Since the tests don’t seem to be disappearing any time soon, here are three excellent tips courtesy of Ernie Mendes to add to your repertoire (if you’re not doing them already)
Tip two: Teach students a few simple relaxation strategies and practice them during the practice tests.
Several long, slow, deep breaths, followed by a positive affirmation: Just relax I can do this. By giving them something to say to themselves, they substitute this for an otherwise panicky or negative thought like: I don’t know this, Oh X#$%^ which puts them in an un-resourceful state.
Tip three: Give anxious students (most will have some anxiety on testing day) 5-10 minutes to write down their anxieties and worries.
A recent study that came out from the University of Chicago showing that prior to a high-stakes test students who wrote down their worries improved their results over those who did not write. This is a good example of emptying the cup…before you fill it up, creating mental and emotional space for thinking and recalling.
Tip four: Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter and a prime fuel for working memory.
Strengthening or elevating dopamine levels before engaging in a highly cognitive task (i.e. test-taking) seems to be a good idea. Celebrations, physical activity, marching, or energizers can do the trick. Are you able to do a few of these before students have to sit and concentrate for 3 hours? I think it would be worth it. Also, use a stretch break at least at the half-way point. The brain uses glucose for energy. Exercise/movement stimulates the release of glucose stored as glycogen in the liver.