“We need to make sure that students are fueled properly, not just with the right type of food, but the right type of rest, as well. Our bodies need rest, and that is where we recharge." ~ Adelita Shepherd
(Transcript available below)
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Heidi Higgins: Hi, there. I'm Heidi Higgins, and you are listening to K12 On Learning. Spring is here, and so is testing season. Teachers are focused on it. Students can feel it coming, and parents are noticing it, too. The reality is that it's likely a huge part of your school spring calendar. Spring testing greatly affects school culture in the classroom, and even when you're learning from home.
I remember being very nervous that first year when I took my children to a school proctored venue for our state testing. Because my children learned from home, I felt like my efforts were being tested. A kind teacher greeted us at the door. She turned to my girls, and she said, "This is a wonderful day. You will be reviewing many of the things you've been learning this year, and discovering a few things you get to learn in the future. Either way, this is an adventure. I'm so glad you're here."
I have to tell you, I needed those words as much as my children did. Testing anxiety can be very real, so, today we want to offer 10 simple and manageable tips where students, parents, and teachers have the control to be proactive in test preparation. I've invited Adelita Shepherd from Colorado to join us, along with two test taking students in addition. Sarah and Ben will chime in on what has helped them prepare for taking tests.
Hi, Adelita. Happy Spring, and welcome to the podcast.
Adelita Shepherd: Thank you so much, Heidi. I'm so happy to join you here and talk about some test prep for our students.
Heidi Higgins: Please share where some of your knowledge of test preparation comes from.
Adelita Shepherd: Oh, thank you. I am the Compliance and Family Engagement Coordinator at Destinations Career Academy of Colorado. We are a career prep school, grade six through 12. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of having many different hats when it comes to testing, and this year, I will be proctoring some of our students at one of our larger sites. I've done just about everything from scheduling to delivering snacks and just being in the vicinity for the students, to support families, and to make sure that not only do the students have their anxiety alleviated, but also the parents. Because sometimes, they just don't want to let go of little Johnny going into the testing center. We have to be there to support them as well.
Heidi Higgins: Thank you, Adelita. Ben and Sarah, welcome to you. Ben is in the fifth grade. Sarah is in the seventh grade.
Ben: Thanks for having us on, and thanks for reminding us of all the tests coming up.
Heidi Higgins: Oh, sorry about that, Ben. I'm glad you're here today. I'm looking forward to hearing some of your tips and ideas. Well, let's get started. Tip number one. Calendar the date, the time, the location. Where this test is going to take place.
Ben: Don't forget to ask your parent to know when a test is coming up.
Sarah: It's always important to know when your test is. It's always great if you can put it on a calendar, if you can tell your mom. After about the third grade, it's great for you to know, not only your parent, so you can help remind your parent in case they forget or they can help remind you, in case you forget.
The worst thing that could happen is that you wake up late, and you remember that it's the test day and you're not ready, dressed. You haven't studied. You're not prepared. You have to skip breakfast, and you didn't sleep well. It would be terrible and very stressful.
It's great always to put it on a calendar and remind your parents.
Heidi Higgins: Testing tip number two. Attend and pay attention to all test prep opportunities your teacher might give you.
Adelita Shepherd: Having students show up to their test prep sessions with their teachers and making sure that they are well prepared in that arena in terms of content, being prepared for types of questions, and really understanding what the test is looking for in terms of a correct answer, as opposed to one of the many right answers.
Heidi Higgins: Test taking tip number three. Remember that rest, physical activity, and proper nutrition are important, even days and weeks leading up to the testing.
Adelita Shepherd: You want to make sure that students have a really good schedule right now in terms of sleep and exercise. These are really important to curb anxiety, because we need to make sure that students are fueled properly, and not just with the right type of food, but the right type of rest as well. Our bodies need rest, and that's where we recharge. I think students, in this technology age, they know that they have to charge their phones. They have to charge their gaming systems if they're Bluetooth or remote. That's the same with our bodies. We need to recharge. We need to refuel.
Sarah: Getting good rest all the time will help you everyday perform better.
Ben: Not only on tests, but also in your normal classroom.
Heidi Higgins: Test taking tip number four. Proper grooming builds confidence. Look your best.
Adelita Shepherd: With that goes some really good hygiene practices. We want to make sure that the students have self care and that they show up neat and clean. If you can, make sure to encourage them to look their best. Because when we look good, we feel good. When we feel good, we do good things. They're taking pride in not only themselves but what they output for these tests.
Sarah: The better that you look, you feel better. It helps.
Ben: It makes you feel more confident so that you can do well and trust in yourself.
Heidi Higgins: Test taking tip number five. Arrive early, and know what the routine will be.
Adelita Shepherd: Knowing what your routine will be for the day. Making sure that you have a really good time scheduled with your family to leave. Making sure that you have all that you need for test day with you, packed and ready to go out the door, so you're not running late. It's always a good idea to get to the testing center a little bit early.
If you feel you might be a little anxious with your new surroundings, you want to familiarize yourself with those surroundings and what the building looks like. Getting all of those sensory experiences out of the way, before you start taking the test. Maybe you'll see a friend there, and that would be a bit of a comfort.
Sarah: Make sure your student is early and ready. It helps the student avoid stress, worry, and it helps them prepare mentally. They don't have to have that stress that they're late, they're going to have to find their room fast. It helps them orient themselves, and they get a little bit of a breather, which gives them more confidence on their tests.
