A Positive Way to Combat Big Test Jitters


A couple of years ago I was volunteering in an elementary school and was asked to monitor a small group of 3rd graders who needed extended time to take the standardized state test.  As I wandered around the room, I noticed one boy getting especially antsy and yet, to my surprise, he kept plodding ahead.   

At one point, I heard him mumble to himself, “I know what the right answer is, but if I put down the wrong answer, I could be done with the test faster.”  He chose the correct answer.

Another time I saw him take a deep breath and then heard him say, “Slow down and read the question carefully.”

As I watched this young student struggle through this difficult task, and yet not allow himself to give up, I was totally impressed and totally inspired! Obviously, he had mastered the skill of positive self-talk.  I don’t know whether he learned this skill at school or at home, but I can tell you, it got him through an exhausting, stressful experience, and kept him doing his best, even when he was tempted not to.

Since it is once again the season of Big Test Jitters, if you haven’t done so already, this is the perfect time to remind your students of the benefits of positive self-talk.

First, of course, kids need to understand that there is a constant conversation going on in their heads, and that this ongoing flow of chatter influences their feelings about themselves, their motivation and so much more.

One way to help them become a little more aware of that chatter is to give them specific times during the day, perhaps during a challenging assignment, when they actually “listen in” to the chatter in their brains and then write it down. They can rate if their self-talk is mostly positive or negative.  They can analyze when they are more likely to have negative and positive self-talk. They can try and take a negative statement and turn it into a positive one.

Finally, as a class or by themselves, they can come up with a repertoire of positive affirmations to call on during the test.  “You can do this!  “Just be patient with yourself.”  “All you have to do is try your hardest, the rest is gravy,” are some examples

Obviously, this is an oversimplification of what and how to teach this valuable life skill.  Most importantly, seeing it being used in action by a young student should inspire you, the way it inspired me, to consciously make it a part of your curriculum all year long.

There are lots of good articles on teaching positive self-talk.  Take a few minutes to check them out on your own.  I liked this one How to Teach Positive Self-Talk – The Pathway 2 Success and this one How to Teach Positive Self Talk to Kids – Homeschool Here and this one Teach Teens Positive Self-Talk: It’s a Game Changer (weareteachers.com)

If you want a few more practical ways to help your students cure their own Big Test Jitters, check out this resource from Charlesbridge Publishing. big-test-jitters-test-prep-tips.pdf (shopify.com)

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