Testing season can be the cause of anxiety and frustration for students and teachers alike. As school counselors, we have the unique ability to help prepare our students for test success in a multitude of ways. In addition to helping reinforce test-taking skills, we can teach students how to handle and cope with the big emotions that often accompany testing season. Below are five ways school counselors can help set their students up for test-taking success.
Classroom Guidance Lessons
School counselors can use part of the time they are in classrooms to focus on helping students to build strong test-taking skills. We can help reiterate test-taking strategies that teachers expect their students to use and help to fill in the gaps in understanding. I love using part of my guidance lessons to help to reinforce the strategies. By using the same common language and exposing students to the same skills, we can help engrain the strategies in their brain.
I speak to the teachers ahead of time to find out what strategies they would like for me to touch upon in my classroom guidance lessons. After that, I tailor my lesson to mirror those strategies. During my lessons, I challenge students to complete “Mission: Test Taking Success”. I turn teaching test-taking skills into an interactive activity allowing students to learn skills while they have fun completing craftivities.
Calm Down Strategies and Coping Skills
When thinking of test-taking success, it is important to think of a way to help students combat the worries that surround testing taking. To help with reducing and easing worries, I like to expose students to a variety of tools and strategies they can use to calm their worries in whichever way works best for them. I like to teach students how to use a stress ball, to take advantage of calm down corners or zen zones, and to utilizes calming techniques they can do from their seat during the test such as deep breathing or visualization.
My favorite from-their-seat calm down strategy to teach is muscle relaxation. I teach students to tighten and loosen their worries away. We start with our fists. We clench our fists as tight as we can underneath our desks, we focus on squeezing all of the worries into that one area. Once all the worries are in our fist, we simply let them go. We then do the same with our arms, squeezing all our worries into our arms and then letting them go. Next is the shoulders and so on.
Create a Positive Environment
Creating a positive school culture creates a calm environment for the students in your school. This calmness will help to naturally decrease stress levels allowing students to think more clearly and be able to perform to their full potential. Therefore, maintaining that sense of calm is especially important during testing season to help reduce the test anxiety. Creating a culture of calm or culture of kindness have positive benefits year round, not just testing season.
Self Esteem Builders
As school counselors, we should teach students how to motivate themselves and to be confident in their abilities. One way to create confidence is with positive self-talk. Positive self-talk is an amazing tool that allows students to be in charge of their thinking and helps to build a growth mindset.
One of my favorite sayings is, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” During testing season, the pressure and stress start to cause students to doubt themselves. It is of paramount importance that we teach students how to speak kindly to themselves to create that mindset for success.
Along with positive self-talk, self-esteem builders can do wonders for a student to set a student up for test-taking success. Having students write daily affirmations and leave themselves notes of encouragement will help boost their confidence and ease their worries.
Books with relatable characters or problems are an amazing tool for helping students deal with stress and anxiety. Stories allow students to process their own feelings through the lens of a character in a story. It is easier for children to cope with their own stress if they can brainstorm how someone else should handle the situation. My favorite books to help students deal with worry and set themselves up for test-taking success are:
Testing Miss Malarkey by Judy Finchler and Kevin O’Malley
The Anti-Test Anxiety Society by Julia Cook
The Big Test by Julia Danneberg
First Grade Takes a Test by Miriam Cohen
What strategies do you use to set your students up for success? Drop your tips in the comments below!