Teaching music during testing

Are you wondering how to adapt your music lessons during testing season? During the fall and spring, students are often tired from hours of testing. In this blog post, I'll detail five strategies for tweaking your testing music lessons for high engagement during testing season! (Note: this blog post does include some referral links, but I'm only making recommendations for things that I love!)

#1: Plan ahead

Your school likely has a testing calendar that shows which grade levels and which subjects are tested on specific dates. Looking at this calendar can help you plan for when testing is happening (as well as when any schedule changes might happen due to testing!) Then, you can write those dates down to keep them in mind, so you are not surprised when your students come to you on those days with tired brains! I love Planbook for keeping track of testing dates, as you can look months ahead, see which classes you would have on those days, and mark those dates down!

#2: Plan for a lighter lesson

I made the mistake this year of not marking down the first round of testing dates…and I had a presentation lesson for 2-beat meter planned with second grade. Their behavior was not what it typically is…simply because they were TIRED! So asking them to use their brains even more than typical, since it was a presentation lesson, didn't work all that well. I ended up adapting the lesson so it wasn't so concept heavy, added in some brain breaks (more on that in a minute), and still presented the material, but did so quicker. Now that I do have the testing dates written down, I am planning for no presentation lessons on those dates. If you absolutely need to, you could still present, but adapt the lesson so it's not quite so focused and has more brain breaks.

If you do free choice “reward” days, in which students earn points and then get to choose what to do during a lesson, those would be great to do during testing! Even if you don't do reward points, you could simply teach a somewhat normal lesson, then tack on free choice time.

#3: Plan for brain breaks

On testing days, students have been sitting, sometimes for hours, so brain breaks and creative movement can be super helpful. A brain break doesn't mean that students aren't using their brain. Instead, they are using their brains in a different way. One of my favorite brain breaks is the movement activity “Hands like this.” Here is a video showing how to play:

Another fun brain break/ creative movement activity is freeze dance. I love these statue cards by Artie Almeida, and use them with “Potpourri” from any of Eric Chapelle's “Movement for Creative Dance” CD's (like this one).

Check out this set, full of brain breaks:

#4: Read picture books

I've noticed that picture books during testing season can be a great way for students to relax, yet improve their listening skills. I love the book “What a Wonderful World” by Thiele, Weiss, and Hopgood and have read it to students during testing.

I turn the pages as students listen to Louis Armstrong sing the song. Afterwards, we discuss what the song is about, and what they think is wonderful about the world. I love hearing their answers!

Check out this blog post for more of my favorite picture books to sing or listen to!

#5: Be honest, patient, and understanding

After my first testing lesson that didn't go as well as I had hoped, I made sure to start off the next lesson telling students that I understood that they had been testing, and that I planned some fun activities for them…but that we still had to focus during parts of the lesson. I think just acknowledging that they had been working hard, and that I understood that and had considered that in my lesson planning, helped the next lesson go much smoother!

If a student still has difficulty focusing, or has a meltdown, try to be patient. They may have been sitting for hours, testing. They are tired. Many of them may be anxious about how they did, and are worried about disappointing. Let them know that you understand, and that you care about them, but you do still have expectations about how they behave. Just saying, “Thank you for working hard this morning” can help.

I hope that's helpful as you consider how to adapt your lessons during testing! Happy teaching!

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Hi, I'm Aileen

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