Nov 7, 2016

Limit Setting

As educators and parents, we often find ourselves in situations that require us to set limits with our kiddos.  Questions such as, "Why do we have to learn/do this?!", "Why can't I...?", "Do we have to?" can be heard every day in classrooms and at home.  If your child or student is asking these questions, take comfort in the fact that you're not alone!

I have been asked quite a bit recently about what to do when these questions pop up, and the quick answer is - set limits.  Setting limits is a valuable tool when you are attempting to work with a child to get a job done.  You cannot force a child to behave in a certain way or complete a task that is before them, but you can offer choices that can teach and reinforce appropriate behavior.

I have put together an easy to use handout with some helpful hints on the "how to" for limit setting.  I hope this helps answer any questions you might have about this skill - and it is a skill - it requires practice.  Don't give up if you find yourself stumbling around with this for awhile!

For more helpful information regarding limit setting, see this quick read here.

Aug 15, 2016

Leadership Binders

We are well on our way to implementing the 8 Habits here at MTE.  As part of our initiative to really dive deeper into the content of each habit, we are also rolling out leadership binders.  My awesome admins and building assistants have been hard at work putting these binders together, and they were finally delivered to classrooms today!

Our teachers will be using these binders throughout the school year to help students develop and track goals, monitor works in progress, and to help remind students of all of the hard work and accomplishments they have achieved - pretty similar to a data binder, but with more options to personalize and add flair.  Obviously, this is done with the hope that students will begin to be more proactive - taking ownership of their own learning!

While each teacher may use the binder for different purposes in their classroom, I wanted to make sure that they had questions/activities available to them that really got each kiddo thinking about what each habit means to them and how they can practice it.  Obviously, academics are important, but we also want to make sure that we're giving our students the skills to be good people! 

Below you will find my contribution to our leadership binders for K-2 and 3-5.  Enjoy - and let me know if you see anything that I can add!

K-2 Leadership Binders



3-5 Leadership Binders




Be on the lookout for a teacher version as well!  It is our intention to really dig deeper into each habit with our teachers during committee meetings this year so they can being to truly feel what it means to not only teach the habits, but also live them!

Aug 10, 2016

8 Habits and School Beautification

I cannot believe that I am saying this, but school started yesterday!  The summer flew by, but I am very excited to get this school year rolling.  After a very busy and productive year of planning, MTE is rolling out the 8 Habits to our students this year, and I couldn't be more excited!  If you haven't read about the 7 (in our case 8) Habits, then I highly recommend you get the books by Stephen Covey and dive in!

Here is a quick run-down of the habits that we are teaching our students this year:

Habit 1 - Be Proactive - I am a responsible person.  I take initiative.  I choose my actions, attitudes, and moods.  I do not blame others for my wrong actions.  I do the right thing without being asked, even when no on is looking.

Habit 2 - Begin with the End in Mind - I plan ahead and set goals.  I do things that have meaning and make a difference.  I am an important part of my classroom and contribute to my school's mission and vision.  I look for ways to be a good citizen.

Habit 3 - Put First Things First - I spend my time on things that are most important.  This means I say no to things I know I should not do.  I set priorities, make a schedule, and follow my plan.  I stay focused on what I'm doing and try to minimize distractions if I get off task.

Habit 4 - Think Win-Win - I am a problem solver when an issue comes up with another person.  I think about what other people want and not just what I want.  I am kind to others and try to think of ways to make everyone happy.  A win-win compromise is when everyone feels they've won!

Habit 5 - Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood  - I listen to others without interrupting.  I raise my hand when I want to speak and wait patiently to be called on.  I don't blurt out.  I listen to other people's ideas and feelings, even if they are different from my own.

Habit 6 - Synergize - I value other people's strength and learn from them.  I get along well with others, even people who are different than me and work well in groups.  I know that "2 heads are better than 1" and as a team we can get more done than we could alone.

Habit 7 - Sharpen the Saw - I take care of my body by eating right, exercising, and getting sleep.  I learn in lots of ways and lots of places, not just at school.  I balance my time between school, community, family, and friends.  I take time to find meaningful ways to help people.  I balance all 4 parts of myself.

Habit 8 - Find Your Voice - I know what I'm good at, and I show it in my work.  I strive to meet my goals and work towards my greatest potential.  I inspire others to find their voice by respecting them and working with them to find and celebrate their purpose.

