“Palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy…” Eminem pretty much nailed it. Throw in a line about elevated heart rates and a few tears and he’s just written the anthem for every test anxiety sufferer out there.
In my experience, many students have become so accustomed to testing that they don’t bat an eye when the topic comes up. For other students, the sound of the word can send them into a panic attack that lasts until you tell the class to put their pencils down at the end of the last test.
There are a million and two testing taking strategies out there that teachers use to prepare their students for a test. But my question is, how much time do we spend teaching these strategies as opposed to teaching students how to address their test anxiety? Don’t get me wrong, strategies are important but they’re incredibly difficult to use if the only thing you’re able to focus on is the knot in your stomach.
Anxiety isn’t something that will just miraculously disappear which is why it’s so incredibly important to teach children to coping skills that will help them be more successful. Testing season is rapidly approaching and one way that I’m changing test prep in my classroom this year by exposing my students to test anxiety coping strategies in addition to test taking strategies.
And what better way to do that than through picture books?! Although we still have a few weeks before testing begins, we’ve already started reading some of these books in my classroom. I wanted to give my students the opportunity to not only hear the stories multiple times but I wanted to give them time to process and figure out what coping skills work best for them.
Here are five of my favorite book finds so far:
This is the story of Bertha Billingsworth, also known as BB. She is a bright girl but when it comes time to take any type of test in her classroom, her anxiety takes over and she can’t remember the information she needs. Eventually BB’s teacher learns about her test anxiety and decides that BB needs to become a member of the Anti-Test Anxiety Society. As a member of this society, BB learns twelve strategies to help with test anxiety and her perspective shifts from Terrible Every Single Time to Terrific Every Single Time.
Ethan loves going to school. He’s successful in every subject with the exception of math. When his teacher gives a pop quiz in math class, Ethan begins to feel sick. That afternoon, his friend, Jack, introduces Ethan to a game called Mathsketball. The next day when Ethan gets his quiz score, he begins to feel sick again and that’s when his teacher explains something called test anxiety. She teaches Ethan some strategies to help ease his anxiety when it’s time to take a test. Although he isn’t confident in them, he agrees to give them a try. Ethan finds that between playing Mathsketball with Jack and using the skills his teacher taught him, tests aren’t as bad anymore.
Mrs. Hartwell has worked hard to teach her students different test taking strategies. They practice filling in the bubbles, reading directions, and they even receive a lesson in test day nutrition. She had good intentions but quickly realized that not only was all of the Big Test Day prep was causing test anxiety in her students but she forgot to teach her students to simply RELAX!
As standardized testing approaches, everyone in school seems to be a little more stressed than usual. Students play math and phonics games during recess, the cafeteria is only serving “brain food”, and even the gym teacher starts teaching relaxation skills instead of the usual game of baseball. In the end, the students learn that the test wasn’t as big and scary as they thought it would be.
Adam’s school is getting ready to take their big test. Adam is dyslexic and as test day approaches, his anxiety increases. Although he has the support of his family and friends, he still wonders if he’ll be successful on the test or if he will need to repeat the fourth grade. In the end, Adam realizes that one of the most important things is trying your best.
Are there other picture books that you use in the classroom to help ease test anxiety in your classroom? Let me know in the comments below!
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