Combating Assessment Stress

Testing time can be stressful for students because normal routines are disrupted, days seem a lot longer and they are taking a high stakes assessment. There are strategies that make testing a little more manageable for all learners.

Focus on Growth

When we are reviewing information with our students, it is crucial that we look at the individual. While data is important and helps us support our learners, we can keep their growth in mind and use that to individualize our feedback and create goals which will help them progress.

When we reflect on data, how powerful would it be to consider where each student started and where they are now?

When I was teaching grade two, I was going over Lexile Levels during one-on-one conferences. One student who had been struggling in reading all year had finally progressed beyond BR – “beginning reader.” When I shared the new Lexile level, this student looked at me said, “You mean I am not a beginning reader anymore?” My heart sank. This was a term I had taught this student. I had not focused on the strengths or growths, I was more concerned with data than anything else.

When I changed my mindset to focus on what each student was excelling in and started  supporting to reach individual goals, they started exemplifying their strengths and showing growth. They even began working to support other students in areas where they felt most confident. The individualized goals and feedback empowered the learners to excel beyond what was expected of them and to take their learning to a larger audience by helping others learn and supporting them.

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Positive Words

Keeping the focus on positivity can also help support our learners and reduce the stress that often surrounds testing. Simple encouragements, listening to students, and gentle support can all have a positive impact on the attitude students have towards testing.

Some of my favorite positivity videos are from This website is full of short (30 – 75 second) videos that are incredibly inspirational and up-lifting.

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Relaxation Strategies

Teaching strategies that will help students when they get overwhelmed can be beneficial even beyond testing time. One of my favorite read aloud books, Good Morning Yoga, has a great mantra at the end that helps set a purpose for the day. We read this book every Monday; students set a purpose for the day and then reflect on that purpose at the end of the day.

This is just one strategy that students can use when they are feeling overwhelmed. I would suggest talking to your students in a trust circle and hearing from them. What strategies do they use when they are feeling overwhelmed? By keeping an on-going list of these strategies, students can have a resource they turn to when they are feeling overwhelmed.

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Healthy Routines

Reminding students about healthy sleep and eating habits has emotional as well as physical benefits. These routines, if taught early, can become a regular part of our students’ lives. Hold conversations about how students feel when they are rested compared to tired, discuss the benefits of healthy eating, talk about how to manage time to fit social hours, school work, and exercise into a day… All of these short conversations can have a positive impact over time.


Testing can be a stressful time; it can also be an opportunity to show strength in character. How powerful would it be to hear from our students and strategize with them to help monitor and reduce stress levels?

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