Our teachers have been hard at work the past year learning the habits themselves, and preparing ways to teach them to our students.  One of the first things we determined as a committee last year was that our building needed a make-over in order to make it more "leadership friendly".  That is where our School Beautification day came in.  Our wonderful administrative staff scheduled a beautification day before the first day of school this year in which teachers volunteered their time to come in and help with this goal.  We did some brief team building, and then got to work on our walls!  Hopefully some of these examples of their amazing work will give you some inspiration for your own buildings!

 
We're Building TREE-mendous Leaders!
This is an interactive board that we will use throughout the year to highlight the 8 Habits that our students are showing at home.  Students will be sent home with leaves, and when they show a habit at home, their parents can fill out the leaf to be added to the tree!  We hope to see the tree filling up with awesome things soon!

Emotion Control
This is the board that I was in charge of (can you tell?!).  One of the other fabulous elementary schools in our district has a board just like this one, and I couldn't resist as I absolutely adore the movie Inside Out.  Since Habit 1 is all about being in control of your own actions, I thought it was perfect for our goals this year.  Each emotion is identified, given a purpose, and then students can also see ways to cope with each.

Popping Up
I have seen this board several times on Pinterest, and I was very happy to see that one of our teacher groups chose to put it up in our building.  They also strategically placed this in front of our cafeteria.  

Leadership Comes in Cans
This one is in our Kindergarten area.  I love how simple it is, and how the message is very clear - it's also super cute!

Awesome Message
Our 5th grade team here at MTE does an awesome job of promoting kindness and respect for others with our students.  I love this message, and feel that if we all kept this in mind, the world might get just a little better bit by bit every day.

To the Beach!
This board was inspired by a mural that was found on Pinterest and was done by our 5th grade team.  The goal within our first 20 days of school is to do basic introductory lessons of each habit to get the concepts started.  Each day, the team is adding the habits onto the pier that they discussed, and by the end every habit will be listed!

Readers are Leaders
Our Media Specialist never ceases to amaze me.  She always comes up with amazing themes for our library every year, and does a wonderful job of showing them.  This is another interactive tree that has staff names as stars and student names as leaves and is located in the reading section of our library.

As I said before, we are excited to be launching the 8 Habits this year with our students here at MTE.  Keep an eye out for more posts about the Habits, as I am busy creating new things for our staff and students that are Habits based every day!




May 18, 2016

Calming Bottles

If you're reading this, then it is likely that you have a kiddo - either in your classroom or in  your home - that could use some help with emotional regulation.  Rest assured, you certainly are not alone.  We always seem to have a handful of students that need a bit more support in this area than others, and that is perfectly normal and okay!

I love the idea of having calm down kits or areas in a classroom (I'll have another post on this soon - I hope!), and calming bottles are a simple go-to for me for these.  I first came across this idea on a website called Play to Learn, and since then I cannot get enough of them.  If you would like even more ideas on different bottles you can make, I highly recommend checking their website out!

These bottles are so simple to make (alone or with help from kiddos), only take a few "ingredients", and are a blast to use!  Don't be surprised if you have students and teachers drop in to use these if you have a few on hand in your office!

Water Bead Calm Down Bottles

What You Need:

Water Bottles - I like to use the Voss water bottles - which you can find at any convenience store - but you can use any that you have on hand!
Water Beads - You may be able to find these at your local one-stop-shop store in the floral department or you can order some in fun colors here.
Glitter - You pick the colors!  I use a mixture of super fine glitter and regular glitter in mine (more on that later).
Clear Glue and Super Glue - Pretty easy to find!
Goo Gone and Sponge - I prefer to remove any sticky residue with Goo Gone since it is so much faster, but if you don't want to go out and purchase this, you can remove the labels with cooking oil.  Learn how to do this here.

Step 1:

If you happen to find water beads in the store, you will be able to skip this step.  If you happen to purchase them online, they will come to you in these tiny little baggies.  This may not look like a lot of beads to you, but keep in mind that these little guys will greatly expand once you get them into water.  Follow directions on how to use them that come with the packages - and remember a little goes a long way!  


