Test Anxiety - last minute strategies?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Bored of Ed, Apr 13, 2013.

  1. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    Apr 13, 2013

    I have a student who is new to me and is presenting with severe test anxiety. We start state testing on Tuesday. He is a smart kid who is sure to do well - might not get a perfect score but could easily be near the top of the class. On practices and low-stakes tests he's near or at the top but I think he is getting so unglued about the state tests that he will seriously underperform, not to mention that he'll be miserable for at least the two weeks during which the tests are administered. I already assured him that he is in zero danger of being left back because in our school promotion is never based solely on these scores and this student is doing great overall. He just has this perfectionism coming from within, it's not a fear of some specific consequence. I know the parents and they aren't going to penalize him for not doing well, either. But I had him literally in tears the other day during a practice example because he wasn't sure of the answer - and that was a TEACHING session, 1:1, with me right there gently encouraging and all.

    We've discussed positive self-talk and how he has nothing real to be afraid of, as well as test-taking strategies in the hope that knowing them will increase his confidence. What other strategies can I try now that testing is upon us? (he is already approved for extra time and a separate location)
     
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  3. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Apr 13, 2013

    Hm. How is he at helping others?
     
  4. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    Doesn't like to be bothered (he's a sweet kid, but prefers personal space). Why? Can't help anyone on a test anyway, so I'm curious what your idea was.
     
  5. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I'm not sure if this is the kind of thing you were looking for, but I find that chewing gum helps me de-stress. I think I just work out all my nervous energy through my jaw or something. It obviously wouldn't be a cure-all for serious anxiety, but it might help take the edge off.
     
  6. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    You're right, this is actually something I've already found helps this student, thanks for the reminder to bring gum on test day!

    I just feel so bad for the kid. It's painful to watch how sad he is when objectively there's no observable reason for it. He's really doing fine. Better than fine.
     
  7. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Apr 14, 2013

    I asked, because a lot of future teachers have test anxiety, and one strategy that tends to work well with them is to tell them to imagine how they'd help someone else who was stuck.

    Gum is a fine thing, or peppermint candy.
     
  8. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    Apr 14, 2013

    That's an interesting idea. Thanks for sharing. Not sure it will fit for this kid, but it can't hurt to suggest, and in any case I'll add it to my "idea bank!"
     
  9. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Apr 14, 2013

    This is really silly, but something that works well with some of my perfectionist students... First we look at a test and determine what they need to make an A and a B. Then we set some guidelines (basically giving them permission). If they can miss three questions and receive an A, I give them permission to skip three questions (or take their best guess if it's multiple choice). It's so silly, but just the thought of having my permission seemed to help the students. It also helped them to know that if they skipped these questions, they could still get an A or B on the test.
     
  10. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Apr 14, 2013

    Something to think about for next year when you write the new IEP...maybe provide breaks so that when the student starts to get frustrated about a question, he can get a drink/go for a walk. Taking the testing in a 1:1 setting so as not to disrupt other students. Maybe a stop light so that he can change the colors as he feels more frustrated with the test.
     
  11. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Apr 14, 2013

    mopar has a great comment. Students with test or other anxieties can get on a 504 plan that will give them more time for testing and breaks.



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    another favorite blog: http://dianeravitch.net
     
  12. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    He does have the accommodations already. I suspect the extended time just gives him more time to obsess over his answers which were probably better off the first time, but at least it relieves the aspect of time pressure. And the private setting is definitely better for this student, though we don't really have enough private places for all the students with this accommodation, so it ends up being more like a few kids to a room, but it's still a more relaxing environment than the full classroom.

    I have been trying so hard to show him that you don't need to do perfectly in order to succeed with this test, but he is just that much of a perfectionist. He wants to get EVERYTHING right. And the grading system is a bit fuzzy and complicated, as far as I can tell. You're scored from 1-4, so I'd assume there's quite a range for each grade and getting one thing wrong won't make it or break it. But this kid panics anyway, and I can't figure out exactly how many you need for a 4. Anyone familiar with the NY state tests want to weigh in?
     
  13. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Apr 14, 2013

    I wouldn't be worried about an exact number that he needs to answer. I would just give him permission to skip a few questions. If there are 60 questions on a section, give him permission to guess on 6 of them.
     
  14. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    He won't accept it. He just wants to do everything perfectly. Sigh. He holds himself to a high standard... opposite problem from most of my students, lol.
     
  15. physteach

    physteach Companion

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    Apr 14, 2013

    I just attended a conference that highlighted anxiety issues with students. There is evidence through scientific study that having a student take 10 minutes before a test to write about their feelings and anxieties, write about a time when they felt the same way, and "write/think through" the emotions, actually helps them perform better.
     
  16. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    Apr 14, 2013

    Physteach, thank you. Can you share anything else about how to implement that strategy? How do you guide the student to "write/think through" their emotions?
     

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