Kendra Bartholomew is an elementary school teacher in the Salt Lake City School District in Utah. Here, she shares her studying tips that both parents and students of any age can benefit from.
As the end of the school year approaches, one thing is constantly on every student’s, teacher’s, and parent's mind: high-stakes testing. With changes in curriculum and the rigors of testing, teachers and students feel the pressure earlier and earlier each year. It can be difficult to navigate the tricky world of testing, and for parents, it may often feel very overwhelming. Just as you wouldn't begin a long road trip with an empty tank of gas or have only flour in your food storage without other essential items, students should not come to school on testing days without the proper preparation. We can find comfort and assurance in the counsel given to the Prophet Joseph Smith: "If ye are prepared ye shall not fear" (D&C 38:30). As parents or students, there are several things you can do to be more prepared. In addition to the normal testing tips of getting a good night's rest and eating a hearty breakfast, here are five tips that I have found beneficial to my students during these nerve-racking times:
1. Eat a "brain power" snack.
Some schools may be allowed to provide a small snack right before the test or perhaps during. Ask your school or your student's teacher if this is possible. Some teachers are able to provide a snack for a little "brain power." If not, then ask the teacher beforehand if you could provide a simple snack for the class before their test.
2. Come to school throughout the year.
Parents, please support your student in getting to school on time every day! I can't stress this one enough. Countless studies have been done on the academic effects of absenteeism. As a teacher, I have experienced the struggle of trying to teach my class the core curriculum while combating chronic to severe absences of students. When your student has frequent absences, they are missing vital instruction and therefore creating huge gaps in their education. It is difficult to help absent students catch up when Sara misses the lesson on place value method of division one day and then Jake misses the division lesson with zeros in the quotient the next day, but the rest of the class is ready to move on to the next subject and you are required as a teacher to stick to the district's pacing map for curriculum.
Chances are the curriculum for your student's grade is more rigorous than what you remember from grade school. Because of this you may feel at a loss in how to help them with their homework as they use various methods that you never learned. Your student's teacher has been working hard all year to teach the core concepts to the class with a variety of strategies as well as prepare them for what to expect for testing conditions. They've also spent a lot of time practicing and reviewing. When your student is absent, they are missing out on this vital instruction that will be built upon in upcoming grades. I'm not saying make your student go to school when they are violently ill, but encourage them to go to school even when they don't want to, and schedule doctor and dentist appointments for them outside of school hours.
3. Ask the teacher for guidance.
If you know your student struggles in a particular area or with a certain topic and you are unsure about how you can help your student, go ask your student's teacher. Some schools have after-school programs or special interventions. If your student struggles with a particular subject or concept, the teacher and school will have resources to help them.
4. Teach your student stress and anxiety coping strategies.
There's no denying that testing is not our favorite thing in the world, sometimes driving students to develop test anxiety and other disorders. Spend time with your student helping them develop de-stress strategies. This could be in the form of calming breaths, yoga for kids, and (something I cannot tell my students) praying for peace and clarity of thought on testing days.
5. Most important for your student to remember is that tests do not determine their worth.
This may not be easy for students—or teachers, for that matter—when it feels like their worth and future lives depend on performing well. Yes, we all want your student to do their best on high-stakes testing, but imagine the insignificance of one test on our eternal worth and destiny. One failing score is not worth our constant worry. Our worth is greater than this. I tell my students that if they have done all in their power to prepare (coming to school, paying attention, etc.) and they perform their very best, than that is all that matters.
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