Step 2:

Once your bottles are clean and your water beads have expanded to their full size, you are ready to make your calm down bottle!  I used the clear beads because I was lucky enough to find them at the store, plus I love the way they look in the bottle.  I use 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water beads depending on the size of the bottle - or just simply fill your bottle about half way to the top with the beads.

Step 3:

Add semi-warm water to the bottle, but leave about an inch of room at the top.  Add in enough of the clear glue to bring the water level to the top of the bottle.  The glue helps slow the glitter down in the bottle.  I love how the beads disappear in the water!

Step 4:

Add in your preferred amount of glitter to the bottle.  Again, I use a mixture of regular glitter and super-fine glitter.  My main purpose in mixing the two has to do with the amount of time that each takes to settle.  If I have a kiddo that needs a short break, I will have them shake the bottle and wait for the regular glitter to settle.  If I have a kiddo that might need a bit more time, they simply wait for both the regular and the super-fine glitter to settle.  Settling can take anywhere between 2-5 minutes (give or take) depending on the type of glitter you use and how much glue is in your bottle.


Step 5 - and done!

So, I didn't get a picture of this part (sorry!), but you will probably want to use super glue to seal the bottle shut.  I usually make a couple of rings of super glue along the top of the bottle before I screw the lid back on.  Once you have given the glue time to dry, shake up your bottle and watch the glitter fall!  

Mar 14, 2016

Helpful Apps for Kids - And a Handout for Parents Too!

I had an amazing time last week presenting to MTE parents about stress and worry in children.  Thank you to everyone who took time out of their evening to come and participate!

I had several requests for additional copies of the handouts that I made, and I thought it might be helpful to post them here and make them available to everyone!  Click below to download the brochure that was handed out to parents at the workshop last week.



During my presentation, I spoke about several apps that I have found on the iTunes store that are great at promoting emotional identification and self-regulation in children.  Unfortunately, I was running out of time and had to rush through my explanation of these apps, so here is my chance to give you a little more information.



Positive Penguins
This is a wonderful app that was just introduced to me last week, and I cannot wait to try it out with a few of my students!  This app helps children recognize the choice that they have about their feelings, and also helps them to identify negative self-talk (and combat it!).  The penguins help the child to work through their difficulties in a fun and interactive way.


FOCUS on the Go!
This app does a great job in helping children to identify and begin to talk about their feelings.  The child is able to play alongside Buddy, a very cute little bear, while practicing emotional vocabulary, expression, and calm down strategies.



Feelings with Milo
Similar to the app above, Feelings with Milo teaches children about their feelings.  What is great about this one is that it really emphasizes the relationship between parent (or professional) and the child while they are using it.  The app truly helps to normalize emotions, and gives children the confidence to tell someone what is going on so they feel comfortable asking for  help when needed.


Feel Electric!
This app does a wonderful job of teaching children emotion and language skills.  It is very engaging, and pretty much a blast to use.  Children are able to use a variety of tools (story builders, videos, photos, games, etc.) to learn how to express their emotions with words.



Calm Kids with Mamaphant
Deep breathing is probably my number one go-to strategy when I need to help a child feel cool, calm, and collected.  This app is geared towards 3-6 year-olds, but I have found that it can truly teach anybody the value of taking deep breaths - as well as how to do it!  The characters are adorable, and the app does a great job of pacing the child so their breaths truly are deep and will count!


Smiling Mind
Smiling Mind is a must-have if you enjoy meditation and would like your children to try it out as well!  This app makes mindfulness meditation easy for any age range (including adults), and has 6 free mindfulness programs included.




Kids Yogaverse
There are a few different versions of this app, but all with the same purpose - teach yoga to children around the world.  Yoga is a great way to start and end each day for your child, and Kids Yogaverse takes any guessing on which poses are appropriate out of the mix.  The poses are animated and easy to follow, give affirmations/breathing techniques, and also include an amazing fact for each pose!


Breathe2Relax

This is another great app that truly aims at helping the user learn how to properly use deep breathing exercise.  This app is likely better to use with older children, as it isn't quite as animated as Mamaphant.  This app focuses primarily on breathing, and does provide the user with other helpful information about stress and coping.



I have an endless number of apps on my iPad that I use with students here at MTE, but these seem to be my go-tos most often.  What apps have you used with your students or children that you would recommend?

