The following is an excerpt from Activate: Deeper Learning Through Movement, Talk, and Flexible Classrooms by Katherine Mills Hernandez on how to incorporate movement into your routine to benefit your students' test-taking.
One way to think about using movement to benefit testing is to consider when and where as opposed to what methods to use. We already know that rigorous cardiovascular movement wakes up the brain, so we need to strategize when and where to do it on testing days. We also know that the greatest benefits are achieved when movement happens before cognitive challenge.
If movement is going to happen before the test is administered, then students should be prepared to do some of this on their own, before arriving at school, since state tests usually begin at the start of the school day. There are also ways to build in brief movement sessions together, before the test begins.
These four strategies can be shared with students, because they directly address the kids.
- Incorporate jumping jacks and stretches into the morning routine.
- Dance or hop while choosing your outfit.
- Walk briskly to the bus stop or to school. If someone drives you to school, consider leaving five minutes early and using that time to walk outside.
- Jog in place while waiting for the bus. If someone drives you, jog in place, dance, or do jumping jacks while waiting for him or her to get the car ready.
At School, Before the Test
The whole class can do these together, or everyone in the building can be involved. A whole-school pre-test exercise session is highly effective for decreasing pre-test anxiety, preparing the brain for intellectual challenge, and readying the body for the physical demands ahead. Here are some steps I suggest for pre-test movement in school:
- Direct students to their testing room with twenty to twenty-five minutes to spare before the official start time of the exams.
- If the school supports a unified experience, a coach can lead the exercises from a loudspeaker or via videoconferencing tool.
- If you’re on your own for this, you can use the same moves you’ve been using since September to get kids’ blood flowing. Note: If you want to use music for this, finding upbeat tunes without lyrics is a good idea, since lyrics may influence students’ thinking. This will be an important time for them to tune in to their own thoughts.
- Spend approximately fifteen minutes in movement and allow for three minutes or so to stretch.
- Students may need water and a chance to use the restroom before settling in for the test.
At School, After the Test
When the test is over, the regular school day begins. Before jumping into the next lesson, help your students release the test tensions and prepare for new learning with a movement break. If you can do this outdoors, all the better.
- When all the exams have been collected, dedicate as much as ten minutes for movement and talk.
- Consider getting the kids moving for the duration of one upbeat song.
- After the music, lead students through some simple stretches, and then instruct them to “mingle.” Either provide a prompt for the talk or allow students to determine their own topics.
Students might consider taking a long bike ride, walk, or run after school (with parents’ approval, of course). This will serve to work out any residual stress from the taxing test while getting the body and brain ready to relax for the evening. I like to share the at-home suggestions with parents at the start of our test-prep unit and then a brief reminder a few days before the test, so they can be partners in this work
To learn more tips and strategies on how to incorporate movement into your classroom culture to deepen learning, pick up a copy of Katherine’s book, Activate.