- Michael Gaskell, principal of Hammarskjold Middle School in East Brunswick, New Jersey, shared with eSchool News four adaptable school strategies that can be used to help prepare students for high-stakes testing situations and reduce the anxiety associated with exam days or other stressful school situations.
- If the testing site is somewhere other than a student's classroom, it can help for them to visit the location beforehand to familiarize themselves with the surroundings. If there is time, a free writing activity or class discussion can help students air out their feelings and concerns in the hope that they understand such anxieties are common and understandable.
- A brief physical activity exercise — perhaps a short video prepared by the physical education department, for example — can be used before a test and during breaks to improve students' circulation and reduce test anxiety. Schools can also incorporate 3-minute meditation breaks, led by a teacher/proctor or by a prepared video, to encourage mindfulness.
Testing anxiety is common among students, and it can negatively impact their performance. While academically preparing students for high-stakes tests is key to ensure they'll do well, preparing them emotionally is also important, as it helps students better access the information they have learned, focus on test questions and have the confidence to answer them.
Advance strategies, such as familiarizing students with their testing environment, can help them visualize the setting ahead of time, making it more familiar and comfortable. It can also reduce the distractions a new setting might offer. On the day of testing, techniques such as physical activities, mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and other relaxation and stress-reducing measures can help get students in a better frame of mind as they approach exams.
Because anxiety is a regular part of the school day for many students, these techniques can provide year-round benefits and equip them with coping strategies they can carry through adulthood. Learning to self-regulate emotions is an important part of social-emotional learning, so teaching these skills can help students on test days as well as in normal life situations. Providing regular times for recess and physical activity can also create outlets for stress reduction on a daily basis and set up a lifelong habit that can aid students emotionally and physically.