Mar 2, 2016

Coping with Worry


Let’s be honest: all of us, at one point or another, have had to deal with some form of worry.  Name it what you will (anxiety, stress, etc.), it happens to everyone.  Anxiety is actually a normal response to stress, and can be beneficial to us in some situations.  Unfortunately, for some, anxiety can become overwhelming and excessive and can negatively impact day-to-day living.  When you couple the difficulties that anxiety creates with also being a young child, the issues can begin to pile up into a seemingly endless mountain to climb.  Understanding the impact of anxiety on our children, as well as how to combat it, goes a long way in helping our children to develop coping skills that they can use on their own when faced with stressful situations.

Just a Little Info


If you have a child coping with anxiety, you are not alone.  Anxiety is actually one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States.  It is responsible for the highest occurrence of doctor visits and psychiatric hospitalization and it costs the United States approximately $42 billion every year (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).  One in eight children cope with some form of anxiety, and 5% of all children miss school due to an anxiety-related disorder every day in the United States.

There are several symptoms to be on the lookout for with anxiety in children.  The most common complaints include: headaches, stomach aches, acid reflux, frequent “accidents”, diarrhea, weight loss, poor hygiene, and poor sleep.  Something that is very important to remember is that anxious children often want to leave the situation that they find themselves in.  When they are experiencing anxiety, they often complain about these symptoms in order to escape the stressor.  They may go to the restroom often or ask to go to the nurse because they do not feel well, when in reality they might simply need a break from the situation.  Many of these children also exhibit catastrophized thinking, leading to comments along the lines of “I’m never going to pass this test!” or “Everyone hates me.” 

 The Anxiety Response


So how does anxiety work?  To take a quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  This is very important to remember, especially when working with children.  Anxiety is all about what the person is thinking, not necessarily about what is actually occurring.  In this case, perception seems like reality.  It is important to be ready to meet the child where they are.

Most children do not automatically understand what is happening to their bodies during an anxiety response.  Being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of anxiety is very important and empowering to the child, and helps them to regain a sense of control over what is happening.  Children already have very little control over what happens in their day-to-day life.  They are told what to do and when for a majority of their day.  When a child also has to cope with the uncontrollable feelings of anxiety, symptoms can often escalate.  Giving them knowledge and understanding of the process can help them retain or regain the illusion of control that so many of them crave.

One easy way to explain the anxiety response to young children is by using the analogy of a bunny rabbit.  You’re a cute little bunny.  The world is very big, and you have no defenses.  All of a sudden, you hear a very loud noise from off in the distance.  What are you going to do?  Your body has to make a decision, and fast, about how to protect itself.  You are either going to fight, run, or freeze in place (fight, flight, freeze).  This is the body’s anxiety or stress response. 

When the anxiety response kicks into full gear, how does your body respond?  These bodily responses are important to note, as they are often the cause of many symptoms described by children.  Furthermore, helping children to recognize what their body does when they feel anxious can help them to identify these reactions before they become out of control and be more proactive in regulating their emotional response. 

·         Heart and Lungs: First and foremost, your heart and lungs act off of each other.  If you think of them as a car, your heart acts as the engine while your lungs act as the battery.  As your heart rate increases, so does your breathing.  If you slow down your breathing, then your heart cannot beat as fast – the engine cannot run without power in the battery. 
·         Eyesight: Additionally, your vision becomes much sharper when you are anxious.  Some children will describe darkness or fog on their periphery because they are only able to focus on what is right in front of them. 
·         Your tongue might swell.  In this case, children might complain of a sore throat or clear their throat.  They might also describe something sitting on their chest making it hard to breathe.
·         Hearing: The tissue around the inner ear swells and becomes engorged.  This makes it very hard to hear directions or what is going on around them.
·         Stomach: Last but not least, the stomach.  Your body flushes acid into the stomach when you are anxious (Gotta run real fast little bunny?! Better poop!).  If your stress response is triggered enough, the stomach stays in this state.

Everyone has this reaction to stress or danger, but when you are struggling with anxiety, this is the way that your body is all the time.  You are constantly in a state of alarm, and have difficulty getting your body to recognize that you’re not in danger – even when you are in the safest place possible.  Anxiety tells you that you are not in control.  As stated previously, there are healthy levels of anxiety, but they vary based on the individual.  For most, the feeling that happens in the pit of your stomach when this response happens normally subsides after a while, but this is not always the case for children.  Imagine living with that feeling on a regular basis, or being a child who does not have the appropriate coping skills needed to manage this feeling.  Our goal then becomes to turn down the volume on the anxiety (fight, flight, freeze) response.

