6 Amazing Books to Help Students Conquer Test Anxiety

6 Amazing Books to Help Your Students Conquer Test Anxiety

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 with helping students calm their fears. I usually read a book, or two, or three, and then hold a discussion about test day. 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.

Anti Test Anxiety example

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 copy here. It is free for a limited time only!

Now, on to the books. Here are some of my favorites:

Testing Miss Malarkey

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 EggThe 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 SocietyThe 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 suggest that she join the Anti-Test Anxiety Society and teaches her (and your students) 12 important test taking strategies.

The Girl Who Never Made MistakesThe 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 TestThe 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, most important of which is to relax.

 

Salt in His ShoesSalt 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.

 

Check Out the Rest of the Test Prep Blog Series Posts:

1. How to Navigate Test Prep Like a Pro

2. 7 Fun Ideas to Up Your Test Prep Game and Engage Your Students

3. Do Your Students Know the Language of the Test?

4. 6 Amazing Books to Help Students Conquer Test Anxiety

5. Testing Treats and Motivation

6 Amazing Test Prep Books

Do Your Students Know the Language of the Test?

Do Your Students Know the Language of the Test

“They know how to do that! They did so well in class… I don’t understand how they missed this one!”

We’ve all said it while pouring over benchmark data or last year’s scores. That sinking feeling of bewilderment at our students’ inability to perform on a specific test question is all too familiar. We know we taught it to them, and we saw them successful with it in the classroom and just for the life of us can’t comprehend how they could have missed it.

Part of this is simply understanding the language of the test. Academic vocabulary is huge. A student who understands the development of the plot in a passage can still miss a plot question on test day if he/she isn’t familiar with tier II and III vocabulary such as contribute, develop, conflict, or rising action. We need to make sure we are repeatedly exposing our students to academic vocabulary and teaching them use it in context during discussions.

Start With a Word Wall

Word walls aren’t just for little kids and sight words. They are great for showing academic and tier II vocabulary words as they are introduced throughout the year. It keeps the words fresh in the students’ minds, serves as an excellent reference, and empowers the students to use them on their own.

Tips:

  • If you teach multiple subject areas, you can color code your word wall to categorize the vocabulary words.
  • Adding a short definition (or even a graphic) to the words helps learners remember their definitions.

word wall

Have Fun With It!

Turn vocabulary review into a station game! I love this board game from Upper Elementary Bliss because of the variety in ways that it has the students reviewing their vocabulary words. Using the word in a sentence, giving examples & synonyms, asking questions about the word, and connecting it to related words learned in class, in addition to simply giving the definition solidifies a much rounder understanding of the word. You can easily to adapt this game to your grade level and state standards by choosing the specific vocabulary words that you want your students to practice. (It comes with a set of 69 vocabulary words.)Vocabulary Game

 

Remember that word wall? Print off an extra set of the words from this game on cardstock and you are all set with the words to hang up!

Use Stem Questions Throughout the Year 

If you really want the students to understand the language of the test you need to be using it throughout the year. Not just the vocabulary, but the phrasing as well. Word your questions like the test to help them understand what the question is asking. You can’t explain it to them on test day, but you sure as heck can now.

Teach Them Strategies

Understanding the language of the test isn’t just limited to the words. It’s about understanding the way the test is set up and how to tackle it. Equip your students with the strategies they need in order to be successful test takers. Your students will feel most confident when they have a plan. Grab my free test taking strategies poster here.

Test Taking Strategies Poster

You bust your gut teaching these kids all year. Make sure all of the heart and soul that you and your students pout into their education shows off on test day by helping them understand the language of the test.

Have other academic vocabulary ideas? I’d love to know them! Comment below.

Tomorrow: 6 Amazing Books to Help Students Conquer Test Anxiety

Check Out the Rest of the Test Prep Blog Series Posts:

1. How to Navigate Test Prep Like a Pro

2. 7 Fun Ideas to Up Your Test Prep Game and Engage Your Students

3. Do Your Students Know the Language of the Test?

4. 6 Amazing Books to Help Students Conquer Test Anxiety

5. Testing Treats and Motivation

Do Your Students Know the Language of the Test

7 Fun Ways to Up Your Test Prep Game and Engage Your Students

7 Fun Ways to Up Your Test Prep Game and Engage Your Students

There’s no rule that says test prep has to be boring. I know it is tempting to just use the same old passages and worksheet that we’ve used year in and year out because they’ve worked for us and frankly, because it’s easy for us to prepare. I get it and I’ve been there. But the monotonous review of passage after passage or worksheet after worksheet left me feeling a little dead on the inside, and my students felt it too. That’s never good.

