Students generally agree that tests can be quite daunting.
The anxiety, nerves and sometimes fear affect them in such a way that they feel their comfort zone well out of reach. Where young learners are concerned, reactions to tests differ greatly. Some kids feel anxious and a bit scared while others simply accept tests as a natural part of their course. There are many reasons why these differences on how tests are perceived exist. For young learners some are entirely personal and others have to do with fear of the unknown. The truth is, tests don't have to be daunting for anyone. Essentially, if young learners feel comfortable and at ease there is no reason why they would fear tests. The first thing we need to ask ourselves is how to help children feel comfortable. The answer here is to identify what causes anxiety and find ways to reduce it.
4 Great Ways to Let Students Show You What They Know
Fear of the Unknown
As I mentioned before, children often fear what they are not familiar with. Keeping this in mind, it is logical to say that if they become familiar with the process and test they will probably be less anxious and/or fearful of it. The fear is something teachers should always work hard on eliminating. It is what paralyzes kids and prevents them from performing well or sometimes at all. This issue needs to be handled with great care and will often require parents' help. So, what can we do to help in this area? One choice is to take a shorter version of the test beforehand as “practice”. If they know what to expect they won't be afraid and the testing experience will be comfortable. Also, test anxiety can also be reduced if children know clearly what is expected of them.
Long Drawn out Tests
Teachers sometimes unintentionally make tests a little longer than they need to be. This is an important issue since kids, specially young ones loose focus in long activities. We should make tasks relatively brief and narrowly focused. This allows us to include frequent changes of activity or task-type in the test. By doing this we give kids several 'fresh starts' which helps if they feel anxious or demotivated while working on a particular task that is difficult for them.
Kids like to have fun, that's why it helps to use tasks which are 'active' or 'game-like'.The format of the test should be enjoyable. If they are having fun they won't even realize it is an evaluation. Try to include fun activities in the test. Tests don't need to be boring to be effective. For instance, a board game played with other test takers can be used to evaluate speaking. This enables kids to communicate with each other thus giving you an amazing opportunity to check their skills.
We all know that working with 4 year-olds isn't the same as working with 6 year-olds. Though kids share many interests in several age groups, others differ greatly. Also, we need to keep in mind that kids in different age groups can't always work on the same tasks because they are in different developmental stages. We need to consider the age and background of the children and present the material in a lively and attractive manner. If we do this, they are more likely to engage positively with a test and to perform accordingly. Topics should be age-appropriate and interesting to children. We need to remember that children relate to the world quite differently from adults. Topics which are relevant to children's lives like,school, food, sports, animals and family life should be chosen. Also, all language should be used in an everyday context, matching the way in which young learners process language.
Ok, so now that we know what to avoid and anxiety levels are low, there is something else that needs to be considered. Task-based testing is an amazing option, but, what do we need to keep in mind regarding tasks used in the test? Let's take a look.
- A project-based approach to assess is an incredible choice. Since children work on it over a period of time they can think things through and make necessary adjustments to their work. Also, for teachers, it is a great way to see student progress over time.
- The first language skills to develop in children are usually speaking and listening. With that in mind, the emphasis in testing children should be placed there. The communicative task-based approach is vital since young learners tend to perform best on tasks which reflect their own experiences. It could be a listening task matching pictures to what they hear; or an oral task which involves choosing something from a store from a number of different options.
- Written tasks can be specially daunting for young kids. That's why, many of the tasks in the written part should be based around engaging visuals. Any writing activity in testing should be limited to the word / phrase level since young children have generally not yet developed the skills needed to produce extended writing.
- Tasks must also be appropriate to young learners' level of cognitive development. We need to keep in mind that some activities are suitable for some age groups and not others. Also, task instructions also need to be easy to understand.
- The use of tasks which are 'active' or 'game-like' is incredibly useful. If material is presented in a lively and attractive manner, consistent with the age and background of the children, then they are more likely to enjoy them.
Testing and assessment in general don't need to be a drag.
If their level of anxiety is low, and they feel comfortable, they will have more confidence and have a greater chance to perform to the best of their capacity. Just make sure to think it through and remember to have all the right considerations and who knows, they may even enjoy it.
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