Our students feel the pressure. There are many things I love about teaching but watching eight and nine-year-olds trying to cope with test anxiety is definitely not one of them. I try to talk them through it and tell them that this one test does not define them, but I know many of them are still petrified of THE TEST. (And if I’m being honest, so am I.) Read alouds go a long way in helping students calm their fears. I usually read a book, or two, or three, and then hold a discussion about test day.
Test Anxiety Activity
We brainstorm the things that we can do leading up to the test to prepare, the things we need to remember on test day, the things we are afraid of, and the reasons we know we will be successful. After brainstorming, I give everyone this response sheet and have them write their personal reminders, reasons, and fears.
You’re probably wondering why in the world I would tell them to write their fears. Isn’t that what we’re trying to get over? Well, this actually turns into the kids’ favorite part. After they complete their response sheets, I tell them to cut off the bottom part about their fears. Then I tell them to destroy it. Some look at me a little funny. Some get started ripping and crumpling right away. Either way, each student destroys his/her fears before throwing them in the trash can.
Then I have them cut off the reasons they will succeed. We turn this into a long paper chain of strength that we hang above the whiteboard. We are in this together. I tell my students to make sure that they don’t list any of our actual strategies or hints so I can keep it up during the test. That way when they start feeling a little anxious on test day, they can look up and know that they are not alone.
If you do this too, take a pic and tag me on Instagram @cultivatingcriticalreaders or email me. I’d love to see pictures of your chains of strength!
The bit about what to remember on test day gets sent home to share with parents and the preparation part is taped to their desks. Grab your free copy here.
Favorite Read Alouds for Test Anxiety
Testing Miss Malarkey by Judy Finchler
This one is probably my favorite. Written from a student’s perspective as THE TEST comes and goes, it shows the students that their lives won’t be altered by the test. It provides much-needed comedic relief by joking about all the things that we adults say and do around test day. I seriously laugh out loud every time I read it.
The Good Egg by Jory John
Stressing constantly and stretching yourself too thin leads to cracking. This adorable book is perfect for helping students understand that they don’t have to be perfect 100% of the time and teaching them the importance of taking care of themselves.
The Anti-Test Anxiety Society by Julia Cook
I love this book because BB’s negative feelings about tests are so relatable to the students. BB’s teacher suggests that she join the Anti-Test Anxiety Society and teaches her (and your students) 12 important test-taking strategies.
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett
This book is perfect for helping them understand that everyone makes mistakes and that it is ok.
The Big Test by Julie Danneberg
Follow Mrs. Hartwell’s class from First Day Jitters as they prepare to take THE BIG TEST. Mrs. Hartwell teaches them some important things about how to take the test, the most important of which is to relax.
Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan
This story about Michael Jordan, written by his mother, teaches your students the same lessons she taught him about determination, patience, and hard work. This was the book I the week before I administered my first state test. I had all the kids take off their shoes and sprinkled a little bit of salt in them. Oh my goodness, they all walked out of the room that day a little taller.