- Focus on important skills – use the state testing guide to find out what skills are being tested and know which are the most important. Look at your student data and use it to guide instruction and test preparation. Using this strategy you’ll be shoring up those concepts that your students haven’t quite mastered yet.
- Break it down – students know that they “have to take” the standardized test, but do they understand why? Explain in the simplest of terms why they are taking the test, what the information gained from the test is used for and why it’s important. It’s important that you emphasize that the test results don’t define their value.
- Reinforce Growth Mindset – now is the perfect time to remind students they have important skills, have worked hard, and are fully capable of doing anything they set their minds to.
- Provide Strategies to Ease Anxiety – if you haven’t already, introduce anxiety-reducing and mindfulness techniques. Model positive self-talk. It’s easy for students to get stuck and speak negatively about themselves. Help them learn to flip that around. Show them seat stretches that won’t distract others. Spend a little time with students who are anxious to find out if they know what makes them anxious about testing and help them address those fears.
- Communicate with families – for many parents, this is the first time they’ve experienced high-stakes testing with their children. While many may have taken such tests themselves at one point or another, some haven’t. Send home a newsletter or fact sheet that explains the importance of standardized testing. Give parents helpful resources and tips for supporting their kids to ease anxiety and put their best foot forward on testing day.
- Review and Practice – you’ve likely been using state-provided practice materials all year, but it’s important to spend a little extra time in the next couple of weeks reviewing. Practice answering multiple-choice questions and give students tips on the best ways to approach this type of question. Model it with them, have them help you. Reinforce and practice strategies you’ve taught them. Help them navigate “all of the above” and “none of the above” answers. Show them the proper way to “bubble in” answers. This all seems so redundant because you’ve practiced all year, but a little review can go a long way to helping students feel confident on testing day. Have some fun with the review.
- Prepare the environment – if your students will be testing in your classroom, now is the time to begin making any changes needed for testing day. Rearrange seating so that they have an opportunity to adjust and be comfortable. Also, this is a chance to see if you should move some students to different locations so they don’t distract those around them. Making these changes in advance helps relieve anxiety for students, especially those who need order and predictability. If your students are testing in a designated testing room, if possible, take them to the testing room to familiarize them with their surroundings. Be sure to point out where the bathrooms are located!
- Don’t forget about yourself – whether you’re a veteran teacher or this is your first year, testing season is stressful! Remember to take some time to de-stress. Take a walk outside, grab coffee with a friend, or talk to a colleague about how you’re feeling. Get your rest and eat well. If you’re stressed, no matter how you try to hide it, your students feel it.
You’ve prepared yourself and your students for the big day. While state-mandated standardized assessments have implications for your district, campus, you, and your students, at the end of the day, what really matters is that you are using effective teaching strategies and tools to ensure that your students are gaining 21st-century skills. Look at the bigger picture. Look at what your students have learned and accomplished over the school year.
Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.