As we prepare to begin term 3 in Australia, now is a good time to star to prepare for the dreaded tests and exams period. Whether it is your child’s first experience with formal examination periods or they are a seasoned regular, it is easy to feel unprepared and nervous. The following article will discuss strategies to assist with these nerves and help boost your child’s confidence!
Strategy #1 PREPARE FOR YOUR ASSESSMENTS
Sometimes the most obvious strategies are overlooked. Make sure you know when your child’s exam is. Mark it on the calendar. Knowing how long you have to prepare will help you and your child to appropriately schedule study times and reduce the chance of your child feeling overwhelmed.
Similarly, find out what is on the test! Some exam notices will indicate particular chapters and topics of importance. For the Higher School Certificate (HSC), students will be provided learning outcomes that explicitly highlight what knowledge will be examined. The Board of Studies has created helpful pages for each exam that outline what to expect as well as the equipment needed for each tests and exams, which can be found by following the link here.
Strategy #2 TIMETABLE
This is the time to get out the coloured highlighters and get organised! On a weekly planner, mark out all the times where you have commitments already scheduled (e.g. school, dance class, soccer practice, family BBQ, etc.). Then, working with your child, (let them do it on their own if they are capable), schedule in one to three 30 minute blocks of time on weeknights (depending on the number of tests and exams: and child’s capability) to cover a particular subject. Prioritise the subjects they find most difficult.
Breaking up the work into more manageable chunks of time will make the pressure of exams less daunting. Structuring study this way will also help to overcome any avoidance tactics.
For the weekends, you may want to discuss adding a couple more study blocks, where your child can choose the topics. Remember to schedule in fun breaks and small rewards to keep your child motivated. For example, spend 15 minutes playing their favourite game or having a snack after 30-40 minutes of study.
Strategy #3 STUDY ENVIRONMENT
Research has shown that your memory recall is best when it is in a similar environment (Godden & Baddeley, 1975). Although you cannot take your child to school to study in their regular school classroom, you can try to make their study space at home reflect the conditions of tests and exams.
For example, encourage your child to study at a desk, sitting upright in a supportive chair, in a quiet environment. Although it may be more comfortable, studying in bed will be less effective!
Strategy #4 MAKE STUDY ACTIVE
How does your child study? Most commonly, children and adolescents alike will flick through their books and highlight more words than not. Though this can be helpful, it can often lead to an illusion of knowledge – “if it is highlighted, I should know it!”
Instead, encourage active study. This includes rewriting information in their own words, making mind maps, talking about topics, creating quizzes, using past exams questions and testing knowledge. Children can either do this independently or with parents and/or friends. Research shows that this leads to better learning and understanding of the material (Prince, 2004).
Strategy #5 SLEEP
Adequate sleep is so important, especially for the exam preparation! During sleep, our brain consolidates learning, so while your child may think it is better to stay up studying until the early hours of the morning, they will be better off getting in the zzz’s (Stickgold, 2005).
Strategy #6 NUTRITION
There is no one key ‘brain food’ that is guaranteed to lead to success. However, a diet rich in whole grains (oats, brown rice, wheat bread), omega-3 (fatty fish, nuts and seeds, avocado) and vitamins (eggs, leafy greens) has been shown to improve brain function and development and improve concentration (Torrens, 2017).
In particular, for older adolescents, limiting caffeine is recommended. Although energy drinks or coffee may be considered helpful because they increase alertness, their stimulant effects may make it difficult for adolescents to wind down, negatively impact sleep and lead to daytime sleepiness (James, Kristjánsson, & Sigfúsdóttir, 2011).
Strategy #7 EXAM DAY
Important things to remember on the day:
- Make sure your child has a good, wholesome breakfast – think brain food, such as eggs on toast with avocado.
- Engage in positive self-talk: remind your child of the hard work that has gone into preparing for the exam. Remind them they can do this! Manage expectations and focus on the effort your child has put in, not the achievement.
- Arrive early: this is especially important for the HSC, as sometimes exams can be in rooms different from normal exams or classes.
Remind your child to:
- Take three deep breaths to help settle their nerves.
- Read all the instructions carefully.
- Wear a watch to keep track of time.
Have something enjoyable arranged for after the assessment – your child has earned it!
Strategy #8 REDUCING ANXIETY DURING TESTS AND EXAMS
Though the above strategies can help support your child, it is normal for them to experience anxiety. Recognising the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety can help your child break the anxiety cycle.
Racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worry and negative self-talk are common psychological symptoms of anxiety. Physical symptoms may include an accelerated heart rate, sweaty palms, upset stomach and tension throughout the body (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Some strategies to help reduce anxiety include: deep breathing exercises (long, slow breaths in through the nose, out through the mouth), positive self talk (“I can do it”), grounding exercises (focus on what is in the room, not racing thoughts), and taking a break to go and exercise (Furner, & Berman, 2003; Otto & Smits, 2011).
If you notice your child’s exam anxiety is persistent and detrimentally affecting your child’s ability not only to study but to effectively function in other areas of life, it may be indicative of a more serious issue. Should you have any concerns please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly reception on (02) 9362 9297.
Best of Luck!
Done with your assessments? Or just going back to school? Check out our term programs!
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Furner, J. M., & Berman, B. T. (2003). Math anxiety: Overcoming a major obstacle to the improvement of student math performance. Childhood Education, 79(3), 170-175. doi: 10.1080/00094056.2003.10522220
Godden, D. R. & Baddeley, A. D. Context‐dependent memory in two natural environments: on land and underwater. British Journal of Psychology, 66(3), 325-331. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1975.tb01468.x
James, J. E., Kristjánsson, Á. L., & Sigfúsdóttir, I. D. (2011). Adolescent substance use, sleep, and academic achievement: evidence of harm due to caffeine. Journal of adolescence, 34(4), 665-673.
NSW Education Standards Authority (2018). Exam advice and resources for students. Retrieved 17th September, 2018, from http://k6.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/11-12/hsc/exam-advice-resources
Otto, M, W., & Smits, J. A. J. (2011). Exercise for mood and anxiety: Proven strategies for overcoming depression and enhancing well-being. New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc.
Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223-231.
Stickgold, R. (2005). Sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Nature, 437(7063), 1272-1278. doi:10.1038/nature04286
Torrens, K. (2017). 10 foods to boost your brain power. Retrieved 17th September, 2018, from https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/10-foods-boost-your-brainpower
We are proud to announce Telerah Public School has just confirmed they will be implementing ‘The Best of Friends’™ program during 2018. The Best of Friends program is a Social and Emotional Learning program developed by The Quirky Kid Clinic.
Telerah Public School is a progressive public school offering education for Preschool to Year 6 students, located in the Maitland suburb of Telarah. At Telarah Public School the mission is to provide children with a love of learning, a pride in their achievement and a respect for themselves and others.
Their enrolment continues to establish our Social and Emotional program as the most effective intervention to foster children’s social and emotional wellbeing. We continue to work incredibly hard to produce innovative programs and resources that are tried, tested and loved in classrooms, clinics and lounge rooms around the globe.
About Telerah Public School
Telerah Public School sits within the beautiful township of Maitland, NSW. There are approximately 510 students from Kindergarten to Year 6. There is an Aboriginal Resource Centre and an Early Intervention Child Support Unit within the school grounds which caters for children with learning difficulties at the preschool level. Telera Public School is committed to enhancing academic and extra-curricular learning for each child within a safe, and positive learning environment.
Social and Emotional Learning
Equally with their commitment to academic development and a safe and nurturing learning environment Telerah Public School has demonstrated a clear commitment to the Social and Emotional Learning of their students. We were impressed with the passion and commitment the school has for “looking beyond” the academic and extra-curricular program and applying learning to living.
About The Best of Friends Program™ and the School.
The implementation of The Best of Friends™ program will take place progressively and will be closely supported by the program author and our Educational Developmental Psychologist Dr. Kimberley O’Brien.
Participants will receive a copy of the exclusive workbook developed by Quirky Kid. Facilitators and teachers will have access to a series of manuals and regular supervision as required.
Interested in offering ‘The Best of Friends™’ program at your school?
Currently, the program is available to a limited number of schools and organisations. The BoF program has a comprehensive implementation, evaluation and monitoring plan and we are keen to identify partners committed to SEL implementation and evaluation.
Schools can choose from a target (small group) or universal (classroom) format. We will provide all the implementation assistance required, including training, supervision, and support for key staff members.
Leading Australian child psychologist Dr Kimberley O’Brien and the team at Quirky Kid Clinic have launched a social emotional learning (SEL) program for use in schools and clinics.
‘The Best of Friends’™ program was developed in response to increasing demand at schools and the Quirky Kid Clinics to address social and emotional challenges that children experience.
This manualised program has been running since October last year at the Quirky Kid Clinics and is soon to be rolled out at St Catherine’s School in Sydney. It is an innovative resource that helps children to gain the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, show empathy for others, develop and maintain friendships and make good decisions.
Dr O’Brien said SEL opportunities in school settings significantly increase student outcomes both academically and in life.
