Standardized tests can be hard on students. Many of us still remember the frustration and anxiety we experienced when we were younger and sat down for our first round of testing. To make matters worse, it’s fairly common for students who are doing well academically to find themselves stymied by a single bad testing experience.
This “Know-Show Gap” can prevent teachers and schools from being able to represent the good work they do for the public. Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be the case–so long as both teachers and students plan accordingly.
By helping students prepare for tests mentally and physically, teachers can help them overcome even the trickiest of obstacles. These following strategies have been proven to help minimize the Know-Show Gap so students can prove what they really can do:
1. Setting the Stage: A student’s environment can play a crucial role on how well they perform on a standardized test. For instance, temperature extremes can diminish student focus and impair their performance. While studies vary in their conclusions, all indicate that optimal cognition takes place between 67 and 75 degrees. Likely, a temperature between 68 and 72 will be best for helping your students perform well on standardized tests. Additionally, try to eliminate any unnecessary noise from the environment. While some people may prefer to work with music or sound, very few people actually benefit.
2. Sound Mind, Sound Body, and Sound: A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Keeping students in their seats for long periods of time can stifle their ability to think and lead to a loss of focus. Simple stretching exercises can improve blood flow and can help energize students to maintain stamina through a long testing block. Additionally, providing students with a small snack that is low on the glycemic index can give them the mental fuel they need to perform their best.
3. Mind the Gaps: A rich environment won’t help a student much if they haven’t prepared mentally. For this, teachers should consider employing a good, old-fashioned brain dump. For a week prior to a standardized test, you can have students record as much as they can remember about what you learned during the different units you’ve explored. Have them write this out by hand–handwriting helps solidify knowledge in the memory. Follow this up with several partner reviews to reinforce it in students’ minds.
4. The Three Biggies: Finally, it’s good to remember the basics of test taking: Keep students separated to minimize distractions, remind them to eliminate answers they know are incorrect, and when everything else has been done, encourage them to go with their gut.
Standardized tests have their place in the world of education, but that doesn’t mean they need to be traumatic for the students taking them. By giving students the tools and techniques necessary to meet this challenge, educators can give them confidence, and can supercharge this success both in school and afterwards. So, don’t let your students underestimate themselves. Show them just what they can accomplish with a little creativity, confidence, and grit.
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