6 Ways to Motivate Your Students During Testing


Are you one of the lucky grade levels that gets to do state testing this spring? If you are, don’t get too stressed! Your students are more than ready to show what they know and rock the test! Here’s some fun and helpful ways to motivate your students for testing.

Students often feel anxious and nervous about testing and so do teachers! And understandably so. State assessments are a departure for most students from their day to day classroom environments and activities. Classrooms are quiet, desks are rearranged, privacy partitions are up, anchor charts are down, and the days can be long.

It’s important to calm the nerves of your students (and yours) and make state assessments a success for everyone! I’ve dug into my toolbox of helpful tips and tricks and come up with 6 ways to motivate your students during testing.

Testing Tip 1. Spiral Review

Nothing prepares students for testing better than making sure they are confident with all the content they will see on the assessments! Throughout the year focus on reviewing concepts that students have learned in previous units. This helps keep skills sharp and prevents learning loss. That way instead of having to review and “cram” for the state assessments students are prepared. You’ve made review a part of their day to day routine.

This is referred to as spiral review and simply means that concepts are being spiraled back to throughout the year. Spiral review makes a great morning work activity or a station during independent practice. It is meant to focus on concepts that students already know!

If you’re on the lookout for some engaging spiral review, I have a few recommendations. Monthly Packets are themed and are full of no-prep worksheets that cover all the standards in a grade level for the year. Another great resource for review are Summer Review Packets.

Now, yes, of course state assessments come before summer break, but summer is right around the corner and these resources are sure to get your kiddos ready for the test and more importantly for the next grade ahead!

Testing Tip 2. Communicate with Families

Telling parents and families when state assessments will be is so important! The best testing environment for students is the one where they get to be testing with their class in their classroom. Their attendance matters! Sending home notes well in advance of testing can help families plan and make the testing dates a priority.

Getting good sleep, eating a full breakfast, and most importantly, words of encouragement and praise will start your students off on the best foot forward before they even enter your classroom!

Testing Tip 3. Practice Test Formats & Vocabulary

You’d be surprised how important knowing the format and vocabulary of a test is for success. Students need to know what the assessments they are taking will look like. How the directions sound and what to expect on the actual day of testing. Practicing with materials that replicate the state assessments is important work.

That doesn’t mean have your class sit down and do practice tests day after day! Instead spend time exploring practice tests together. Lead your students collaboratively through the practice tests. Stop and discuss the vocabulary used in the questions and prompts.

Did you know that knowing the most common testing vocabulary words and what they mean can greatly increase students’ success on standardized tests? Here is a great, simple resource that highlights 55 Common Words that students should know for state assessments.

Help your students become familiar with testing tools like text to speech or enlarging and highlighting text on a computer. Use this time to answer questions about the test. Show your students how to successfully navigate the test platform. These tests can often feel very different from classroom based assessments, or other things students see and do everyday. Practice, preparation, and time to learn about standardized testing will help your students feel ready and confident for the big day!

Testing Tip 4. Motivate and Praise

Calm those nerves you know your students will have on the day of testing. Use testing motivation and praise right from the minute they enter your room. Make sure to start the morning of testing off calmly. Greet your students and highlight their strengths before the test even begins. Students often are nervous because they want to do well for you. Reassure them that you know they will do well and that this test is a chance to show what they know.

A cute way to motivate your students is with a small treat and card for each day of testing. These Motivational Testing Cards are perfect for your students. There are seven designs to choose from and each can easily align with a snack your students can munch on during testing. Grab some goldfish crackers or fruit snack packets and be all done. Snacks during testing keep the belly full and the brain engaged!

Testing Tip 5. Testing Motivation Buddies

A fun idea that gets your whole school involved in making state testing less scary is testing motivation buddies. Have each non-testing grade level teacher buddy up with a grade level teacher that is doing state testing.

Students in the younger class create posters and write notes of encouragement to celebrate and spread joy to their older buddy students. These can be used when they might need a little boost on the day of testing. Smiles are sure to be contagious, hearts will feel lighter, and that standardized test will seem like a mountain that can be climbed and conquered. We all know that having a team behind you makes anything possible!

Testing Tip 6. Celebrate

The best has been saved for last! When all the tests are done make sure to take time to celebrate! It doesn’t have to be a lot or a huge departure from normal routines, but make sure to take time to show and tell your students how proud you are of them for their hard work.

Start right away by telling students immediately when they submit their test that they did amazingly and that they tried their best and worked hard. Honest praise and care of your students is the most important way you can let them know that you recognize the effort they put into their assessments. Simple words go a long way and they matter the most!

If you want to go a little bigger… Celebrate the ending of state assessments with a treat. Proven to be a sure way to create a fun core memory about state assessments for your class. A “Perfect Performance Popsicle Party” or a “Swiss Rolls for Smarties” (Bonus: Here’s a Crown they can wear that says Smarty Pants), or “Tea, Twix, and Testing” are all cute ways to incorporate a special treat into your end of testing celebration!

State assessments seem like big things to students and teachers alike. Just remember that all the things that you have done and taught your students is much more than can be measured on any test. They will rock the assessments all the same. 

Never let your value or worth as a teacher be defined by performance on assessments. The love, care, and learning you give your students is helping to create amazing humans that are so much more than a test score! Cheers to getting through the testing season strong and enjoying it along the way!

Written by: Andrea Gudmundson

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