If you’re my friend on Instagram (Hi, Friend!) then you’ve probably seen this sketchy looking box pop up a few times. This is my secret weapon to combat the dreaded “testing blues” otherwise known as total-testing-burn-out. It’s sad, but oftentimes true… teachers and students face testing burn out after weeks/months of test prep and agonizing data analysis. I’m the first to admit that I somewhat enjoy the state test. My philosophy is ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,’ so I embrace this time of the year with open arms. As a third grade teacher, I’m the one responsible for setting the tone that my students will adopt for all future standardized tests… after all, third grade is the first year my students will see anything remotely like the FSA. They could either be petrified and anxious, or calm and confident… I do everything I can to make sure they are the second option.
In short, here’s my secret to easing the testing blues:
- Keep it positive: No matter what scores your students produced on that benchmark assessment, exit ticket, or practice test, keep a positive tone. Your students can feel your energy and will pick up on your stress. Have a conversation with them and ask them to reflect on how they think they did. Were there any questions or concepts that really tricked them? Was there a specific passage they felt confused about? Having an open conversation with your students can yield valuable information and help drive your next lesson.
- Use the data: Point blank- there is no use in giving an assessment if you’re not going to do anything with it. I feel a sense of excitement when scoring tests or pulling up data reports. It’s the best way to hone in on what specific students need. You might not be able to hit every target, but if your students had to endure testing conditions, you can endure reteaching a lesson.
- Make them laugh: I found myself going home after school thinking, “Wow, those kids had zero fun today.” That’s so not good. But being aware of it made me change my approach. Small, unexpected actions can boost student confidence and morale during testing season. Little things like spontaneous dance party breaks (1-2 minutes each), requiring students to answer in an English accent, 10 pushups or sit-ups for each correct answer, or telling random knock-knock jokes when they least expect it… these tiny behaviors will catch students off guard and remind them that even though testing is very serious, their teacher is on their side.
- Demand best effort: They might not get everything right every single time, but they should be giving their best effort everyday. In my classroom, we are big on best effort. This is something that I’ve harped on since day one, but it’s never too late to start. If you know your student can do more, show more, explain more, try more, ask them to! We call it “Gold”… I only want to see their GOLD work. Whether it is test prep or a regular day, demand best effort. (But if you ask for it, you have to model it… they know when we aren’t giving our own best effort).
- The Box: The day before our ELA FSA started, my students walked in the room to find a raggedy cardboard box with a “Do Not Open” sign on it. The instructions told them it couldn’t be opened until after the test. They whispered to each other and made sure everyone knew it was there (as 3rd graders will do), but I did not say a word, other than reminding them that the contents of the box were for students who give their best effort on both days of the test. Sure enough we opened the box after the tests were collected and we were officially done with ELA.
In the box they found:
–Kickball and cones
-Free Time Coupon
-Victory Crown (use with sentence strips)
They were SO excited. I think I could have put anything in there and they would’ve absolutely loved it. It was the element of surprise that led to 100% buy-in.
We still have our Math FSA test coming up in 2 weeks, so I will post about new things going in that box! Overall, keeping it lighthearted, focused, and calm can combat the testing blues. Sprinkling in some surprises and moments of laughter can truly boost the JOY in your classroom during the weeks/months of testing season!