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Bright ideas from readers: Test-taking tips

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By GreatSchools Staff

Taking the stress out of test day

Teach relaxation techniques

"My son sometimes has problems with stressing on the day of a big test," says one dad. "I've found the best remedy is to have him clear his head of all the distractions or negative thoughts and take deep, relaxing breaths. And to focus on doing his best and not worrying about what grade he will achieve."

Clear minds with mint

A mom of three boys, ages 3, 6, and 10, offers this refreshing recommendation: "Have the teacher give students peppermints to suck on and/or to scent the room with peppermint. Peppermint helps to relieve stress, and it helps the brain to concentrate."

Instill confidence in your kid

"I tell my child to do the best he can," another parent says. "I tell him how well he is prepared for the test. I always try to keep his spirits up.... I also give him tips like not to rush with the answers and to stay calm."

Help for kids with learning challenges

Try calming and concentration techniques

"My oldest daughter has AD/HD," says one parent from Texas. "Although she is academically very gifted, her teachers have referred to her as being high-strung around test times. To pull her stress levels down, we have a couple of tricks that we use. The first is aromatherapy. When [my daughter] is feeling especially stressed, she has been taught to close her eyes, quiet her mind, and rub a couple of drops [of essential oil of lavender and rosemary] behind her ear. We've done this since she was 6 years old, and now, at 17, she tells me that the minute she smells lavender or rosemary anywhere, she immediately feels calmer.

"As a younger child, she was extremely impulsive and could become quite agitated. We purchased a glitter wand that is about eight inches long. Her ritual was to hold the wand upright until all of the glitter settled into the bottom, then turn it over and allow the glitter to settle again. Three turns of the wand usually bought her enough time to get past the immediate impulse to become angry."

Ease anxiety with exercise and sleep

"I have two boys with ADD," says an Alabama mom. "One is in third grade and one in second. Their teachers do an excellent job of sending home newsletters each week to let us know what is coming up in the test department.

"We go over information each night that might be on the test. The night before the test, we go to the YMCA and do a little swimming. This gives their bodies a little stress break as well as their minds. They get a good night's rest and always a good breakfast. Does this work? You bet! They are both honor roll students and have been since first grade."

Comments from readers

"A happy environment in school makes a difference in how kids learn. This is not always the case, I am so grateful that our school district is one of them. My kids are happy to go to school and we notice that happy, caring teachers and principals set the environment."
"I enjoyed this article and appreciate some of the reminders of what I can do to help my son. He is 17 and was just diagnosed with severe test anxiety, a short term memory deficit and processing deficit along with adhd. His teachers have all been very supportive and allow him extra time while taking tests. I love the idea of the peppermints. I have also been giving him DHA, magnesium, zinc and folic acid supplements. His teachers have all said they have noticed that he is not as impulsive as he used to be."
"I agree with the 4/27/2009 post about the 3 month layoff that was dicatated by the growing season. 3 months off......either you use it or lose it. From a educational standpoint, I believe that we are missing out on courses that would be impacted by the weather and the great outdoors.....outside more often(science, art, physical education), more conservation projects at the most preferable time of year, all put torwards credits and graduation."
"My personal obversation , that goes to the core of education problem, is time. Time to learn, time to study, time to teach!!!! Model for the school year , for STUDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES, I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT A FEW EXCEPTIONS. Nine months of school and three months off . To plant crops, till the soil, and harvest the hay,ect. Which good for the 19th and early 20th century. When 90 % of the US population lived on the farm!!! This is not the case in the 21st century 4% of the US population lives or works on the farm!!!!!"
"The poster of 01/17/2008, saying 'I think that the best way ...' should perhaps spend a little time learning to spell and compose a letter. Then pass your new-found knowledge on to your child. The tests will not be so stressful then. Literacy can be a wonderful thing."
"My daughter is in 4th grade. She is so stressed out about taking the FCAT.Is this test required in Florida schools or is it optional? Please respond and let me know.One of the readers comments said that the state test are optional. I always thought you had to take these tests."
"I think that the best way for parents to help their kids de-stress from the test is don't have them take it!! My daughter won't be taking the test - not this year, not ever! The state test is optional! You can opt out. My daughter's teacher said that she will go to the library to read or play games with other kids. They take tests at the end of each trimester, so why is this necessary? To see if the teacher is doing a good job? I know if a teacher is doing a good job without the test. The thing that I find most offensive is that her teacher wants her to take the test because she is smart, but doesn't want her 'not so smart' students to opt that she looks good. It's dispicable! I won't allow my child to be a pawn or to best stressed out for something that is required or necessary! "
"This article is ridiculous. You're writing about children who have been honor roll students since the first grade, not children that have trouble with tests. These children obviously are doing fine with them. I have a 12 yo son who has always had trouble with testing but is generally very bright and knows his material. I was looking for an informative article that would give me some tips to really help a child with testing problems. "