There’s no argument that NAPLAN testing is a nerve-wracking experience for kids. Sure, by Year 9 students are more familiar with the strict environment of test conditions, but even so, the pressure remains. For younger students, particularly Year 3s who have not sat an exam like NAPLAN before, the change in environment, the apparent ‘lack of help’ from their teachers, and the duration of the exams can feel hugely overwhelming. With this in mind, and knowing that while it’s not (yet!?) possible just to ditch the test altogether, we’ve put together a little list of things you can do on NAPLAN test days to help your students find calm.
How to Make NAPLAN Test Days Less Intimidating
1. Make NAPLAN a Happy Teacher Outfit Day
No matter where in the school your students will be taking the test, NAPLAN examination conditions will feel noticeably different for them. With all pictures, posters and stimulus removed from the walls, desks moved from their usual configurations into columns of individual settings, there’s a certain ‘vibe’ that students will notice as soon as they enter their examination room.
One of the best ideas we can share is to help your students identify a ‘brain break’ point they can look at when they are feeling stressed or worried during the tests.
As their teacher, you will have already built up a rapport with your students that means they will seek comfort in you! Maximise this by wearing something bright, playful and happy on the NAPLAN test days.
While this might seem superficial at first glance, tell your students that they can look at your flower crown, your smiley face emoji t-shirt or rainbow shoes as a reminder that they are okay, that you belive in them and that if their mind is smiling the test will feel easier!
2. Create a Positivity Walk
While it would be amazing to fill the examination room with positivity posters and growth mindset prompts, this isn’t possible.
So, why not create a positivity walk along the space that students travel to and from the exam room?
You could use some of our positivity posters, the growth mindset bunting and other colourful decorations like paper honeycombs or lanterns. The aim of the game is to make your students feel positive and happy as they are entering (and exiting) their NAPLAN test space.
You may also like to include their names, photos, or an avatar of each of your students to really reinforce that this positivity walk belongs to them!
3. Help Your Students Own the Test Space
If possible, take your students into their test space prior to their first session beginning and run a short guided meditation/mindful awareness practice with them. Ask your students to take their seats (preferably their exact seat for the tests) and take them through one or more of the following points:
Finding a Mindful Brain Break Spot
- Looking around the room, what looks different to usual? How does it make you feel?
- Can you find somewhere you can look that makes you feel relaxed? Can you see a bit of the garden, a tree or the sky through one of the windows? Remember, if you are feeling stressed or worried during the test, you can look at this point and take a deep belly breath to help calm your mind and your feelings down.
- This room might look and feel a little different to usual. But this room belongs to you. In this room, you can be calm and confident, because you will always have a spot to rest your mind when you need a little break!
A Calm and Confident NAPLAN Visualisation
- Close your eyes, or look down towards your desk. Without speaking, imagine that the test has begun.
- You can see your NAPLAN test booklet sitting in front of you. You are holding your pencil in your hand. The room is quiet, and you can feel the concentration of all of your friends in the room too. It’s so quiet that you might even hear the clock tick! Someone has the sniffles. Someone else taps their pencil on their desk for a little while.
- Maybe you’re feeling a little nervous. The exam room feels and sounds so different to usual. Maybe your chest feels a little tight, or your heart feels like it’s beating a little faster than usual.
- Take a slow, deep breath. When you breathe in, make the air fill your belly, right down deep. When you breathe out, feel the air as it moves out of your lungs completely. Notice the tight feeling from your chest goes away. Your heartbeat slows down. You feel calm and confident.
- Doing the real NAPLAN test might feel like a big deal. And that might make you feel nervous, or worried. But you know that you can stop at any point and calm your mind down just by using your breath. You are doing your best. If you skip a question, that’s okay. If you’re not sure you understand a question, that’s okay too.
- You try your best. You stop, close your eyes and take a deep breath when you need to. And you finish the test!
- Imagine now that the test session has finished. Your teacher dismisses you and the rest of your classmates and you all walk outside of the room. You find your friends and talk about what bits you found confusing and hear that they found some parts difficult too! But you all finished the test, you did your best and now you can smile, you can laugh and enjoy your break together!
4. Plan Mindful Movement Breaks
Plan a few fun, physical activities that students can do before and after their NAPLAN tests across the three days. Brain science tells us that the benefits of movement are pretty clear. Physical movement makes it:
- easier for our brain to maintain focus
- helps us to integrate learning across both of our brain’s hemispheres
- helps to enter information into our memories
- reduces chances of feeling overwhelmed or overloaded.
(Amber Lamprecht, Literacy and Language Centre).
So, plan calm movement activities before the test sessions, and fun, stress-releasing activities for after!
Calm Activities for Before NAPLAN Sessions
Fun Movement Activities for After NAPLAN Sessions
Check out our post about sensory and movement break ideas for more resources and simple, step-by-step guides on running movement breaks.
5. Give a Little Gift of Confidence
These gorgeous Testing Encouragement Certificates are perfect for supporting kids during NAPLAN.
While your students can’t take their certificates into the test room with them, we all know that these little tokens of encouragement mean so much to our kids!
- Print enough for every student in your class.
- If you have time, write a little personalised message of encouragement on the back of each one.
- Attach a little gift to each of the Testing Encouragement Certificates, something like a cute pencil or eraser, or maybe even a Freddo Frog for students to eat when they are finished!
- Place them by your students’ bag racks, or somewhere you know they can see them before they begin their first exam.