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Monday, October 24, 2011

School Bell: Test Anxiety

[Note:  WOW! It has been a long two weeks since I was at the helm of Upbeats and Downbeats!  I apologize to those who follow me regularly.  After pretty much every single day for over a year I hit a brick wall after the wedding and was just exhausted.  But, I am back on my feet and ready to get back in my blog groove.  Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me!! Spread the word... I'm ba-a-a-a-ck.]

Any day now your child will wake up dreading going to school because that day is dreaded test day.  Almost all of us can remember what it was like to dread that first big test with a new teacher, or to worry about the standardized tests the whole grade was taking.  Test znxiety is perfectly normal, but also perfectly horrible.  As parents and teachers we need to follow the tried and true basics to help our kids muddle through...

1. Know the difference between classroom tests and standardized tests.  
---To prepare for classroom tests you do study.... your notes, homework and review sheets. Buddy systems sometimes help. Or flashcards, or game reviews [See my Feb 21, 2011 post.] Studying helps because they are designed to test recall of details just taught or introduçed.
---To prepare for standardized tests you do not study. They are designed to measure accumulated long term knowledge,  and ability to use accumulated skill routines or apply old info to new situations.

2. Know that rest and nutrition really DO help achievement on both kinds of tests.
Whatever studying is or isn't done, a good night's sleep and a good breakfast or lunch really make a difference in the body's ability to focus, calm, and think clearly.  This is when a good bedtime routine is helpful and a favorite breakfast or snack or lunch is a boost as well.

3. Know that relaxation is key.
Prepare your child way ahead by teaching them to know how they can relax in the moment of stress.  Deep breathing.  A quick prayer.  A fidget "toy" to kep from finger drumming.  A sentence affirmation to repeat for reassurance. Whatever works best for your child in a classroom situation. Like looking for your keys when you are upset about being late... searching for the answers in your head is equally difficult when all your focus is on the worry.

These aren't the only three strategies, but these will reduce test anxiety more and more as children understand and employ them automatically.

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