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Mindset Matters: Helping Kids Stay Positive During Standardized Testing

As the end of the school year approaches, students across the country are preparing for standardized tests. While these tests are intended to measure academic progress, they can also be a source of stress and anxiety for students. 

As an educator, you play a critical role in helping your students approach these tests with a positive mindset. Let's explore a few strategies you can use to help your students stay positive during standardized testing.

Incorporate Mindfulness into the Classroom

Incorporating mindfulness into your classroom can be an effective way to help your students stay positive and focused during standardized testing. Mindfulness is being present and fully engaged in the moment without judgment or distraction.

You can:

  • Incorporate mindfulness into your classroom by starting each day with a short mindfulness exercise, such as deep breathing or guided meditation. 

  • Encourage your students to take breaks throughout the day to practice mindfulness independently.

Understanding Growth Mindset

One of the most effective strategies for promoting a positive mindset is encouraging your students to adopt a growth mindset. This is the belief that hard work and dedication can develop intelligence and abilities. Students who adopt a growth mindset are more likely to see challenges as opportunities for growth and improvement.

To help your students develop a growth mindset:

  1. Encourage your students to focus on their effort rather than on the outcome.

  2. Instead of praising your students for getting good grades, praise them for their hard work and perseverance.

  3. Encourage your students to see their mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow rather than failures.

Create a Supportive Testing Environment

Creating a supportive testing environment is another strategy for promoting a positive mindset during state testing. 

Try one or more of the following:

  • Provide your students comfortable seating, adequate lighting, and a quiet, distraction-free testing environment. 

  • Offer healthy snacks and breaks during testing. (Your administration may provide snacks during state testing, but you can also ask parents for classroom donations.)

  • Give your students positive feedback and encouragement throughout the testing period.

  • When appropriate, allow your students time to stretch, move their bodies, or go to the restroom.

Teach Test-Taking Strategies

While a positive mindset is important, students need skills and strategies to do well on standardized tests. As their teacher, you can help your students develop these skills by teaching various test-taking strategies.

It's best to teach test-taking strategies early in the school year to make them second nature for students to employ. But if you did not, start as soon as possible to allow your students time to practice.

Effective test-taking strategies include:

  • Read through the instructions carefully.

  • Be mindful of how much time you have to test, but don't rush through your questions.

  • Read through the question and all the answer options.

  • Eliminate the obviously wrong answers to get you closer to the correct answer.

  • If you get stuck on a question or section, take a few deep breaths, then continue.

  • Check your work at least once if time permits.

More Strategies

Depending on your students' ages, you may want to implement a few more strategies to maintain a positive mindset during standardized testing.

Explain Why Students Have to Complete State Testing: Communicate with your students and their parents about the purpose and importance of standardized testing. Explain how the results can identify areas where students need additional support.

Practice Test: Provide your students with opportunities to practice taking standardized tests. This can help them feel more comfortable and confident on test day. You can use sample test questions or practice tests from your state's education department or other reputable sources.

Physical Prep: Encourage your students to get plenty of rest and eat a healthy breakfast on test day. Lack of sleep and hunger can negatively affect students' cognitive function and performance on tests.

Testing Follow-Up: Be prepared to support your students emotionally and academically after testing. Some students may feel disappointed or anxious about their test scores, and may need additional encouragement. Others may need academic support to address areas where they struggled on the test. 

Empower Your Students for Success

Remember, as an educator, you are responsible for teaching your students academic content and helping them develop the skills and mindset they need to succeed in life. By promoting a positive mindset and providing students with the support they need, you can help your students thrive both in and out of the classroom.

Written by Brooke Lektorich
Education World Contributor
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