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March Madness. It is definitely a fun time of year with the college basketball championship, but perhaps not when you are a classroom teacher trying to prepare your students for annual academic testing. In order to set your students up for success, think about being proactive, praising, and celebrating.

Be Proactive

Students tend to perform better at any task when they know what to expect.

Questions students may have could include: what kind of test, how long will they have to work, what types of questions will be asked, what to do when they finish a test. Rather than simply telling students what to expect, proactively teach them.

Here is an example of how a proactively taught lesson might sound:

  • Introduce: Class, today we are going to go over and practice a timeframe for a test you will be taking.
  • Teach: In each of the tests you will take, there is a limited time in which you will have to work. When you need to work within a timeframe, it’s important to
    1. • Read each item.

      • Decide whether to answer it immediately or tag it to return to later.

      • When you are finished with the last item on the test, return to the tagged items to complete.

  • Give a reason: When you follow these steps, you are more likely to be able to answer the questions you can answer quickly and have more time to answer questions that take you longer.
  • Practice: Let’s try this out. I’m going to pass out a 10-item review test that you will have 10 minutes to complete. Remember to wait until I say “Start,” then answer all the questions you know first and tag ones you need to go back to work on before the ten minutes is up.
  • Teaching students specific behaviors to help them be successful is important. However, don’t underestimate the power of using reasons and practice for teaching any skill or expectation. Knowing why specific behaviors are important helps students to internalize the importance of those behaviors. Practice helps students experience real life situations and will more likely help them to be successful in real life moments.


    Everyone likes to be encouraged during difficult endeavors.

    While students are testing, praise can go a long way in encouraging them to continue to work hard and do their best. While you may not want to have praise be a distraction to the testing there are little ways to embed it throughout the testing period.

    Use a nonverbal gesture when a student looks up from testing. This could be a quick wink or a thumbs-up to let a student know you see him/her working hard or staying on task.

    If possible, take the time to walk around the testing environment. When needed, whisper a few simple words to students who would benefit from a quick acknowledgement such as “Keep up the good work,” “I can see you are working hard,” or “Great job staying on task.”

    After each testing period and especially after all testing is complete, let all students know they did well by using both individual and group praise. Adding a reason when using praise at this time can both show students you noticed what they did and help to reinforce expectations for future testing situations.

    Praise here can sound like: “Wow! You worked very quietly. That helped others to work without distractions” or “Nice job staying on task. When you stay on task you are more likely to do your best."


    Providing frequent, small celebrations may help your students stay motivated to continue doing their best when testing takes several days to complete

    Ideas for small celebrations may include spending a few minutes at the end of a testing period doing an activity your students enjoy such as playing a game, visiting with their classmates, or eating a snack. The possibilities are endless.

    At the end of all testing, a larger celebration may be a positive consequence you would like to provide for your students for completing all the assessments. Many schools provide end of testing celebrations by having special assemblies or activities the entire student body (teachers, too!) participates in.

    I hope these tips will help both you and your students experience less stress during this time of year. Who knows? Just as they highlight “One Shining Moment” at the conclusion of each college basketball championship, you may find your students’ own shining moments to note and celebrate.

    For more tips on test-taking click here.

    13603 Flanagan Blvd
    Boys Town, NE 68010



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