Sparkchasers Episode 31 | Show Notes
Reduce Test Anxiety with 3 Arts Strategies
It’s that time of year again in education – testing season. Regardless of how you feel about the topic, it’s clear that testing is tough on students and teachers alike. In this episode, Susan walks you through 3 arts strategies to help make the testing process a little less anxious for all.
Prep and Landing
One of the best things we can all do is prepare our students for the purpose of testing, how it’s structured, and why it’s being done. When students understand that this single snapshot doesn’t define who they are or what their potential is, testing anxiety is reduced. After the testing is over, use the opportunity to ask what parts were familiar, what parts were confusing, and then celebrate the fact that it’s over. The more we can keep testing in perspective, the less stress we’ll all feel.
Try singing a song any time of day – you’ll automatically feel more awake and alert! If you’ve used the arts in your classroom, chances are good you have a perfect song for this occasion. It’s especially effective to use a song lending itself to changing dynamics (softer, louder) or changing tempos (faster and slower). This way, students have to be paying attention to you as you lead them. This keeps them sharp, and keep them from singing mindlessly while creating a fun, game-like atmosphere.
This can come in many forms. Yoga poses, singing dance games, stretching, brain gym, and freeze dance are all great movement activities. Testing time may not be the best time to introduce something new, but it is a great time to use a favorite activity. Songs that include body movement are always great. Freeze dancing is easy to do without having to move furniture. It also creates a game atmosphere, where students get to move as they choose. But, they need to be on their toes to be ready for the “freeze.” (I usually only have students sit for one round if they get “out” since the purpose is for them to move!)
Also, you can give instructions during freeze dance to be sure they are really moving. For instance, dance up as high as you can, dance at a low level, stretch as many parts of your body as you can, do a dance move that crosses the midline, dance as fast as you can, dance in slow motion, etc.
A colleague of mine created a “Ready to Learn” dance. It consisted of a chant naming 6 key behaviors with accompanying gestures. I used it with some of my dance students. Some of the schools used the “Ready to Learn” dance as a way to prepare students before they sit down to take benchmark tests. Students can start using the chant with the movements, and then change to just the movements transitioning the students to silence for testing.
There is a fascinating TED Talk by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist. She explains that before you place yourself in an evaluative situation, you can raise the testosterone (relates to feeling powerful) and lower the cortisol levels (relates to stress) in your brain simply by holding one of several power poses (think Superman) for 2 minutes. It may help students perform optimally, especially those who enter testing situations lacking confidence in their abilities.
As you and your students enter testing time periods in your school year, remember the arts and let them help your students achieve greater success.
Have a Question?
Do you have a question about today’s episode or need help with something? Let me know using the button below and I’ll make sure to chat about it on an upcoming episode.