From the 15th of May, students across Australia in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 will be sitting their yearly NAPLAN tests, which cover reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy. It’s easy to get anxious about the tests, but ideally they shouldn’t be a negative experience that causes stress. The National Assessment Program that runs NAPLAN emphasises that the tests aren’t about passing or failing, but are instead just about assessing students’ learning and progress.
So, how can you get your child ready for NAPLAN without causing undue pressure and anxiety? Here are some tips for guardians to help your child through the testing period.
Get your child familiar with the tests and the testing process
Perhaps the most useful thing you can do for your child is to get them familiar with what they will in the test and what test conditions are like. If a child is uncertain about what they will be doing, they’ll find it much harder to settle down and do their best on the day of the test.
Luckily, there are lots of resources available for parents to help their child practise sitting the tests and to get familiar with the way the tests are presented and how the questions are formatted. Remember, focus on preparing them for what to expect instead of focussing how many questions they answer correctly.
Firstly, you can check out the National Assessment Program webpage for parents and carers, which contains links to example tests and information brochures. The page can be found at http://www.nap.edu.au/naplan/parent-carer-support/. Some students will be sitting the tests online this year too; the NAPLAN website includes a link to a demonstration site for each type of test and level, so that your child can experience what this is like too.
Hinkler’s NAPLAN-style Workbooks and Tests are another great way for parents to help their children become familiar with the NAPLAN tests. They can also help children develop more skills and confidence in the key learning areas that the tests focus on for generally. Packed full of NAPLAN-style exercises and practice tests, these books are a fun way to help kids prepare for the NAPLAN experience. With bright illustrations and reward stickers for primary-level titles, kids will actually enjoy their NAPLAN preparation!
Reassurance and relaxation
If your child is overly anxious about the tests, reassure them that the most important thing is that they do their best. Be positive about the tests and make sure that you don’t over-emphasise their importance – the tests are meant to be a just snapshot of where your child is in their learning at that moment. It doesn’t mean that they will be at the level forever, and it is just one means of assessment. Encourage your child to take part in other activities so they’re not just doing homework and practising for the tests.
- Encourage your child to focus on their breathing as they take big and slow breaths in and out is a good technique to help calm nerves before a test.
- Get your child to practise closing their eyes and visualising a place where they feel safe and relaxed. If tests are particularly stressful for them, encourage them to take a few minutes to do this prior to or during the test.
- Give your child a positive message to repeat to themselves if they feel panicky.
- Encourage your child to read each question slowly and carefully, and to think about their answer before they start writing.
Make sure you are on top of all the necessary practical details about the tests. Know when and where the tests will be held, and ensure you give everyone more than enough time to get to school on the testing day. Check if any specific stationery items are required, like a ruler or calculator, and make sure that everything is working and ready to go before the day of the test. You don’t want to discover a calculator’s batteries have run out as you’re on the way to school!
Make sure that your child goes to bed early the night before the test, so they’re refreshed and energised. They should eat a good breakfast and take healthy lunch and snacks to school with them. Don’t forget their water bottle too – it’s important to stay hydrated to stay calm as well as to operate at their best.
With some basic preparation, practice and familiarisation, NAPLAN needn’t be a big issue for your child and your family. Encourage and support your child and remember: they can only do their best and you should be proud if they do!