Reducing Test Anxiety in Elementary School Children: Coloring Before a Test
Today, test anxiety is the most prevalent form of anxiety among K-12 students. Researchers Dana Carsley and Nancy L. Heath note that even one third of elementary school students experience test anxiety (1). Test anxiety has been linked to lower grades in school, grade retention, dropout, and mental health problems in students. Moreover, “effects of test anxiety can increase in severity if not treated at a young age” (1). In response to the increasing prevalence of test anxiety among students, school administrations and teachers have incorporated anxiety-reducing measures into schools and classrooms. However, Carsley and Heath remark that “these programs are typically lengthy and include several sessions that span over multiple weeks” (1). They argue that given the extent of test anxiety, it is essential that teachers are aware of effective, easy-to-implement anxiety-reducing strategies that require “no additional teacher training and minimal class time” (1).
Who Do You Eat Lunch With?: Cross-Ethnic Interactions and Student Academic Achievement
Who do you eat lunch with? This seemingly simple question leads to much information about students: their shared values and interests, their friendships and peer supports, and even their academic achievement. In their paper, “Early Adolescents’ Peer Experiences with Ethnic Diversity in Middle School: Implications for Academic Outcomes,” authors Jakeem Amir Lewis et al. investigate the correlations between students’ interactions with cross-ethnic peers and student academic achievement. Their research reveals that students who eat lunch routinely with peers who have different ethnic backgrounds than their own (cross-ethnic peers) have higher academic achievement than students who eat less frequently with cross-ethnic peers or who eat with only students of the same ethnic background.
Emphasizing Concepts vs. Procedures in Math: Student Achievement and Social Justice
Over the past few decades, teachers in the United States have faced increasing pressure to boost American students’ mathematics achievement. Comparisons with other countries have revealed that American students lag behind in math achievement, especially when compared to student performance in Japan and Singapore. Thus, American education leaders and policymakers have prioritized mathematics achievement in part to secure America as a globally competitive and innovative nation (Yu 82).
In their paper, “Teacher support, instructional practices, student motivation, and mathematics achievement in high school,” authors Rongrong Yu and Kusum Singh explain that for the past 20 years, mathematics educators and administrators have been engaged in “mathematics wars,” heated debates that have pitted those who favor procedural teaching against those who favor conceptual teaching (81).
Previous studies have shown that students in high-achieving countries like Japan and Singapore “spend more time on inventing, analyzing, and proving, with less time on routine procedures, but U.S. students spend almost all their time on routine procedures” (83).
How Teacher Beliefs in Their Own Effectiveness Transform the Classroom
Believe in your students and their abilities. Show them that you care. Teachers are often reminded of these cornerstones of teaching practices. Yet, perhaps equally as important, teachers need to believe in themselves and their own abilities to successfully run a classroom. In their recent article, “The effects of teachers’ efficacy beliefs on students’ perceptions of teacher relationship quality,” authors Jessica J. Summers et al. investigate the connections between teachers’ beliefs in their own abilities and students’ views about their student-teacher relationship. They find that when teachers believe that their teaching will have a positive impact on students, they have closer relationships with their students.
Supporting Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
The middle school years are notorious for student behavior challenges and bullying. Even emotionally strong students may find the social world of middle school difficult to manage. It is no surprise then that the middle school years are particularly difficult for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. In their article, “An Examination of School Climate, Victimization, and Mental Health Problems Among Middle School Students Self-Identifying With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders,” authors Tamika La Salle et al. explain that students with disabilities have statistically evident negative experiences in middle school. They constitute 12% of public-school students but are suspended at twice the rate of students without Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). They are also the victims of bullying more often than students without disabilities: “more than half of SWD [students with disabilities] experience peer victimization, in comparison with approximately 32% of students without disabilities” (383).
For elementary school teachers, developing students’ literacy is a primary goal. It is also no easy task. Studies have shown that helping struggling students become fluent readers becomes increasingly harder as students progress through the primary grades, and “children who do not learn to read effectively in primary grades are less likely to achieve full literacy” (Linder et al. 323). Moreover, in their paper, “Effects of an Animal-Assisted Intervention on Reading Skills and Attitudes in Second Grade Students,” authors Deborah Linder et al. explain that children who struggle with reading “often demonstrate negative feelings about reading at school,” exhibit less motivation to read, have low self-esteem, and often resist participating in classroom reading activities (323-324). In contrast, students with higher reading abilities have higher levels of academic success and more favorable attitudes about school (323).
For their study, Linder et al. investigated how partnering therapy dogs with second grade students affected those students’ literacy levels and attitudes about reading at school. They note that animal-assisted interventions have already been linked to numerous benefits for children, including “reducing anxiety, facilitating coping, and reducing discomfort in stressful situations” (324).
How School Goals Affect Teacher Motivation and Burnout Rates
In the United States, nearly 40 percent of teachers leave the profession within five years (Skaalvik and Skaalvik 154). Research has shown that this high teacher turnover rate is attributable to high levels of stress, time pressure, and discipline problems, among other things (153). In their paper, “Motivated for Teaching? Associations with school goal structure, teacher self-efficacy, job satisfaction, and emotional exhaustion,” Einar M. Skaalvik and Sidsel Skaalvik argue that school-wide goals also play a significant part in influencing teachers’ job satisfaction and motivation to stay in the teaching profession.
When it comes to speaking in front of the class, some students shine and others find the experience dreadful. For authors Craig O. Stewart et al., the level of comfort that students have with public speaking is not simply a matter of preparation and student demeanor. Rather it is largely a matter of whether students perceive public speaking as a skill that can be developed or a “gift” that students either have or don’t have.
Using Humorous Examples During Instruction Hampers Student Learning
During each lesson, teachers face two pressing tasks: (1) teaching students content in a way that will help them best understand and recall that information, and (2) keeping students’ attention. To accomplish this, many teachers may choose to incorporate humor into their lessons, using funny examples to illustrate a point. However, in their paper, “Humor in the classroom: the effects of integrated humor on student learning,” authors San Bolkan et al. argue that using humorous examples to explain content to students actually hampers students’ ability to recall information from the lesson (154).
They’re Being Bullied. But Are They Telling You About It?
Look out at the students in your classroom. Do you know for certain which students are being bullied? Having to deal with bullying is an unfortunate reality for many students. Today, students not only have to face the possibility of being bullied in person (traditional bullying), but also being bullied online (cyberbullying). Yet, authors Ylva Bjereld et al. note that parents and teachers are significant counter-forces to bullying. Not only do teachers and parents help victims cope with bullying, but they can help prevent future incidents and end current behaviors as well (347). Indeed, Bjereld et al. explain that when children communicate their experiences as victims of bullying to adults, especially parents, they are better able to manage the bullying and have fewer negative mental health effects, such as depression (347).