What you should be doing the week before the state test

For years I dreaded the week before the state test. There were SO many standards students still needed to master before the test came, and I knew I didn’t have enough time. After a while I realized that putting that much stress on myself and on my students wasn’t helping anyone.

If you’re like me and know you need to make a change in how you handle the week before the state test, here are my suggestions:

Breathe.

I live in a state where test scores are connected to teacher salary. I also have many students several grade levels behind in reading and math. I know how hard it is to not be stressed when the state test comes around.

I had to realize something very important: I can’t really control how the students do on the test. All I can do is easy their anxiety, and that means that I need to stop being anxious myself.

Remind yourself that no matter what, this test does not define you or your students. That student that somehow answered all the fraction questions wrong on the test after all the work you went to to plan a hands-on fraction unit, will probably be successfully measuring and converting in their kitchen when they’re an adult – because of you.

So how important is the state test really compared to the time you’ve spent the rest of the year teaching them skills for their future?

Work on self-confidence.

I’ve noticed that many of my students lose self-confidence when they take the state tests. Every time they see a question the don’t know the answer to, they second guess themselves. Use the week before the test to build your students up.

  • Have students explore things they’re good at.
  • Tell students why you appreciate them.
  • Give students activities they’ll be successful at.

As tempted as you are to give students more test prep practice questions on standards you know they haven’t mastered yet, ask yourself first if it’s going to help or harm their self-confidence. You’ve prepared them the best you can for the test already. Now isn’t the time to give them activities that will frustrate them.

Let students be creative.

Your students have several hours/days ahead of them where they will have to sit quietly and stare at either paper or a device with multiple choice questions. Don’t wait until after the test to give them a break. You can easily tie something creative like an art project or project-based learning into your standards.

Project-based learning for 4th grade: school carnival
I like to work on project-based learning activities with students before and after the state test so that they have a standard-driven activity to work on that keeps them motivated.

In the past I’ve given students creative time as the “carrot” after testing. The issue I’ve found with this is that students think the big test marks the end of us doing serious learning, which is definitely not how it works in my classroom. Giving students hands-on, creative activities the week before the test shows students that the test does not affect our classroom learning.

Talk about what happens after the test.

As I said above, it’s important that students don’t think the test is the end of their learning. Spend some time talking to students about what they’re learning after the test. Take out the calendar and talk about what skills they’re going to learn at the end of the year. Point out activities they should be aware of.

The day of the test is not the last day they should care about their learning.

 

The fact that you’re reading this means that you care about your students. Try to breathe and enjoy this week. Let the stress go!