This week we have Bronwyn Brady, a teacher and mother of four, sharing with us some tips on providing practical and emotional support to your child during exam periods. You can follow Bronwyn on her blog, Four to Adore, or follow her on Instagram.
Since its implementation in 2008, standardised national testing has been used to measure the learning progress of individual primary and secondary students in Australia.
Aussie kids sit the NAPLAN test in grades 3, 5, 7 and 9, and in 2018 the assessment dates are 15-17 May. Over three days, students will undertake assessment of essential literacy and numeracy skills.
Having taught in primary schools for the past decade, 2018 offers me a new take on NAPLAN – the parent experience. This year, my eldest son, a grade three student, will be amongst the many students taking part in testing for the very first time.
Whilst teachers are preparing students for the academic side of things, I have started to think about how I can offer emotional and practical support to my son as this event approaches.
1. Keep things in perspective
I have been conscious not to make a fuss of NAPLAN. We know our own children better than anyone else. My son, like me, likes things to be low-key. The bigger deal I make of something, the more the expectation (and possibility of anxiety) grows. Because, you know, it’s three days. The results, although a valuable tool for measurement of his learning to this point in time, are not a complete picture of my child’s many abilities. He is a whole person who possesses many qualities, skills and talents which will NOT be evidenced by results of literacy and numeracy testing.
2. Boost confidence
When he brings up the testing, I certainly encourage him and tell him I think he’s going to smash it. In our conversations, I aim to support his confidence and reassure him. I tell him things like “Have a go”, “Just see how you go” “It’s okay to feel a bit nervous” “I’m proud of you for trying” “Enjoy today” “This is a new thing for you, it’s ok to feel a bit funny about it”.
3. Teach simple strategies
We’ve been working on some strategies for coping with stress. I’m hopeful that he will apply these on the testing days if he feels overwhelmed or anxious. Ways in which he can calm down on his own are to breathe slowly, re-read the question and finally, skip the question to come back to. Positive self-talk is great, too. Having some affirmations to replay in his mind is another tool he can access; a simple sentence like “I’ll just do my best”, may be helpful. It can feel a bit weird or silly to say things to ourselves, so we have had a few practices (and giggles).
4. Be positive
Even by the time they’re in grade three, kids are very perceptive. Most can read our cues to understand our personal positions on things. They pick up on our feelings. I’m consciously focusing on the positives of the tests, myself, to project a positive outlook. My son is actually looking forward to the testing days. This is in great part, a credit to his teacher and school’s approach. We, as parents, are on the same team as our children’s educators. Our kids’ wellbeing is our ultimate goal, so it’s crucial to be consistent and positive. Sure, it’s important to acknowledge our kids’ concerns or worries, but its also our job to help them overcome them.
5. Have a sticky beak
Some kids feel more comfortable when they know exactly what to expect. You may wish to find out where the tests will take place, and if they’re not in the classroom (perhaps a hall), you could have a visit together.
Past tests are available to view on the ACARA (National Curriculum) website. If you feel it may be helpful, you may choose to download these to review. This will give your child a visual reference and something to base expectations on. It’s highly likely that they’ve been familiarised with the test paper layout during school.
6. Tips from the teacher
Nutrition and rest are your child’s brain fuel. Teachers often remind kids the day before testing commences to get a good night’s sleep and to eat a nutritious breakfast.
Another pointer teachers give is for students, upon completion, to go back through their test and make sure that every page is completed. This could mean checking the page numbers or just securely opening each page up. Sometimes kids in a hurry will skip a double page.
Equally important is having a go. In multiple choice questions, it’s better to choose an answer that you’re uncertain about than to skip the question altogether.
For some further insight into how teachers are preparing students for NAPLAN, take a look at this blog post.
If you feel that your child’s levels of stress and/or anxiety are particularly elevated or excessive, you can reach out to professional contacts.
- Make a time with your child’s classroom teacher to chat about how your child is coping at school, and to request support and resources to assist
- Talk with your GP about what is happening for your child. They will provide referrals to other practitioners who may be able to help, if necessary.