While neither teachers nor students particularly like standardized tests, the tests are necessary to measure students’ learning. As states put more emphasis on test results, both students and teachers can feel the stress of improving results. Elementary students can especially sense any stress their teachers are under, and that stress may be reflected in their test scores. Adequate preparation can help alleviate the stress and help the students succeed on their tests.
While teachers never know the exact questions asked on standardized tests, they do have a set of standardized objectives provided by their state. These objectives state what students should know in content areas and what skills the students should be able to perform. Each school district incorporates the state-mandated objectives into its curriculum to ensure that students learn the materials necessary for their standardized tests. For example, the state of Missouri requires all school districts to align their curriculum to meet the Show-Me Standards, a statewide listing of standard objectives for core classes. Once a teacher knows what her students must know, she can create daily lessons to provide the information the students need.
Since it’s impossible to teach everything the students need to know shortly before the test, teachers often devise ways to provide review throughout the year to keep skills and information fresh in elementary students’ minds. For example, if a fourth-grade class is currently learning about division with more than one digit, the teacher will periodically provide math questions that require the students to use addition or fractions. If a fifth-grade class should know how to read and interpret graphs, the teacher will find ways to incorporate graphs into science, social studies and language arts lessons, as well as math. Some teachers devise games to review previously taught concepts, while others provide questions on regular tests set up like the questions students will see on a standardized test.
Help From Home
Parents can help their elementary students prepare for tests at home by providing a stress-free study zone. As the test date approaches, teachers often send out information about the upcoming tests, including the name of the test, what it measures and the testing format. Once a parent knows this information, she can prepare activities at home to help the child review. Grade-appropriate vocabulary and math games can help prepare an elementary child for test day. Questions from old tests and homework assignments can also serve as study tools. Since some standardized tests are timed, set time limits on review activities to get the child used to working at a steady pace. Take the night off from review the night before the test, and make sure the child gets a good night’s sleep. A good breakfast on the morning of test day helps provide the energy needed to do well on the test.
Prior to administering the test, teachers often play a simple game, such as Simon Says, with their students to alleviate some stress and burn off some energy. Since peppermint is known to help alleviate stress, some schools allow their elementary children to suck on a peppermint candy while taking their standardized tests. Once the tests are over, teachers often allow their students to have some down time, such as extra time on the playground.
- Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Missouri School Improvement Program
- Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: The Show-Me Standards
- Scholastic: Top 5 Ways to Prepare Students for Standardized Tests
- Scholastic: Standardized Tests / Prepare And Interpret Results
- SunSentinel.com: Anxious About Taking A Test? Try a Peppermint
- Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images