Classroom Tension Tamers: Three More Ideas to Use Now!

Student working intentlyI wrote last week about things you can do to ease classroom stress during testing and other high-anxiety times. Here are three more tips for keeping the atmosphere of your classroom calm and productive!

Have a Cooperative Recess

A fun, energetic recess can be a great way for children to let off steam after a whole morning of sitting. However, testing followed by unmanaged recess can implode into arguments, fights, and general chaos. Here are some strategies for making recess go well during testing times:

  • If the weather is nice, get outside for quick games or chances to run as often as you can. Let your students have an extra 20 minute recess (guilt-free!) at the end of the day.
  • Play cooperative rather than competitive games with the whole class, since competition naturally leads to winning and losing, which can be hard enough to manage even during non-stressful times. Make sure to model and practice expected behaviors, such as safe tagging and following rules. Playing with your students will help keep the games fun and fair. Try “Toilet Tag” or “Excuse Me, Please.”
  • A friendly game of kickball with the class down the hall can build class unity in a fun way, as long as teachers set a positive tone and are vigilant about enforcing kind and fair play. Try joining in the game and playing with your students!

Read Aloud to the Class

There’s nothing like a really engaging read-aloud to help cut stress and help a class relax. Choose a suspenseful story to keep a class riveted, or a funny one to loosen things up. Whether you read between testing times, after recess, or at the end of the day, a good story can work wonders!

End the Day with Closing Circle

Finish off your day with a positive and energetic closing circle to celebrate the hard work that everyone is putting in. Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Students think of how they could answer the following questions: What is something that went well for you on the test today? What was something that was hard for you about the test today?
  • Everyone shares one thing they will do after school to make sure they are ready and rested for school tomorrow. You might chart the ideas as students share them and post them in the room for future reference.
  • Do an activity like “Ma Zinga!”, which goes like this:

The group stands together in a circle, with everybody’s arms pointing straight into the middle. The group begins to say and hold the sound “Ma-a-a-a-a-a-. . . ,” until at a nod of your head, they all quickly pull back their hands while forming fists, bending their elbows back and cheering together loudly, “Zinga!!!

You can explain that everyone contributes positive energy to the group during “Ma,” and at “Zinga” everyone grabs some of that good feeling to take home for the night. (“Ma Zinga!” is one of 88 quick movement activities featured in Energizers! by Susan Lattanzi Roser.)

And as always, make sure you take care of yourself during testing—the more relaxed you feel, the calmer your students will be too! Good luck!

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Mike Anderson is an education consultant who leads great learning throughout the United States and beyond. He is an award winning teacher and the author of many books. You can follow him on Twitter at @balancedteacher.

  • Mike Anderson
    Mike Anderson is an education consultant, award-winning teacher, and author of many books including What We Say and How We Say It MatterThe Well-Balanced Teacher, The First Six Weeks of School, The Research-Ready Classroom, and Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn. Learn more about Mike and his work or invite him to work with your school or district through his website: Connect with Mike on Twitter: @balancedteacher.

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    Mike Anderson
    Leading Great Learning
    Durham, NH
    Phone: +1 413.658.7907

    Leading Great Learning

    Mike Anderson is an energetic, experienced, and highly sought-after educational consultant who helps facilitate great learning in schools all over the United States and beyond. He has over twenty years of experience as a teacher, consultant, presenter, and developer and has authored many books and articles about great teaching and learning.