John is in the fourth grade, and his school has announced the dates for the end of the year standardized testing. Given that John struggles academically, how should his parents approach this event?
A. Hope for the best.
B. Pressure John to pay attention and study.
C. Tell John just to do his best.
D. Ensure John is prepared emotionally and academically.
Most parents have a lot to say about the validity and necessity of standardized tests. Your viewpoint on the subject will not change the fact that your child will soon face the rigors of the dreaded end of year exam. Like it or not, the scores and percentiles are quite important to your child’s future. Children are given a vast amount of knowledge throughout the school year, and are expected to be able to recall enough to answer the questions on a seemingly endless battery of tests. Teachers have been preparing their classes all year. Parents can also help prepare for a standardized test by offering emotional encouragement and academic support.
Take responsibility. I visited a classroom of third graders recently, and one of the children shared that she was afraid to take the end of grade test. The teacher was out of the room, so the assistant answered the child. “You don’t have to worry one bit. Your teacher will teach you everything you need to know.” Tell your child that you and her teacher are going to work together to ensure test readiness. Take the burden of responsibility off the child, and listen for the sigh of relief.
Practice the format. The first time I did my taxes myself, I was overwhelmed. In the following years, the process seemed easier. The procedure was just as difficult, but I was familiar with the form. Make sure your child has a chance to practice the test in the exact format he will see it on testing day. The text formatting, page layout, and wording of instructions should be exactly the same, so that on testing day, your child will be familiar with everything but the actual questions. Your school probably already gives these practice tests. If not, Scholastic offers a wide range of test prep materials.
Make a plan. Find out if your child has any questions or concerns about testing. What if his pencil breaks? What if the calculator doesn’t work? What if she has to go to the restroom? What if a question is just too hard? Get answers from the child’s teacher, and while you’re at it, find out all the test taking strategies taught in the classroom. Help get rid of a few more anxieties by teaching your child how to skip a question or signal for a new pencil.
Teach relaxation. Remember Lamaze class? Share your favorite relaxation techniques with your child. Teach her to tackle only one question at a time. Help him to tighten and relax muscles to relieve tension. Teach self-encouragement phrases: “You can do this. That one was hard, but this is a new question.”
Clear the calendar. The night before a test, clear the calendar. Skip athletic games, scout meetings, dance lessons and piano. Your child probably won’t have any homework, but resist the temptation to review academics. Lay out clothes and lunches for the next day, and use the rest of the time for the family, with a nutritious meal, a family movie, and an early and stress free bedtime.
Express unconditional love. Whether your child bubbles in correctly or not, expressing your love will create a bubble of confidence that will be hard to break. Even if scores never reach the 99th percentile, make it clear that your love will be there 100% of the time. To your child, this is the percentile that counts.