Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Taming the Test Monster

This week is Spring Break and our students have some well-deserved time off. Last week was full of test prep. Unfortunately, after this nice week off, they’ll be returning to the real thing—State testing.

Test time is a very anxious period for our students. In fact, we often see attendance decrease significantly during test preparation weeks or text exams because students are afraid. It’s probably difficult to think back to when you last had a test—most of you probably blocked it out! I was a pretty good student in school. I never had problems participating in class or answering questions, but when you put a test in front of me, something changed. My entire mind would go blank and I all of a sudden could barely remember my name! Well, maybe it wasn’t that extreme, but you get the point.

To help reduce testing anxiety, Partnership with Children has developed a curriculum “Taming the Test Monster”. We give students strategies on how to prepare for test taking such as getting enough rest, having a hearty breakfast and making sure they get up a bit early so they don’t feel rushed and stressed. We treat test anxiety as a real monster and understand it might affect each student differently. Our students are given a picture of their monster and asked to draw or write about how the test monster makes them feel and what causes them the most anxiety. We discuss everyone’s feelings—it’s very helpful for students to verbalize their fears and know that some of their classmates have the same fears. After the discussion we put all of the Test Monsters into a box, seal it tight and throw it away. By physically separating themselves from their Test Monster, students are able to “free” themselves from their fears and anxiety!

Our schedules get a bit hectic during test preparation. Our normal counseling, whether it is small groups, one-on-one or classroom programs, goes on hold for the week as we introduce the Test Monster curriculum. We also work with students and classrooms that are not normally served by Partnership with Children because the principal or a teacher will come to me and express concern about their students’ test anxiety. This year we provide full classroom programming for three classrooms. During test preparation, we add six more classes to that list solely to execute our Test Monster curriculum.

While it might seem unfair to have to return to school after break and go right into test week, at least we know our students will be prepared. They tamed the Test Monster last week, will hopefully get to relax during break this week and will come back to school Monday less stressed, more confident and ready to succeed.