15 Simple-But-Brilliant Tips for Teachers to
Use During High-Stakes Testing Season
THE CURRENT HEALTH LIFE-SKILLS MAGAZINE FOR TEENS
is a health,
life skills, and social-
magazine for middle
and high school
students. Go to
Choices to find
out more about
VOL. 31 / NO. 7 ISSN 0883-475X
THE CURRENT HEALTH LIFE-SKILLS MAGAZINE FOR TEENS
BEAT THE TEST
SECRET STRATEGIES THAT WILL GIVE YOU
Nothing’s more anxiety-inducing—for you or your
students—than standardized tests. That’s why Choices,
Scholastic’s health and life skills magazine for teens, has
gathered the very best of teachers’ own tried-and-true
tips to keep your classroom meltdown-free.
You Got This.
Get Real. Honesty is sixth grade
English teacher Mary Blow’s No.
1 tactic for motivating students
to care. The New York-based
educator explains to her class that
standardized tests are just one
measure of academic progress, and
expresses confidence that their
performance will boost the school’s
reputation, not hurt their GPA.
Stay Positive. Writing the test
off as a waste of time can generate
student apathy and come back
to hurt you once scores arrive.
Remember that your attitude is
contagious, and keep test talk casual
Tap Your Tribe. Your colleagues
are feeling the same pressure
that you are; lean on them to
share challenges and brainstorm
solutions—or just to vent.
Chill Out . Practice meditation and
breathing techniques with your
students throughout the year so that
they’ll have stress busters on hand
whenever they start to feel anxious
during the test.
Alert the Home Base. Informing
parents of test dates can help
prevent appointment scheduling
conflicts, as well as ensure that
students arrive to school on time
and get enough sleep (at least 8, but
ideally 9 ¼, hours a night!) during
Think Ahead. Modeling your
summative assessments after the
state test will familiarize students
with the exam format, and give
them a sense of what it’s like to work
under a time constraint. They’ll feel
much more comfortable during the
real test if they know exactly what to
Massachusetts high school
health teacher Kate Blair
transforms her classroom
into a pop-up wellness studio
every Friday to build up her
students’ meditation abilities.
Here are the exercises she
teaches her students to use
when they need to refresh
Breathe in through the nose
for four counts, hold for seven
counts, then exhale slowly
through the mouth for eight
counts. Repeat 3-4 times. This
technique will help students
feel calm and in control.
Starting with the head and
working down to the toes,
contract each muscle group
for five seconds, then release
for fifteen. This will increase
blood flow to areas of the body
that we unconsciously tense up
of teachers admit to
feeling moderate to
extreme pressure to
SOURCE: National Education
Get Moving. To relieve stress and
get blood (and oxygen!) flowing to
students’ brains, Jeff Tranell, a sixth
grade math and science teacher in
Pennsylvania, leads a quick exercise
and stretch session on the morning
of each test day.
Minimize Distractions. Establish
a bathroom use policy ahead of
time, and keep a stack of sharpened
pencils with full erasers on hand
so that students don’t panic when
theirs run low.
Spread out. Moving desks as far
apart as possible will prevent students
from sensing their classmates’ speed
and rushing to finish the test.
Deck the Halls. In the weeks before
the test, Courtney McCreadie, an
eighth grade English teacher in New
York, adorns the halls and classroom
walls with motivational posters. By
the time the test is in front of them,
students will be able to draw from an
inspiration bank to help them power
through challenging moments.
Cheer Students On. For some last-
minute oomph, sixth-grade teacher
Sara Boyle’s Ohio middle school
plans a special send-off on the first
morning of test week. Students
and teachers from younger grades
form a gauntlet of cheers, signs, and
confetti, and test-takers run through
on their way to the testing location.
Make a Sweet Offer. Pass out
chewing gum or hard candy prior
to the test, which studies say can
improve focus. Side note: Have
students unwrap their treats before
the exam begins.
Trust Yourself. You’ve been
working hard all year long to prepare
your students for this test. Let it go,
and let them rock!
Celebrate! After the test, treat
students to an outdoor game day,
a field trip, or an activity fair. They
deserve a chance to shake off all that
test stress—and so do you!
It’s thought to be a great
way to activate and engage
both sides of your brain, says
Joanne Spence, the executive
director of Yoga in Schools.
1. Cross right hand in front of
body to hold left earlobe.
2. Cross left hand in front of
body to hold right earlobe.
3. With arms now crossed in
front of you, inhale, and bend
knees so that you’re going into
a partial squat. “It doesn’t have
to be much,” Spence says.
“Just what your knees can
4. Exhale as you come up.
5. Repeat slowly, 10-14 times.
4 CHOICES /
PHOTO CREDIT GOES HERE
4 CHOICES /
TAKE TESTS LIKE A BOSS
help you survive
part of the
By JESSICA PRESS
I always do this on tests: I answer only the questions I
100 percent sure of, then I go back and work through the
rest. Seeing what I know usually motivates me and makes
me feel more relaxed throughout.
—Jacob, 16, New York
NO ONE loves test season—
that stretch of days when you feel
trapped in your classroom, tapping
away at a computer or bubbling in
answers for what feels like f-o-r-e-v-e-r.
Part of the anxiety comes from the big-
picture pressure (Did I really soak up the
Pythagorean theorem way back when?) while
the rest takes the form of random, in-the-moment,
very nervous energy. (Am I tackling these questions
fast enough? And how can I focus when someone keeps
tapping his foot against his desk?)
That’s why we asked experts of all kinds for tricks on
how to avoid getting tripped up by test anxiety. (And
guess what? None of them have to do with studying
the material!) Bonus: You can use most of the stress-
busting strategies here to conquer all types of academic
pressure, from presentations to pop quizzes—making
our tip sheet this season’s most essential extra credit.
COURTESY OF FAMILY (JACOB CHERRY)
Go to Scholastic.com/Choices
to check out our April issue, which
includes our testing survival guide
for students. From the best test-
day breakfasts to sneaky mid-test
stress-busters, we’ve got them
SHARE OUR SURVIVAL GUIDE WITH YOUR STUDENTS!
Use Courtney’s favorite
quote from inspirational
writer and speaker Christian
D. Larson. Write it on the
board or make a sign:
“Believe in yourself and all
that you are. Know that there
is something inside you that is
greater than any obstacle.”