Things that can be Upsetting


So, the body reacts to perceived threat in a number of different ways, but what are the common triggers that might set children into the anxiety response? 
·         Family: Oftentimes, when families are fighting (and I’m not talking about your day-to-day conflicts), children internalize the argument as their fault.  When parents fight each other, they are really fighting their child.
·         Weather: Can you think of anything that impacts more people on a daily basis than the weather?  I can’t.  Is there a snow storm coming?  Yes?  Then we must close school!  Do we have a severe storm or tornado on the way?  Yes?  Then we must drill or hide!  For some reason, our culture really likes to share weather stories too (Blizzard of ’78 anyone?). 
·         Friends: Peer relationships play a vital role in a child’s development.  Interactions with peers provide children with the groundwork they need to learn how to socialize and understand their world.  When these relationships are not going the way that a child plans, or are confusing/hurtful, they can become a source of anxiety.
·         Homework: This one is pretty self-explanatory, and likely one of the most common culprits.  Having a lot of homework can be a major trigger for many children.  Even if it really isn't much, the child feeling like it is can be enough to set off the anxiety response.
·         Media: There is an abundance of information available to children due to technology.  Many times, this leaves children exposed to information that they may not be able to put into perspective or understand. 

Children have the uncanny ability to ruminate like nobody’s business.  They have an enormous amount of time to simply sit and think, so you taking the time to think about these possible triggers is important too!

What you can do as a Parent


When we think about helping our children calm down, we really need to focus on tools that will be immediately available to them regardless of where they might find themselves (classroom, dance class, restaurant, etc.).  Luckily, we can use our five senses to help us out in this area.  Using the five senses (hearing, sight, smell, touch, taste) can help children immediately access tools to help them calm down and breathe.  These tips and tools not only help a child that is overcome with worry, but can also be put into place as a preventative measure to ensure that your child is developing healthy coping strategies in the face of stress!

·         Auditory: What sounds does your child like to hear?  Can you put some of them on a iPad so they can listen to them when they need to relax?  These don’t have to be songs – they can simply be sounds that the child likes (the beach, purring cat, etc.). 
·         Visual: Many children that struggle with anxiety often have a “messy somebody” around.  Take the time to look at your/their personal space and see if there is any clutter you can clear.  Also, consider what the child likes to see, draw, color, and so on.  You can have a visual of this in their bag/pocket for them to look at when they are feeling anxious.
·         Smell: Your sense of smell is amazing, and is one of the best senses of memory that we have! Just think about it – what do you remember about your grandparents?  Any smells?  If we can create a new memory through smell it becomes a great tool for relaxation.  Try and pair a smell like lavender or cookies with a relaxing time for the child.  Make sure that it is a smell that is meaningful to them.
·         Touch: Try and give your child a tool that isn’t too obvious – especially if you are going to send them to school!  Porcupine balls are great for this, so is Velcro, Play-Doh, a small amount of soft fabric, and so on. 
·         Taste: Build your child an anti-anxiety meal for lunch.  Include not only foods that they enjoy, but ones that will provide good tactile and sensory input for them.  If your child often complains of an upset stomach, consider packing them peppermint or ginger, as these are natural stomach soothers.

Do not discount the importance of sleep!  Not getting enough REM sleep every night can increase anxiety in some children.  If you feel like this might be an issue for your child, you may want to consider sleep training (it can be a tedious process, so don’t take it lightly).  Monitor your child’s sleep patterns and note when they are completely asleep and not just lying in bed.  If they are not getting enough sleep based on when they are completely asleep (elementary students need ~10-11 hours a night), then work back in 30 minute increments until they have hit that mark.  Make sure that you stick to the same routine every day (even on the weekends) with when they go to bed and when they wake up.  Create a sleep routine (bath/shower, story, bed) that they follow every night, and absolutely NO television or technology at least 30 minutes before bed.

