Another year, another testing season…though now with some welcome (if long-overdue) gestures toward “right-sizing” testing, most notably the Every Student Succeeds Act. This legislation, wrote Laura Moser earlier this month on Slate,
seriously dialed back the emphasis on testing-or-die that was a hallmark of No Child Left Behind. Standardized testing isn’t going anywhere, but the stakes are now much lower, and states have a lot more flexibility in deciding what to do with the results of those tests.
And as some have noted, even the simple fact that the government has acknowledged the overemphasis on standardized testing is an important step toward improvement.
Dealing with Testing Anxiety
In the meantime, though, there are still tests – and still a ton of pressure on even the youngest kids. The opt-out movement continues to grow. In the words of Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, “Opt out is mainstream.”
Certainly that’s one possibility for dealing with the stress and anxiety testing generates. But it’s hardly the only one.
What if, instead of shielding kids from the source of their anxiety, we gave them the support they need to successfully face and overcome their anxiety?
Consider something as simple as getting some break time during test periods. A recent study in PNAS, reported Health Day,
found that students aged 15 and under suffered from mental fatigue as the school day progressed, and that their test scores dipped later in the day. The effect appeared to be the greatest on those who scored the poorest — a hint that tests later in the day might hurt struggling students the most.
But there’s good news, too: Students seemed to get a brain boost when they took tests after a brief break.
Yoga Calm is perfect for that brief break.
Tools for Test Taking
Even better is leading the students through a short sequence of activating and relaxing activities before the testing begins. Not only is this helpful for alleviating anxiety; it taps into the way physical movement supports optimum mental performance.
Here’s a sequence trainer Kathy Flaminio developed for classrooms heading into testing season:
The following is a short sequence of postures that activates and relaxes the body into its most optimal state, the “Relaxed-Alert State.” The other half of the equation for successful test taking is getting the body regulated and the mind in a positive state “Yes, I can do this.” Hold each posture for at least 3 to 5 breaths. The affirmations are stated silently – invite students to come up with their own, too!
Two forward folds are included because inversions calm the nervous system. During Tree and Eagle Pose, make sure students have their eyes on one focal point to help with balance and concentration. If time permits have students write their affirmation on a Post It ® note “I can do this,” “I am smart,” “Yes I can,” or “I am calm.” Use this as focal point and glance at during test taking.
Eyes often get fatigued during test taking. To relax the eyes, have students rub their hands vigorously until they create some heat, then have students place their hands over their eyes. Have students open their eyes into the heat of their hands, then release their hands.
This is test prep of an entirely different kind – but just as important as the kind you usually think of. Not only does it support kids’ ability to succeed but their overall health and well-being, too!