Whether we agree with standardized testing or not is a non-issue when it comes to our children in the classroom. They have to take the test, regardless of our personal opinions. If you want to know more about STAAR and how it compares to TAKS, there are some great resources on the Texas Education Agency website.
Here are some tips to help your child through STAAR testing week:
1. What they should expect. Talk to your kids about what to expect and how the STAAR test is not that different from regular tests and exams. When I pointed out to my daughter that she was already doing well in Language Arts and making good grades on her writing projects, she relaxed. Sometimes just reminding them that they already have the skills and a record of success can build their confidence.
2. Sample tests. If they are feeling stressed, you can see example of the types of questions and problems kids can expect at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/. When I reviewed one of the 4th grade reading tests, I knew my daughter would be fine. It’s very similar to the type of work she has been doing in class already. Let them take a sample test and see how well they do. Talk through some of the problems that may be challenging them.
3. Get plenty of sleep. A tired child cannot stay focused for hours on end.
4. Eat a healthy breakfast. Minimize sugar and carbohydrates and make sure your child has some protein to help keep their energy stable for a longer period of time. In many cases, schools are providing hot breakfast for kids this week. Check with your local school. Sometimes getting to school early to have breakfast with friends can help relax your child and take their mind off the test.
5. Make sure they get plenty of exercise and free play time after school. The test is stressful and the kids’ normal routine at school is different this week. Their minds need a mental break and after sitting all day, your younger ones will have excess energy to burn off. Physical activity is also great for helping kids to relax and sleep better!
6. Support and praise them. It may sound simple, but just tell them you are proud of them and know they will do a great job. Knowing you are rooting for them can help boost confidence.
7. Eat Healthy. Send a healthy lunch or talk to your kids about choosing a healthy lunch at the school cafeteria. Explain how healthy food supports their brains, kind of like Popeye and his spinach! My son’s middle school has required us to bring a sack lunch for the two days of testing. Kids will be eating in their testing rooms, so check your school’s regulations today.
8. Surprise them with a special note. Put a note in their lunch box to just say hi and you hope they are having a great day. Nothing fancy, just a sticky note saying “I love you” will lift tired spirit. Got older kids? Send them a quick lunchtime text showing your support. Don’t ask how it’s going, just say, “I am thinking about you, have a great day.” Whether they admit it in public or not, our kids need our love and support on a daily basis.
9. Go to the Dollar store and buy a couple of fun, colorful pencils. Even something this small brightens their day and gets them excited. As we near the end of the school year, pencils tend to be worn down and erasers nearly gone, make sure your kids are prepared.
10. Celebrate when the testing is complete and again when you get the scores. Acknowledge your child for their effort and their success. It might help to tell them that you will go out for ice cream or for a movie or a walk in the park at the end of the week. The key here is to keep their spirits up throughout the week.