Do you know how your mentee is feeling about the upcoming STAAR tests? A mentor is a friend and a guide. A mentor may not be the person to teach a mentee the skills for the test, but you can help a child identify and improve an attitude.
A mentor’s best tools are open-ended questions to help you begin or extend the conversation and encouraging statements to move your mentee’s thinking in a positive direction.
Sometimes a mentor asks how to introduce this topic.
- The best way to bring up testing is to remind your mentee that you will miss a week of visiting.
- Talk about it while doing an activity so that the mentee will be less guarded.
- Give an example in your current life (or past) about a test, performance, or performance review.
- Use the “back door” by asking how a friend or sibling is feeling about the tests.
Your mentee’s words or body language may indicate a mindset toward testing that you would like to influence. A mentor’s best tools are open-ended questions and encouraging statements.
Here are seven typical attitudes a student might express about testing. For each possible
attitude, we’ve provided one or two examples of open ended questions to help extend the
conversation, and sample encouraging statements that can help move your mentee to a
Confident – “I’m doing pretty well on the practice tests, so I think I’ll pass.”
- What does your teacher suggest you do when you get stuck on the practice test?
- You’ve been doing well on your practice tests by listening to your teacher. That’s great!
Note: Sometimes a confident student may rush to finish first. Encourage your mentee to follow the teacher’s advice about re-checking your work. If your mentee sometimes has trouble with time management, you may want to point out that a good performance must mean the student remained focused and didn’t daydream.
Overconfident – “I’ll do great because I read so well. (Never mind that I make C’s in math.)”
- What are some important things you’ll want to remember when you take the (weak subject area) test?
- You became a great reader by working hard at it. I know you can do that with all your subjects.
Note: Research shows that students tend to overestimate their abilities when they think generally about the test. Their perspective is more accurate when they try sample problems.
Anxious – “Tests upset me. I get really worried or feel sick.”
- What ideas have your teachers or other people shared with you on how to get your “butterflies” under control?
- I’m proud that you are interested in doing well. Let’s figure out how to avoid feeling worried.
Note: Test anxiety is when a student worries excessively about doing well on a test. It can potentially cause extreme nervousness and memory lapses, among other symptoms. Your mentee’s teachers are giving students guidance on healthy preparation, but here are some tips you can reinforce:
- Maintain a positive attitude (“I can do this!”) while preparing for the test and during the test.
- Stay relaxed. Take a few deep breaths if you become nervous.
- Read the directions slowly and carefully.
- Focus on the question at hand.
- Concentrate on your own test and don’t worry about others who finish quickly.
- Get organized at home so that you are on time at school on the test day.
How to respond to some attitudes you may see in your Mentee.
Clueless – “I don’t know what I think. I’ve never taken a big test before.”
- What has your teacher said about it?
- You’ve been doing practice tests in class, so it will more than likely be what you have been practicing.
Disinterested/Indifferent – “Whatever…”
- What do you mean, exactly, by “whatever”?
- Let’s talk about some tests that everyone has to do some time in life. [Mentors can share personal experiences here.]
Note: Older students may be engaged by asking if they are interested in ever having a driver’s license. That requires a test. Mentors might also share how they have personally handled non-academic tests or performances, e.g. in sports, music, etc.
Opposed – “Tests are boring. I don’t really like them.”
- What do you mean by “boring”? What is your physical experience of boring? (Boring can be a catch-all term to describe any of a number of other feelings.)
- I find some things boring, but I do them…because … (choose: I have to or because it’s satisfying or because I want the good outcome).
Defeated – “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to fail anyway.”
- What? You’re a winner. What exactly is making you think that you don’t have a chance?
- I love it when I see how determined you are when we play a game together. Sometimes you beat me!
- Think of all the hard things you’ve overcome in your life. You can make a genuine effort at this, too
Interested in gauging your own adult test anxiety? Try this checklist we found on austinisd.org.
by Falba Turner and Joyce Baker