So, spice it up a little. There are so many ways to change up this boring routine to engage your students that require little to no effort, and you and your students deserve a little excitement during the day. After all, the more engaged they are, the better the review. Plus, there’s the added benefit that you won’t be bored to tears all day either. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Jazz Up Those Reading Passages

If you’re a reading teacher, there’s a good chance that your district requires you to use some reading passages in your test prep unit. Don’t worry, you can still make them engaging and fun.

Gallery Walk 

This one is so easy y’all. After you select a passage, decide which questions you want to focus on. Write those questions on separate sentence strips, pieces of chart paper, or construction paper and put them up around the room. Print out a copy of the passage for the number of questions you are using and display them next to each question. Then have your students move in groups discussing and answering their questions on the wall. When I do the gallery walk, I leave the questions open-ended and then go over them as multiple-choice questions. I feel like this gets them really thinking and prevents lazy guessing. I like to use post-its with an extra post-it on top to cover the answer, so each group gets a fresh start with each question. Once everyone has had a chance to answer the questions have them return to their seats and go over each one as a class. I really like this because it gets the students talking about the text evidence they used to justify their answers.

gallery walk test prep

Turn It into a Game 

This takes zero extra effort. Break your class into about 4 or 5 heterogeneous teams. If you already have group seating, this is already done for you. Have each team choose a name or assign them. Then, as you work through the passage as a class, have the teams confer about each question. When the team comes to a consensus on the correct answer, they shout their team name. Call on the first team to shout their name to answer and justify with text evidence and an explanation. Assign each question 100 points and award them to the teams as you work. At the end, the team with the highest amount of points wins. Even if they aren’t given an actual prize, the game makes the day so much more fun for them.

Using classroom buzzers can add to the novelty and fun of this game, but calling out team names works just as well and doesn’t break the bank.

Use Hands-On Answer Cards

As you work through the questions, each student shares his/her answer immediately by holding up a multiple choice answer card. When the lesson is over, each student holds onto his/her index cards to use the next time you want to do a passage this way. This not only engages every student, it also serves as a great informal assessment tool.

Here is a FREE copy of my multiple choice answer cards.

multiple choice answer cards

Don’t have time to print and copy the answer cards? No problem. Give the students each 2 index cards and tell them to cut them in half. Then the students write A, B, C, and D on the cards.

You can also use whiteboards for this purpose if you have enough.

Amp Up the Fun with Technology 

Technology is such a great tool for student engagement! Using it for games makes test prep so exciting for the kids. I mean, who doesn’t want to spend time during school hours playing a game?

Jeopardy

This is my favorite. I’m thinking you know how this game works, so I won’t waste your time explaining it to you. Instead, I’ll tell you what I love about it.  Jeopardy allows me and my students to review several different standards and offers a varying degree of rigor. It’s also crazy entertaining for the students. They get so excited about earning those dollar amounts and seeing their scores increase. I’ve actually had kids groan when class ended because they wanted to keep playing! Crazy, right?! Any time they’re that enthusiastic about something we’re doing in class is a HUGE win.

test prep jeopardy game

The example pictured above is a Jeopardy review game for the 3rd grade STAAR Reading Test and is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Kahoot!

Kahoot is so much fun to play. This one is easy and free to create and play but does require the students to have devices. (Just something to keep in mind and plan for.) I like Kahoot because I can create an interactive game with my own questions and answer choices, which means I’m targeting my specific students. It does, however, mean that I have to take the time to create my own questions and answer choices.

Get Creative with Your Task Cards

Task cards are a great resource year-round because you can use them is so many fun ways! That’s why I think they’re an excellent test prep tool in targeting a specific standard.

SCOOT Activity 

Place the task cards around the room or hallway and have your students “scoot” from one to the next. Simple, yet fun. They really enjoy being able to move around rather than sit at their desks all day.

Board Games with Task Cards 

Use a set of task cards with games like Connect 4, Jenga, and Candy Land. Set up the games around the room and have students play in groups. Game play stays the same, except that each student must complete a task card before he/she takes a turn. Super easy! Teaching with a Mountain View has a great post about it. Check it out here.

What Am I Leaving Out?

These aren’t the only ways to liven up test prep. How do you like to engage your students? We’re all in this together, remember? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Up Next: Do Your Students Know the Language of the Test?

 

Check Out the Rest of the Test Prep Blog Series Posts:

1. How to Navigate Test Prep Like a Pro

2. 7 Fun Ideas to Up Your Test Prep Game and Engage Your Students

3. Do Your Students Know the Language of the Test?

4. 6 Amazing Books to Help Students Conquer Test Anxiety

5. Testing Treats and Motivation

TEST Prep Jeopardy

How to Navigate Test Prep Like a Pro

How to Navigate TEST PREP Like a Pro Facebook Share

TEST DAY is rapidly approaching. Your to-do list is a mile long, you’re feeling pressure from admin about getting your scores up, the kids are getting snippy with each other, you’re tutoring in and out of school, and don’t forget the daunting amount of parent contacts you need to make. Don’t even get me started on how much you are probably questioning and cursing the testing requirements. No wonder you just want to lay down on the floor in the middle of the hallway after school. Its exhausting. March Madness isn’t just a term for basketball; its what teachers go through every year during testing season.