Heidi Higgins: Test taking tip number six. Use positive talk, encouragement, and put the test into perspective. Remind them that you're going to love them when the test is over, just like you do before the test begins.
Adelita Shepherd: I think it's really important for parents to encourage their children to do well on the tests, to do their best, to not put any pressure on what the results are going to be, but that they're just simply proud of their children for showing up and for taking that leap into the testing center and starting the test. That would be a really good way to alleviate some of that stress. If you're able to, have a snack pack. Have a bottle of water. Maybe put on the bottle of water a sticky note, a kind note that just says, "Hey, Johnny, I love you. I'm looking forward to seeing you later today."
Just something to give your kiddo something to look forward to later on in the day. Not only should parents be encouraging students with positive speak, but students should reinforce that for themselves. Making sure that they are in a positive frame of mind. It could be a little encouragement to the self. This is a great opportunity to make friends. This is a great opportunity to test your knowledge base.
It's also, it could be fun. It could be fun for these students, as long as they have that right frame of mind, to just think positively and know that it's not forever. Even just the little things, like, "Okay, this is just for today. This is just for this week." Making sure that you are in a good frame of mind when you get started, and you're not worrying about other things at home.
Sarah: I talk to myself, and I think of all that I've done, of all that I've studied, all that I've prepared. I just can be hopeful because I say that to myself. As long as you've gotten ready, you'll do your best. You try to do your best, then your best is enough.
Adelita Shepherd: As a parent, really encouraging your student to enjoy the day. To have fun. To let them know that you'll be there to pick them up when the test is finished. To reinforce that good experience and to try new things. The children feel better. They trust parents, and so they're going to trust what they say in those terms of being cared for and being in a trusted place.
The kids are going to feel so much better, and they're going to perform better because they're relaxed. They understand that this is something that is a safe haven.
Heidi Higgins: Test taking tip number seven. Work on breathing and calming techniques.
Adelita Shepherd: Just remember to take some deep breaths, and focus on what's in front of you as opposed to what is in front of other people. If we get too caught up in what others are doing, we're going to forget what we're doing. Focusing in our breathing and what is in front of us individually really helps to alleviate that stress and anxiety.
Ben: Sometimes during a test, you get stressed. If you have worked on breathing and calming techniques, you can use those to help yourself calm down and work through the problem to help solve it correctly.
Sarah: Well, breathing in slowly can help you focus and can help you feel more oriented and confident and help you remember that you've studied and you're ready for it. Calming techniques always help.
Ben: Sometimes when the noise gets to me in the classroom, I'll plug my ears so that I can finally have some silence. It can help you re-concentrate and just relax, so that you can read through questions and be able to do better.
Heidi Higgins: Test taking tip number eight. Encourage the children not to rush, but instead to manage their time.
Adelita Shepherd: Heidi, that is a tough one because we want two things. We want students to take their time, but we also want them to be time aware. Every question is going to take a certain amount of time. While we don't want our students to sit in the testing center, watching their watch, but we do want to make sure that they have some type of pace so that they can move from question to question with confidence and with a really good understanding of what the question is without spending too much time and worrying about what is the answer.
And so, when students go through the questions, being thorough and reading the entire question and reading all of the possible answers before answering is a really good strategy. That way, you know that you're taking a specific amount of time to read through all of that information and then making a choice. Students can pace themselves that way, by making sure that every word is read. Every answer is made by processing through all of that information.
Heidi Higgins: Test taking tip number nine. Reach out to the teacher, especially if you sense your child is very concerned. Maybe a little overanxious about coming into the testing center.
Adelita Shepherd: What if your student is really, really anxious? Get on the phone with one of the teachers that's going to be at the testing site. Have a conversation with them before you even go to the test site, so that there's a voice familiarity. Maybe the student and teacher can get on a quick Zoom, or a [inaudible 00:13:34] classroom so they can be face to face for just a few minutes. Just one on one, without their other peers, just so that they can get to know each other so that when the child and the parent walk into the testing center, they have a face that they're looking forward to seeing.
I think that would be a really good way to alleviate some of that stress.
Heidi Higgins: Finally, test taking tip number 10. Put the test into perspective. Explain that this test will provide helpful information about what they're great at and what they still need to practice. Encourage them to smile and make a new friend, and you might want to have a fun plan for when the test is over.
Ben: When you're done, you can hug your parent and then ask them to take you out for ice cream.
Adelita Shepherd: Going back to the preparation, doing this over and over, multiple days, will really help to get you into that routine, to keep you in that positive frame of mind, and to really just continue that bond with your student during this testing season that could prove a little bit tricky for some families.
Heidi Higgins: Thank you, Adelita Shepherd, from Colorado Destinations Career Academy. Thanks to Ben and Sarah for taking a moment of their spring break to talk with us today. Good luck in your testing season. You've got this.
Parents, one last thing. Remember that you are the example. On that testing day, dress up. Look good. Eat a good breakfast. Have a wonderful day.
Thank you for listening to K12 On Learning. To learn more about our online public schools, our career prep programs, and our private school and individual course offerings, please go to K12 dot com. Remember to subscribe to this podcast so you can join us next time for K12 On Learning.
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