Editor’s note: This is a post from regular MSTA contributor Pam Clifton’s Teaching & Learning blog. Clifton is a sixth-grade English language arts and reading teacher at West St. Francois County R-4.

The annual state assessment is almost here, and that usually means increased anxiety for most teachers. Whether it’s third graders taking the MAP test for the first time or high school sophomores completing an End-of-Course assessment, the test-taking process can be stressful for all involved.

To help ease this transition period from review time to test-taking mode, some schools have test-prep events and even test-taking kick-off activities. The middle school where I teach has held a March-themed “MOB” month for several years. MOB stands for Moving Out of the Box. Our middle school English Language Arts teachers select MOB participants based on previous MAP scores and effort in class. The idea is to pick students who were borderline or just a few points above or below improvement. Students attend a 40-minute small-group study session and then enjoy a 40-minute session in the gym. Afterward, everyone meets together to have pizza, soda and get a chance at the daily door prize. This is only one example of how teachers can make test review fun and exciting.

Test motivators are another option. Search this topic on Pinterest and tons of great ideas will appear. From using Starbursts to create a “Burst of Energy” to making motivational bookmarks and posters (“slash the trash” to eliminate incorrect answers for multiple-choice questions), the possibilities are endless. One great idea that I found was teachers using sidewalk chalk to decorate the front entrance to welcome students on testing day. Phrases such as “we believe in you” and “you’ll do great” are sure to encourage any student to do his or her best.

Virtual Learning Connections offers a fun way to remind students of important test-taking tips. In their “Test-Prep Ideas” section, a week of dress-up days reminds students of important testing basics:

  1. Monday – wear pajamas to show how important getting a good night’s sleep is before the test
  2. Tuesday – wear bright colors to represent the eating healthy – such as fruits and vegetables – before a test
  3. Wednesday – wear a shirt backward to remind students to always go back and check their work
  4. Thursday – wear a shirt with words printed on it to show students the importance of always reading directions and questions thoroughly
  5. Friday – wear all black to remember how important it is to completely fill in testing bubbles (for those schools who are not taking computer-based tests)

Keep parents informed. Send testing information home through letters, texts, emails, class newsletters and social media posts. This will help parents ensure their children get plenty of rest and eat a healthy breakfast.

Help students make a test-taking foldable reminder guide. Try this one from Pinterest.

Talk to students. Make sure they are fully informed of what’s expected of them before, during and after testing.

Create a countdown until the day of MAP testing. Build the excitement – and not dread – for the test.

Make study flashcards for test-taking tips and vocabulary.

Set the tone. Arrange desks so students have plenty of room to work. Keep tissues, extra sharpened pencils and erasers, scrap paper, resources (calculators, dictionaries, etc.) and more in an easily accessible area.

Don’t forget to laugh. Tell students a quick joke or funny story. This will lighten the mood and help students ease into testing.

Remain positive. Testing is stressful. But remember that testing is only temporary … and summer vacation is just around the corner!