Don’t get discouraged. You don’t have to be super woman, but you also don’t have to feel like the world is crashing down on you. Know that you are not alone. I don’t know a single teacher in a testing grade that doesn’t feel overwhelmed around testing season. We are in this together and we will get through it together.

I’ll be sharing a series of 5 posts all about test prep this week. We’ll discuss strategies to keep both you and your kids sane and share some activities to make review a little more fun. Be sure to click “follow” or enter your email in the sidebar to stay tuned and get fun test prep activities and ideas! First up: Getting Organized.

Getting Organized for the Test

When your information – and sometimes even your desk – is clear, so is your head. Organization empowers us to think through the data and our to-do lists calmly and confidently. So clear off that desk and set yourself up with a tidy work space that doesn’t make your head spin. We’ve got some work to do.

Get a Handle on Your Student Data

You’ve undoubtedly had some sort of benchmark by this point in the year, and you’ve probably talked about that data with your admin until you were blue in the face. You might even be a little annoyed at the thought of looking at it again. I’m sure you’ve already created an instructional plan for test prep review based on how your students scored overall on each standard. You already know what needs reviewing and what is going exceedingly well. I’m not going to focus on that and feel your eyes glaze over through the computer screen. Instead, I want to focus on looking at each individual student in your class and ensure that we meet their specific needs.

Here are some things I like to look for and think about:

  • Which students scored well below or above your expectations? Why do you think that happened? 
  • Has the student been brought to RtI? Do you need to schedule a follow up?
  • What are the student’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • Would a student benefit from certain accommodations?
  • Does the student need tutoring or extra small group instruction?

I like to keep a student data sheet for each student that contains every bit of information about him/her that I collect throughout the year. I find that it’s helpful for parent contacts, and honestly, just to make sure I don’t let one “fall through the cracks.” Here is a free copy of the student data sheet I use if you’re interested. However you choose to store your data, keep it organized and easily accessible.

Student Data Sheet

The hard part is over. The rest is a breeze once you have your data organized.

Get Those Parent Contacts Over With!

After looking at your student data, determine which parents you need to call and prioritize. I always start by scheduling face to face conferences with parents of students who were unsuccessful on the benchmark. Then I work my way up. I don’t know about you, but I typically don’t have time for face to face conferences for every parent this time of year. If you’re one of those lucky teachers that has a full or half day out of the classroom built in for this purpose – kudos to you! My limited time requires me to determine which parents just need a phone call, or sometimes, not even that.

Keep the conversation positive. I don’t mean hide the student’s shortcomings, but it’s helpful to focus on the plan for moving forward and helping the student succeed.

Get Accommodations and Groupings Set

This is the point in the year when you need to double check that all necessary accommodations are documented and set for testing. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE ON THIS! You really don’t want to find yourself in a jam on this one a few weeks away from the test – or worse, on test day.

If you are given the ability to decide which students test in your classroom vs. your partner teacher’s classroom, start thinking about it now. I usually keep the students who struggle either academically or emotionally with me. I’ve always had strong partner teachers that I respect and trust; it’s not about that. I feel like it just gives them a little comfort and support to be with the teacher that prepared them for that test on test day.

If you have students who receive small group administration as a part of their accommodations, you will want to share information about your students with whoever oversees creating those groups. Is your student easily distracted? Does he or she tend to take a lot longer or work a lot faster than the other students that are being pulled out?

Take Note of Their Testing Behaviors

Observing your students’ testing behaviors during in class assessments can help you put an end to some bad habits and helps tremendously with creating a seating arrangement for test day that will maximize their performance. You may want to try out different environments for students who are prone to falling asleep during tests such as close to or far from the air conditioning unit. Who gets easily distracted? You don’t want themdesks sitting near the door. Is there anyone that will need to take frequent breaks? They belong by the door. You’ve undoubtedly worked hard all year at getting to know your students and creating responsive seating charts and groups. Keep this know-how in mind when creating your seating chart for test day as well.

Getting all of this organized ahead of time keeps you from feeling unraveled closer to the test. It’s a lot to do, but take it bit by bit and mark it off the to-do list. Trust me, “future you” will be so grateful you did it! Then you can focus on the fun stuff!

Don’t forget to click “follow” or enter your email in the sidebar to stay tuned and get fun test prep activities and ideas!

Check Out the Rest of the Test Prep Blog Series Posts:

2. 7 Fun Ideas to Up Your Test Prep Game and Engage Your Students

3. Do Your Students Know the Language of the Test?

4. 6 Amazing Books to Help Students Conquer Test Anxiety

5. Testing Treats and Motivation

TEST Prep Series