Monday, April 21, 2014
Helping Students Cope with Test Anxiety
April is a busy month for school counselors! Along with the responsibilities of being our testing coordinator, our students feel the pressure from their teachers and their parents to perform their best on our state assessments. Juggling my time to meet with every student that is feeling worried becomes a daily challenge during the weeks leading up to testing.
When I was a third grade teacher I borrowed a meaningful idea from one of my teammates, Angie Zapata. About a week before testing I sent home a secret request for parents to write their child an inspiring, positive, and encouraging letter. They sent it back to me without sharing with their child what it was. (For those students who I did not receive one, I wrote one for them) On the morning of our first test, I passed out a letter to each student to open and watched their faces light up with confidence. Taking from this idea, I expanded it to a more global idea that built upon our community here at Lee.
The last time I visited second grade I read them one of their favorites, Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt. Throughout the story we learn how our main character is afraid to attempt anything he is unfamiliar with - "the unknown". I expand this idea by informing students that we have a group of "scaredy squirrels" right here at Lee! Our third graders are also afraid of "the unknown" - aka the STAAR test. Although they are fully prepared and ready to do their best, they have never taken it before and it makes them a little afraid.
In order to ease these worries, I asked each second grader to write a letter to a third grader. Each letter contains the 5 parts of a letter (which I review), a statement showing empathy, and a statement showing encouragement. I passed out the fun bordered paper and off they went. I was blown away by the sincerity in each of their letters!
Now it was time to deliver the goodies! The week before the third graders took their test, I visited each third grade classroom during my normal guidance time. I began by reading Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! written by Dr. Seuss with help from Lane Smith & Jack Prelutsky. This book is a great springboard for discussing our feelings about testing. In the story students are confronted with a test that they have 10 minutes to prepare for and if they don't pass it their school will close down! Detailed with Seussical rhymes and illustrations, kids realize how silly the rumors are about testing. We discuss rumors that they've heard and I clarify any discrepancies they might believe (If I don't pass I won't go to 4th grade, etc).
Afterward I pass out STAAR Tip Bookmarks to each of them and go through what each tip mean. Going to bed a little earlier than usual will help because it might take you a little longer to fall asleep if you're worried about the test. Eating a protein-filled, hearty breakfast will give you energy to keep going during the 4 hours. I will provide you with sharpened pencils, your teachers will provide you with snacks, but you can also bring your own special snack or sweater to feel more comfortable.
Finally, it was time to pass out their special letters, and boy were they surprised! Many of them were excited to find their second grade buddy to tell them a big thank you.