My heart goes out to children who are constantly anxious. Today, we have more students than ever before who have social anxieties or worry excessively about test pressure and their performance in school.
Does your child get a stomachache before an exam, does his/her heart race so fast that they believe that they cannot give a presentation? Sometimes it seems as if the best you can do is reassure them and hope they make it through the day.
It is common for children to feel varying degrees of stress and worry, especially related to their performance in academic settings. Everyone experiences stress, and it can be argued that some stress can is good for us. But persistent stress can threaten learning and memory.
The great news is that we can support students who deal with anxiety. Children’s difficult feelings become opportunities to build a sense of control in their lives and develop critical thinking skills.
Test anxiety can halt a student’s capability to use the executive functioning skills expected to do well in testing situations. We know now that strong emotions like anxiety impede our ability to use our other executive processes to get things done. It is how the brain works.
Fortunately, research and practice gives us a couple of helpful solutions.
I recently listened to a podcast where they were discussing testing tips from Dr. Linda B. Nilson of Clemson University, that she originally presented to a group of teachers in 2011. Her tele-seminar was called: “The Mind has a Mind of Its Own—Teaching and Learning That’s in Sync with the Mind.” In her presentation she urged individuals with intense test anxiety, to use the following strategy: About 10 minutes before the test, have your anxious students sit down with a piece of paper and write down all of their worries and concerns about taking the test. Write out all those strong emotional fears.
This activity is essentially a brain dump activity. An opportunity to have the student acknowledge their fears. By doing this, the student is given the chance to clear out their working memory so it can focus on answering questions rather than on the debilitating emotion of anxiety. The research shows that when the time is taken to do this activity prior to taking a test, test scores raise between one and ten points!
It makes clear sense to me to clear out that dominating emotion so the rest of your brain can do its job and access information in its long-term memory. This is a great strategy for teachers to utilize before they have their students begin a crucial assessment. Individuals can do this on their own to alleviate that overwhelming test taking anxiety.
In the podcast, Dr. Nilson also discussed other tried and true strategies of deep slow breathing, counting to ten slowly, and visualizing a successful outcome from the test. These strategies work well for some people and not so well for others.
At SociallyWize, part of our coaching program is to connect with your child, find out the reasons behind their performance anxiety and provide tried and true strategies to ease fears and provide the correct motivation to produce positive academic performance in the classroom and on assessment testing.
If you, or someone you know, suffers from test taking anxieties, contact us at SociallyWize where we coach children, tweens, teens, and adults on increasing their executive functioning skills and provide strategies to navigate and improve testing and academic performance.