Remember that a very important aspect of helping a child cope with worry is giving them the illusion of control.  Many of the acting out behaviors that are seen in schools by students having difficulty in this area (pushing, hitting, kicking, etc.) are often a result of their lack of control.  Exacting force on an object is their way of seeing that they can exert force in their world and show control.  If you can build in large movement to their day, you may find that these behaviors decrease.  Running/walking is a great way to relieve anxiety symptoms.  However, it is important to remember that running can cause a panic attack in some children because it mimics a stress response (rapid breathing, etc.).  Make sure your child is aware of this and knows how to respond appropriately!  Yoga can also be very helpful, especially inverted poses as they require you to shift your visual focus.

Finally, one of the most important things you can do for your child is to validate the way that they are feeling.  Validating their feelings does not mean that you agree with their behavior.  In other words, validation and agreement are not synonymous terms!  I’m sure we have all experienced a child screaming over something silly at one point or another (dropping food, not getting their way, etc.).  The thing we need to remember is that the feelings of disappointment, frustration and anger that might arise at the time these things are happening are completely new feelings for our children.  If they’re not new feelings, children are still in the process of learning coping skills to manage them.  These moments can seem like the end of the world to many children, so telling them that it isn’t a big deal and just expecting them to move on and “behave” isn’t realistic.  Instead of just telling the child to stop/get over it, try to help them learn to cope instead!  Validate the way they are feeling, and help them use their coping strategies through modeling and coaching.  Do you agree with their response to the problem?  No, but you can teach them how to cope with it!

Have any tips or tricks that have worked for you to help your child cope with anxiety?  Feel free to comment below! J
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2015).  Retrieved from: http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
DePasquale, D. (2015).  Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: Recognizing and treating the emerging epidemic [PowerPoint Slides retrieved from presentation, Winter 2015].
Hoff-Esbjorn, B., Hoeyer, M., Dyrborg, J., Leth, I., & Kendall, P. C. (2010).  Prevalence and co-morbidity among anxiety disorders in a national cohort of psychiatrically referred children and adolescents.  Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 24, 866-872.  doi: 10.1016j.janxdis.2010.06.009
McLoone, J., Hudson, J. L., & Rapee, R. M. (2006).  Treating anxiety disorders in a school setting. Education & Treatment of children, 29(2), 219+.
Miller, L. D., Short, C., Garland, E. J., & Clark, S. (2010).  The ABCs of CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy): Evidence based approaches to child anxiety in public school settings.  Journal of Counseling and Development: JCD, 88(4), 432+.
National Institute of Mental Health (2015).  Retrieved From: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-anxiety-disorder-among-children.shtml
Rapee, R. M., Kennedy, S. J., Ingram, M., Edwards, S. L., & Sweeney, L. (2010).  Altering the trajectory of anxiety in at-risk young children.  American Journal of Psychiatry, 167, 1518-1525.
Vasey, M. W., & Borkovec, T. D. (1992).  A catastrophizing assessment of worrisom thoughts. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 29, 89-96.



Feb 18, 2016

Test Taking Tips and Tricks

Since beginning my test taking lessons in grades 3-5 at Mohawk Trails, I have had several parents and students ask me if they could have a hand-out or something similar that they could use at home with the tips and tricks on them.  Ask and you shall receive!  Here are some of the tips and tricks that I use with our students in my lessons.  While I talk about these before ISTEP begins, they truly are beneficial to use on any test or assessment that students might be taking throughout the year.

Tips for Students

The first tip that I typically give students involves the acronym of RELAX.  I’m all for acronyms – just ask anyone that went to grad school with me – so this trick is one of my favorites. 

RRead the questions carefully and re-read to find the answers.
E Examine every answer choice before you choose your answer.
LLook for evidence and label your answer in the passage when you find it!
AAlways check your answers by looking back.
XX-Out answer choices that cannot possibly be correct.

I think that the acronym really helps students remember short snips of the tips and tricks that I cover in their classes while they are taking the tests.  I also want to make sure that they have more detailed descriptions of a few of the tips, just so they have a better understanding of why some of these work and how they can use them.  Knowledge is power, right?  So I make sure to also give them 10 test taking tips with a bit more information provided too!

1.  Stay focused and relaxed.  Is this even possible?  You betcha!  Keep your mind on the test, but don’t tense up.  Stay looks and cool so you can move smoothly from one question to the next.  If you feel yourself getting tense, don’t worry!  Try some deep breathing to calm your nerves.

