Last week, I vented some of my stress over the 3rd grade tests. While I will never approve of these tests, their “importance” that is being shoved down our throats, or using them to retain students, I feel it’s important to share SOMETHING positive. I feel if we only dwell on the negative and how ridiculous all this is (and believe me, it is), subjecting this to our students only adds to their stress and confusion. Children pick up on how we feel about these things and don’t need to feed off of this. Many (if not all) of them are already burdened enough with it. The adults need to fight the testing battle, but we also need to find a way to shield our students from the stress of it as much as possible.
There’s a growing trend on having testing assemblies. My school has done this. I’m somewhat on the fence about it. The only positive I see out of it is if it truly lowers the stress levels of our students. I saw how much it did the Friday before testing with my students. We had a parade down our hallways for all the grade levels testing. Some classes had the students make signs. They cheered and chanted as the students walked down the halls. Seeing the huge smiles from my students and hearing them say how exciting it was and how they felt like celebrities made it worthwhile.
We have a theme for testing this month, which is Awaken the Force within You. The students have loved the Star Wars themed posters hanging around the building. Each Friday we are having special dress up days to go along with this theme. Any excuse to dress up makes my students’ day!
Some were disappointed when they showed up Monday and remembered the test didn’t start until Tuesday. Some kept saying they were ready. I’m sure some were feeling the jitters. One of my teammates had her students write down all their fears (on recycled paper of course, we are in a big crunch at my school – as I’m sure many others are as well) about the test. Then they cut them up and sealed them all in a bag. She taped the bag to the board. They stayed ‘trapped’ there during testing. One of the guardians of her students said he told her about writing down and cutting up his fears, and that it made him feel better. Worth it, even if it only helped one student.
Because even the toughest of teachers can become weary of this nonsense year after year, one of our teachers put notes in our boxes. She had been making them for her students and thought, “Hey, the teachers need this, too!” You bet we did. It was very much appreciated.
Our school counselor puts treats on the students’ desks with little stickers of encouragement she prints and puts on the treat bags that go along with our theme. My students were putting the stickers on and wearing them throughout the test. I also put treats on their desk with little notes of encouragement. They couldn’t stop talking about it. I also gave them ‘fun sheets’, color sheets with hidden pictures in them and word searches. I told them this is their morning work, so they can save up their brain power for the test. We also stretch and do little aerobic exercises before getting started and then again when we are done with the test.
My teammate shared an idea she found that has the students walk through streamers taped in the doorway on testing day. We called it ‘The Nervous Scrubber’. When the students walked through it, it took away their nervousness and fears. They LOVED this! Some said they didn’t need it; they weren’t nervous. I said it would make sure they stayed that way. I even had some upper grade students ask to go through it. You bet I let them go through. They were beaming from ear to ear.
Some students were testing in different locations, and when it was time for them to leave, my class cheered them on. “You can do this!” “Take your time!” “Good luck!” “You’ll do great!” It was so heartwarming to see how they were rallying around each other, so full of encouragement for each other. They then cheered for them when they returned.
At the end of each testing day, we let them have an extra recess because they worked extra hard. You better believe Mrs. Smith was on the swings and sliding down the slides (I deserve to have fun, too!). We have also started a STEM project in my class. When we were done with testing, they worked to build oil derricks from one of OERB’s lessons. We will do a rebuild and retest this week. We’ve also had art lessons and are making a book about Oklahoma. No homework here (about blew my top when I read a tweet from a parent rightfully complaining about their child getting homework on testing day).
It broke my heart (and angered me) yesterday when a student working in a fast food drive thru let me know how stressed she was about her Biology EOI on Monday (it was her explanation as to why she was getting tongue-tied – she was studying in between customers coming through the drive). She said Monday’s were bad enough, but this was too much. I agreed it was, and wished her the best of luck. Best of luck to them all.
Testing sucks, folks. No two ways about it. The threat of retention is just too much stress to put on 8 and 9-year old children. The threat of not graduating because of a series of tests that no college looks at is asinine. But it’s there. And I have to find ways to help my students manage the stress. We all do. So we do these fun activities during testing weeks to easy that pressure cooker they have been thrown in to help them survive and do their best. I just hope it’s enough.
If you have special activities or things you do with your students during testing, please share! Leave your ideas in the comments section.