Classroom Tension Tamers: Three Ideas to Use Now

It’s spring, and end-of-the-year-testing looms. The children are stressed.You’re stressed. You need to ease the tension—but how?

Well, you’re not alone! When we asked Responsive Classroom fans on Facebook if they’d like to read about strategies for relieving testing stress, many said, “Yes, right away!” So without further ado, here are three things you can do right now to make your classroom a little more relaxed. I’ll offer more tips for coping with testing and other tense times in upcoming posts—please share what works for you and your students, too!

Take Advantage of Morning Meeting

One key to beating classroom stress is to start each day with a predictable routine. Morning Meeting can serve as this anchor, allowing you to begin each day in a consistent, reassuring way.

As you plan Morning Meetings, think about the tone you want to set for the day. Relaxed and low-key meetings can help students settle in. If students will be in testing all day, keep your meetings content-light.

That said, you may want to have students practice certain types of test questions in a relaxed way during Morning Meeting.  During sharing, for example, kids could do a “turn and talk” about low-risk topics that interest them. Word the questions to mirror the wording in the test: “Summarize your weekend” or “What’s your favorite animal?  Give three supporting details.”

You might also incorporate light-hearted, testing-style questions in morning messages. For example, use true/false, multiple choice, or fill-in-the-blank questions to have students think about the upcoming weekend, last night’s baseball game, or their favorite book.

Do Quiet/Silent Energizers

When your whole class needs a movement break, but the classes around you may still be testing, use quiet or silent energizers.

Two great resources for quick movement breaks are Energizers! 88 Quick Movement Activities That Refresh and Refocus by Susan Lattanzi Roser (try Aroostasha, As Still As a Rock, Chase the Bunny, Hot Tamale, No-Talk Toss, Number Freeze, People to People, or The Wave) and 99 Activities and Greetings by Melissa Correa-Connolly (try I’ve Never . . . , Just Like Me!, Take Sides, Down by the Banks, Find Your Match, Maitre D’, or Pros and Cons).

You can easily do any of these activities silently or quietly. (Some might even be more fun or funny that way.) Just make sure to model and practice doing them silently or quietly beforehand so students know exactly what to do and how to stay respectful of other classes. Then try challenging them to see just how quiet they can be!

Check Your Own Stress Level

Teachers are under enormous pressure during standardized testing. Take care of yourself. Take a walk at lunch. Don’t overload yourself with other work during testing.  Eat healthy foods. Get good sleep. In short, take care of yourself so you can take care of your students. Remember, you set the tone for the class!

Mike Anderson is a Responsive Classroom consultant and author of several books, including three in the What Every Teacher Needs to Know series.

Tags: Movement, Testing