2.  Sit in a comfortable position. Again, don’t stiffen your body.  Also, don’t sit hunched over your papers.  Sit in a relaxed way, and make sure to keep your body loose!  Your body being loos tells your mind that everything is going great and gives it the freedom to focus on the test rather than your aching muscles.

3. A little bit of stress is okay – don’t worry! A little bit of stress is okay – it means that you care about how well you’re going to do.  The key is to accept this stress and don’t let worrying about the stress make you even more stressed.  Instead, tell yourself, “I’m a little worried, but that’s okay.  I’m going to do well on this test!”

4.  Read/listen to the directions! Be sure to pay careful attention to the directions you are given.  This will keep you from making simple mistakes and guarantees that you won’t have to go back and re-do any work because you didn't understand the directions.

5.  Pace yourself.  Tests are often timed.  Pay attention to how much time  you have to complete your test, but don't focus on the clock.  Glance up every so often to be sure you're not falling behind, and make sure you're not looking at a single question for too long.

6.  Don't rush! Try and keep a good pace, but make sure you're not rushing through questions to keep you.  Make sure that you think clearly about your answer.  Read every choice before choosing an answer.

7.  Stay away from distractions.  Unless you are quickly glancing at the clock, keep your eyes on your own paper.  Don't worry about what others around you are doing.  Pay attention to what matters most when you're testing - YOU!  Also, testing is not a race, so don't worry if you're not the first one done.

8. Focus on what you know.  Stuck on a question that seems impossible?  Skip it and move on to the next one!  Don't spend too much time on questions that seem too difficult to answer.  If you get stuck, don't stay stuck.  Pass on the questions and come back to them if you have time.

9. Use up all of your time.  Again, tests are not a race!  If you happen to finish before time is up, don't just turn your test in and sit there.  Go back over the questions, especially the ones that were hard (and maybe you skipped) and check your work.

10. Stay positive!  The test might be tough, but you can do it!  Tell yourself that you have the skills and knowledge to be successful and you can be!  A positive attitude goes a long way toward success!

Feel free to use this nifty little handout that I put together with all of this information for students!


Tips for Parents

So, all of this information is great for kids to know about how to ace a test, but what can parents do?  Here are some helpful tips and tricks for parents for before, during, and after a test that you can use to help your student through the process!

1. Make attendance a priority.  This is especially important on days that you know standardized testing will be administered, or you know that a test is  happening in the classroom.  When your child misses a test due to an absence, they often lose valuable learning time in the classroom to make it up.  It's important for your child to be at school as much as possible, but having them attend on testing days ensures that they're not going to miss instructional time at other times.

2. Note testing days on a calendar.  Note testing days on a calendar that is easy for your child to see.  This includes high-stakes tests and smaller assessments like spelling quizzes.  This helps your child prepare and know what is coming next so they are not caught off guard.

3. Do homework checks every day.  Even if your child is very independent with their homework time, take a moment to check over their work after they are finished.  Check for understanding, and make sure that they do not have any questions about what they are working on.  If you notice that your child is struggling with a topic, your daily homework check ensures that you are able to touch base with their teacher before a test takes place!

4.  Don't pressure your child.  Instead, encourage them!  No child wants to fail, and most do as best as they can in the classroom and on assessments.  Being worried about the reaction that you might have due to a poor test grade may increase their anxiety and reduce their success on a test.  The higher the child's anxiety, the more likely they are to make careless mistakes.

5.  Set a reasonable bedtime.   Don't underestimate the power and importance of a good night's rest.  If your child is tired, it is more likely that they will have difficulty focusing, and will be easily frustrated by challenging questions.  On the flip side, make sure that your child also has enough time to wake up in the morning.  Feeling rushed is another sure-fire way to fluster and frustrated your kiddo.

6. Make a good breakfast.  Make sure to give your child a breakfast that is high in protein and low in sugar.  Kids learn better when their stomachs are full of healthy protein and fiber rich roods.  If their stomachs are full of sugary, heavy foods that might make them sleepy of queasy, it really isn't much better than sending them to school on an empty stomach.

7. Talk to your child.  Talk to your child about how the test went and go over any mistakes that were made.  Make sure to emphasize that it is okay to make mistakes, and that this is how we learn and grow.  Just because they did not know a concept during the test does not mean that they will never know it.  Help them understand that part of learning is about making mistakes and knowing how to fix them for the next time around.