‘The Best of Friends’™ program engages children with stories, illustrations and interactive activities to help children overcome social and emotional issues in a peer group setting,” said Dr O’Brien.
The program draws on decades of clinical and school experience and extensive research and is presented in a concise format to facilitate SEL for children aged 7 to 11 years.
Publisher of ‘The Best of Friends’™ and co-founder of the Quirky Kid Clinic, Leonardo Rocker said the program integrates with the Australian Curriculum and was shortlisted for the Educational Publishing Awards Australia 2015 and received a special commendation.
The Quirky Kid Clinic has been offering workshops throughout Australia for over 8 years.
Here are some questions for you:
- How many times do you have to ask your fourteen year old to get started on their homework?
- How many funky old sandwiches have you retrieved from the bottom of your ten year olds’ school bag?
- Has your preschooler ever been ready to leave when you are?
Organising your kids can be trying but helping them to develop these skills for themselves will make your life and theirs much easier. As with all aspects of parenting, our expectations of our children need to be developmentally appropriate (most four year olds have trouble sitting down to read a story the first time they are asked, let alone ticking off items on a to do list) but that doesn’t mean we can’t help our children to develop good habits early on.
Routines and Time Management
To start instilling organisational skills in kids early on (and to help keep all members of the household stay sane), establish simple household routines and stick to them. For example,
- in the morning we eat our breakfast, brush our teeth and then get dressed;
- in the afternoon we unpack our lunch box as soon as we walk in the door and then eat a healthy snack together.
For important routines like the morning rush and bedtime, you can even use fun visuals to help your child stay on track without constant reminders from you. Make a step-by-step checklist with pictures for each “to do”, for extra fun, stick these pictures to a poster with velcro and let your child peel each step off as it is completed.
If you are organised, they will be too, children learn through watching others around them. Maybe not quite as well organised as you are, but it will help! Organise yourself with the little things so that they don’t pile up, for example, as soon as a permission slip comes home – read it, sign it and put it back in their bag – job done! In this way you can lead by example and then compliment this by talking about time management. Use calendars, family planners, white boards or pin boards around the house and collaborate as a family on organisation. Using a weekly schedule which includes things like school, homework and extracurricular activities, will keep the family on track. Including “down time” and time with friends on the schedule will help to teach your child about balance.
Some Tricks of the Trade
Different strategies will work in different families but here are a few tried and true techniques to help your child to develop organisational skills:
Break down big projects or assignments into small, manageable chunks. Once this has been achieved, encourage your child to plan out when and how they will complete each “chunk”. This is also helpful for procrastinators as it takes away the feeling of being overwhelmed by an insurmountable task. Provide regular praise for having a go and completing plans.
Putting it into Practice
Talk about the new ideas you are introducing to help them become more organised and why this is important. Make sure that they feel involved in planning and timetabling so that they don’t feel that this is just another set of rules that are being imposed upon them. This will also be important in helping them to develop the skills for themselves rather than having you do it for them.
When you catch your child demonstrating good organisational skills (eg. being ready to leave on time, following a step in the new routine) provide them with some specific and meaningful praise about what a great effort they are putting in (eg. “thank you Ella for putting on your shoes and taking your bag to the car so we could be on time for school today. You are very good at that”).
Introduce new strategies one at a time and provide plenty of rewards and praise along the way. Remember that teaching kids to be organised can be fun and with a little creativity, the possibilities are endless!
Hannan, Tim. Learning Disorders in Children: Recent advances in research and practice. InPsych, December 2013
Recently, the Quirky Kid Clinic worked with school staff from Year 5 at Moriah College in Sydney to facilitate the popular ‘The Best of Friends’ in the classroom setting.
This 6 weeks program covered areas such as Making Friends, Social Skills, Empathy, Compromise, and Peacemaking in friendships.
Students participated in a range of activities including painting, play dough, role play, and multimedia presentations while discussing the finer points of friendship and playground issues.
Each child was given a “Quirky Kid Tool Kit” including materials for the day as well as making use of the Quirky Kid Resources. Information sheet for parents were provided so they could also help their children to build social skills.
We are very satisfied with parental and school feedback on the positive outcomes the workshop has achieved so far.
Moriah Colleague Principal and Teaching staff were incredibly supportive and showed great commitment toward students social development.
- If you would like some information on ‘The Best of Friends™ workshop for your child’s classroom, please contact us on 02 9362-9297
- This program has been present in many schools around Sydney like, St Thomas, St Catherine’s School and others. We also run our workshops in in Sydney, Wollongong, and Melbourne.