, there are other strategies and practices that teachers can utilize to lessen the angst and increase the potential for success when students tackle the tests. While much of the testing measures are a far cry from the sound instructional and assessment practices that teachers utilize on a daily basis, there are ways to help students prepare without making standardized testing formats the go-to instructional method.
Testing season often brings about the Hail Mary packet. Teachers compile that go-to review of every bit of content they may encounter on the test, hand it to students a week or so prior to testing, and encourage them to study and learn. Basically, they take a massive amount of information, oftentimes some of it was never even addressed during the course of study, and ask students to ingrain it and somehow be able to apply it on a standardized test. Sounds doable and in no way overwhelming, right? Wrong…
The best way to help students prepare is by helping them consistently review concepts and build schema to recall and apply information. This isn’t a practice that is instituted in the days and weeks prior to testing. This is the foundation on which the yearlong instructional journey is built. When students learn to make connections between studied concepts, they are able to retain more of said concepts. The usage of skills reviews through classroom practices, apps, or yearlong study journals will allow students to maintain a more consistent review process that allows them to internalize more information.
The angst associated with testing season can be very real for both students and teachers. Talking about breathing practices and test taking strategies just before a test can add to that overwhelming angst. Life can be filled with turbulence outside of testing windows, so the focus on mindfulness, calming, and coping strategies shouldn’t be exclusive to that small snippet of time.
Brain breaks and breathing techniques should be a part of the everyday repertoire. This way students are practiced at properly utilizing them and can call on them in times of need, like when the testing jitters hit. When students are able to execute a few breathing or seated stretching exercises to get through a rough patch, it can make an interminable testing window feel a little less daunting. Helping students identify mindful, close reading techniques when it comes to questions and passages found on testing will also do much to alleviate what can feel like high stake’s angst.
A typical mantra before testing day implores that students get a good night’s sleep and eat a hearty breakfast. Shouldn’t that be the daily mantra for a successful overall learning journey? While teachers can’t control what is or isn’t eaten at home or the amount of sleep students experience on average, they can offer a lot of suggestions. It’s important to start planting those seeds of suggestion loooooooong before the testing window enters the picture.
Starting the year off discussing healthy nutrition, setting a healthy nutrition and lifestyle example, sharing information about the benefits of sleep, etc. are all ways to make a case for the importance of taking note of the mind-body connection. Helping students and parents understand the impact of lifestyle choices is a great way to get students well on their way to having a healthy countenance they can carry throughout their lives. The key to making the most of that mind-body connection is cultivating it from day one.
When helpful and healthy behaviors become the norm as opposed to a standardized exception, the ability to calmly and confidently enter testing season is enhanced. There’s no one-and-done when it comes to positively preparing students for testing. The key is to make a healthy approach to learning and the mind-body connection integral components throughout the educational journey.
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