A classroom teacher’s guide to reducing test anxiety (and testing!)

A 10-year elementary school teaching veteran offers tips on how to focus students on the learning, not the assessments

If you keep your students in the loop about testing and help them understand its importance, they tend to have less anxiety and more buy-in. I’m honest about the importance of our state and district assessments and how we use that data to deliver instruction to them. I also tell their parents what our testing dates are so they can help prepare anxious students and reinforce the importance of trying your best.

Even so, I occasionally have students with anxiety about assessments. I make sure to take extra time to speak with these particular students and give them strategies to help calm their nerves and overcome their anxiety.

Use formative assessment to gauge skills
With the help of Scholastic Books (), I’ve created a large classroom library organized by reading level. Each book in the library has a colored dot indicating the book’s level. As students progress, I add the appropriate dots to their laminated bookmarks to expand their reading lists.

Also included in the bookmarks is their login information for Renaissance Star Reading® and Renaissance Star Math® assessments, which we use for benchmark assessments in the fall, winter, and spring. Those benchmarks inform instruction and help me to evaluate my own teaching. We can use that data to determine what our students may need and how we can differentiate instruction to meet all levels of progression for a particular skill.

Reward achievement
When I plan my incentive party each quarter, I ensure that each child is included and receives some sort of reward for meeting even a small percentage of their goal. I’ve had great buy-in from parents using this method.

As classroom teachers, we can’t eliminate all testing from the classroom. However, we can use a variety of methods to assess student achievement and make unavoidable testing less fraught with anxiety for everyone involved.

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