Tests are a part of life. Throughout the years of education, tests will determine what a child does next. For anyone who enters a professional career, tests will decide the level they reach and the particular direction they will choose. In a wider sense, we are constantly being tested, by our employers, our peers, even our families. How can parents prepare children for a lifetime of being tested?
Beat the Stress
Tests are stressful. A measure of stress is an advantage—when the adrenalin flows, our brains function faster and stamina keeps us going for longer. But too much stress can be counter-productive, if it means that we are paralyzed by fear, or if we get so little sleep that we arrive at the test completely exhausted. So parents can help their children perform better by enabling them to get the stress levels right.
It is easier said than done, but don’t make too big a deal of the tests. Emphasize that ‘yes,’ they are important and need to be worked for, but ‘no,’ this particular school test is not a matter of life and death.
When talking about tests, keep your references light and try to make the whole thing seem like fun. Play games around the table to explore questions of the sort that are to be expected. If facts need to be remembered, try to associate them with fun experiences or made up stories.
To mentally prepare for tests, nothing beats practice. Keep practice sessions brief and be prepared to cut them short. If you live in one of the states that use the PARCC test, practice papers are available which can get your children into the right frame of mind to sit the real tests. Knowing what to expect is a huge advantage.
As you work with your child, you should be able to spot the areas that are found to be particularly difficult. You may also get advice from teachers about this. Take a step back and build confidence by repeating what is easy before building up again to the tricky bits. Take any opportunity to repeat the basics of taking tests, like ‘Read the instructions first.’
Mind or Body
Don’t neglect the physical aspects of being on good form. Mark the date in your diary and avoid anything which is going to interfere with routine in the days leading up to it. See that your child gets a succession of good nights’ sleep, not just the one immediately before the test.
Have a good breakfast prepared—something that will go on providing energy throughout the day—not just sugary cereal, but balanced protein, fats and carbs.
On the day of the test, send your children off with the assurance that they have done everything they can and you know they will do their best, which is all that matters. Afterwards, ask about the test and re-assure them that, whatever the result, you are proud of them and looking forward to whatever the next stage will be.
Bernie Starns is a teacher who has worked mostly with kids ages 11-13. Keen to help the kids achieve more, and to have parents help their kids too, he writes education based articles.
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