With teachers beginning to prepare their students for the upcoming NAPLAN, it’s the perfect time for parents to also start preparing, especially considering the nerves that come along with it. More than ever, students are struggling with stress linked to school pressures and exams, in fact a study by the Edith Cowan University found that 90% of teachers reported their students feeling stressed in connection to NAPLAN.
With exams remaining a key part of the educational system, how can we protect children from experiencing test anxiety whilst simultaneously ensuring that they do their absolute best. Data from these tests can be very useful for identifying areas of strength, allowing for teachers to target the specific learning needs of students. However, this is only true if the data is accurate, test anxiety or improper test taking can result in incorrect data that becomes redundant and can actually waste a teacher’s time.
To ensure that Aussie children are given the best chance to show exactly what they can and can’t do in the upcoming NAPLAN and other school related tests, we’ve enlisted the help of Matific’s Education Expert and Ex-Primary Teacher, Brent Hughes, who’s provided seven top tips to help overcome test anxiety.
1. Focus on “doing your best” NOT “being the best”
There is a huge difference between doing your best and being the best. If you consistently reinforce to your children that all you want is for them to do their best, then they will feel confident in themselves that they are capable of achieving that. It removes a lot of the pressure from the situation, which will in turn allow them to improve on what they thought they could do.
2. Be prepared
NAPLAN exams are a long way off, but incorporating extra learning opportunities now will allow for those skills to be consolidated by the time the tests are happening. Keep preparation fun and light hearted. Play games, read books, write stories – do anything which can be based around the child’s interest. There is currently an array of great educational resources out there which children and parents can access outside of school and can help children develop confidence with certain subjects, like maths for example. Technology-based learning program Matific Galaxy is an award-winning online resource for kids from Kindergarten to Year 6, which uses gamification to make maths fun and engaging. This type of preparation will ensure that kids aren’t putting excessive pressure on themselves months out from the actual tests. It can also help to ease stress with subjects they may feel more anxious about.
3. Fuel up
Ask any educator, and they’ll no doubt agree just how tough it is to teach a tired or hungry child. Fueling your child’s body with the best type of energy can go a long way to ensuring they perform their best mentally. Avoid sugary foods and fizzy drinks and keep hydrated with lots of water. When you combine a good night’s sleep with a nice healthy breakfast and good wholesome meals throughout the day, the chances of the child performing at their best increases tenfold.
4. Remove external stressors
“The test” can be stressful enough for young children, especially when they are so young and haven’t done this type of thing before. There are a lot of things that you can avoid which will help them focus on what they need to. Arrive at school on time to eliminate any rushing stress, try and avoid antagonistic siblings and aim to remain calm and centered yourself so your child doesn’t pick up on any negative/anxious energy.
5. Read the questions properly
Nerves can make children do funny things, so make sure you remind them to carefully read the question a few times before embarking on their answer. Practice reading questions with your children and get them to repeat back to you what they think the question is asking. It sounds trivial, but it’s a fun way of getting them into the habit of understanding what the question is actually asking. This can be half the challenge with exams and something which can trip a lot of students up.
It’s important to remind your child/children to take a moment to stop and slowly breathe whenever they’re feeling stressed or anxious. It seems like such a simple and obvious thing, but helping your child become more mindful on their breathing can really help to ease pressure. If you train your child/children to identify the warning signs of test anxiety, you can help them with some management techniques. This can be as easy as just stopping for a minute and taking three deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, which will help to keep them in the moment and focused.
7. Focus on the important things
The actual “test” is not one of the important things. Talk with your child about how their long-term learning is more important overall than the isolated test itself. The reason for the test is to aid the teacher to know how they can guide the student with their future education. Therefore, the most important thing for them to remember on “test day” is that they simply do their best. Aside from that, it’s important that they eat nutritious food, have fun with their friends and drink plenty of water throughout the day to remain physically and mentally balanced. Remind your child to keep the exam in perspective, and whatever the outcome is the world won’t end and they haven’t failed. If the final test result isn’t as desired, remind them to focus on the positive fact that it’s a chance for them to keep learning and improving. Don’t forget they are still a child, and childhood is supposed to be fun.