Thursday, March 28, 2013

Practical Tips for Reducing Test Anxiety

Practical Tips for Reducing Test Anxiety

Study Effectively:
     1Study in a quiet, neat, uncluttered, distraction free place.
       2. Make sure notes are legible, and easy to follow  
          3. Set up a study schedule. Factor in breaks (at least every 30 minutes, if not 15 minutes). Get up, stretch, get a snack. Include a test-free activity about every two hours or so, to give your brain a break to process information.
         4.When possible, study when you are most alert & feel awake. Could be at night or morning, whenever you are most able to focus.
         5. Teach yourself to pace your study time. For example, after 90 minutes of math work, take a 30 minute break doing something FUN.
         6. Talk out loud while solving problems or learning information. Saying & hearing information helps to embed it in memory.
         7. Ask yourself what you problem/questions you are most afraid of-and study that material more.
         8. But review previously learned material. It will help build your confidence & that way you will have a good base of material.
         9. DO NOT CRAM THE NIGHT/DAY BEFORE. You will stress yourself out more and won’t learn any new material.
         10. Reward yourself when you feel you’ve worked hard or learned a concept.

Reducing Anxiety about Test-Taking:
       1. Take care of yourself.  DO NOT SKIMP ON SLEEP, EVER! Get at least 8 hours a night…especially before the test. If you have trouble sleeping try using melatonin to help you sleep about a week/few days prior to the test (so you know how it affects you). Eat healthily and work in some physical exercise every day. Exercise helps burn off stress & excess energy.
         2. Take practice exams.
         3. Come prepared to the test with all necessary supplies, etc.
         4. Dress comfortably.
         5. Remember to check yourself & relax as necessary.
         6. Use positive self-talk. “I got this!” “ I can do this.” I KNOW this.” Find a sort of “mantra” and say it over & over until you believe it. Practice it during studying.

Effective Test Taking Strategies:
       1. Make sure you read/listen carefully to instructions. If you can, write down most important parts or underline them (especially pay attention to “not” or any/all types of words
       2. Do a “brain dump.” Write down all the info you are afraid you will forget. For example, write down a formula that is right on your mind or names of people. That way you will have it down if you freeze.
       3. Preview the test.  Look over the sections of the test. Think about the total amount of time that you have to complete the test.  Look at the point values that you can earn on each section of the examination.  
       4. In multiple choice, don’t get sidetracked looking for patterns (like the last 3 answers have been C, so it must be C).
       5. Don’t rush. If you find yourself rushing, put your pencil down, take a deep breath, let it out slowly, repeat your mantra, do this 3-4 times, then resume the test
       6. Unless you have evidence otherwise, go with your 1st response. Don’t 2nd guess yourself.
       7. Save hardest ones for last.
       8. Use time leftover to check answers about which you were unsure.

Dr. Sarah Graves, LSSP


Tips on Reducing Anxiety

Tips on Reducing Anxiety (so that you control it and it doesn’t control you).

1. Reward yourself for effort. People with anxiety are afraid to start projects, or answer questions, because they fear being wrong so much. If you start a scary math problem or begin a project-tell yourself “Good job. You were scared, and you did it anyway).

2. Use a ton of positive self-talk. Find good things you did & praise yourself in your head or out loud.

3. Use thought-stopping techniques when you get in the negative thought cycle.  For example, “Math, I can’t do math, I am STUPID at math, I am going to fail.....NO, I won’t talk to myself that way, I CAN do math. I CAN DO THIS. I am smart and I work really hard. I will NOT fail. If I fail though, my parents, friends, and family still love me. I will not be attacked or beaten up. I will not be stoned with rotten peanuts, and I bet I will do better than I think I will.” Feels odd, since you are probably used to beating yourself up in your head, but it will work if you do it.

4. Learn relaxation techniques (listed below). Practice them 2-3 times a day, so that you can do them before & during the test. These will take practice and it will be hard, BUT, there is NO RIGHT OR WRONG WAY TO DO THEM:) You can adjust them to fit you & your situation. The idea is to get your mind of the source of the anxiety (stupid tests) and be more in the present and focus on your body, so that your mind can relax & focus on what is most important.

A. Deep breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose on a count of 5, exhale very slowly on a count of 10 through your mouth. Pay attention to your breathing and imagine the breath is stress & anxiety leaving your body.

B. Close your eyes & imagine a place & time where you are most relaxed. Then imagine what you would hear, smell, and feel at that place. Really focus on being there in your head, so that you can give your brain a break. Your body will naturally start to relax as you remember & start to almost “experience” that place.

C. Progressive muscle relaxations
Starting with your toes and moving up, tighten/squeeze your muscles as tight/hard as you can for a count of 5. Then let them out for a count of 3. Move to one foot, then the other, then one calf, then the other, then one thigh, then the other,  then your rear, then your belly, then your fingers on one hand, then the hand, then do your hands one at time, then your arms one at a time, then your shoulders (both), then your neck, and finally your face. You should feel less tense when you are done.

5. Exercise daily. Moderate to rigorous exercise helps reduce stress AND burn off excess energy.

6. Get good sleep. Turn off all electronics (yes cell phone/tablet/tv ) & do non-stimulating things before bed (like reading a physics textbook). Make sure your room is dark, quiet (use a fan or humidifier to filter out noises), and cool.

7. Consider taking melatonin to help regulate sleep (talk to your doctor to make sure it is ok).

8. Avoid caffeine when possible. It will ramp you up & make anxiety worse.

9. Get some sunshine & time outside. Both are proven to lift moods & reduce anxiety.

10. Fish oil has been shown to reduce anxiety (and depression in people with clinical depression). Talk with your doctor to see if taking fish oil would be safe. The fish oil needs high levels of EPA to be most effective.

Dr. Sarah Graves, LSSP


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Inclusion IS NOT a Program...

One of the reasons I love twitter is because of the insight I gain from my PLN (Professional Learning Network).  I love the fact that I can thumb through my timeline and grow and be challenged as a professional educator.
Tonight while reading I was directed to a great blog post from @JewishSpecialEd on inclusion.  I was reminded why I do what I do.  Even thinking of the 3 years that I've been in Community ISD, I think about how much different "inclusion" is now compared to when I first began.  I feel like for most of our teachers there has been a complete change in mindset of having all students in class being given access to the same curriculum as their peers.  Having the opportunity to be in so many different classrooms at every level from PPCD through high school I have experienced those moments when a student gets...really algebra concept that they would not have even been exposed to in a resource classroom.  Now, these students with special needs may still have an IEP and we are taking an individualized approach to their educational process, but they are being exposed to everything their peers are being exposed to.  Personally, I do not see the disadvantage of this at all.

I want to share with you this excerpt from the above mentioned blog.  Perfectly stated...

"Accommodations are important.  Awareness is necessary.  But inclusion is not a program. Inclusion is what we do.  It's the attitude we have.  It is the way we treat others and the way they treat us.  Inclusion is the opportunity to learn together and from one another.  And we do it because it is the right thing to do.  Period.  Inclusion is right.  Inclusion is just.  So we do it."

"Inclusion is not a service, placement, or program......Inclusion is a MINDSET!"

Zach Snow, Behavior Coach

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