Unorthodox Test Strategies

Me on test day: Please sit down, take out your pencils, smack yourself in the head, and begin the test.


Blogpost about awesome ideas for stress reduction, enhancing memory, and improving test performance here. They may sound odd but they work!

No. I don’t enjoy inflicting pain. And although I am crazy about my students, I’m not crazy. Nor am I a huge fan of Homer Simpson’s, “Doh!”

I tell my students to smack their heads, because a neurosurgeon told me it would be a good idea.

Several years ago, a colleague and I went to a teaching conference about enhancing students’ brain function. It was called… Enhancing Your Students’ Brain Function, or something like that. Okay, I forget what it was called. It was about what I could do for my students, not me.

The conference was run by the neuroscience department of a major hospital, and the neurosurgeon who told us about the head smacking said that she does it before performing brain surgery. It stimulates the frontal lobe of the brain. The fact that she does this herself was enough to sell us on the idea.


 Optimal Performance of a Mental Task

Here’s the technique: Flatten your hand, and firmly tap your forehead right at your hairline about ten times. I always have to tell the kids not to do it if they have recently come off a concussion, and not to do it so harshly that they give themselves a concussion. Be prepared; that warning often prompts one clown per class to hit himself and “fall” out of his chair.

When I tell the kids to try this, they usually chuckle a little, and then no matter how foolish they feel, they try it.

I have a confession. I’m sure the neurosurgeon was right about activating the frontal lobe. But I am just as interested in the chuckles elicited by the head tapping. Because that chuckle is an outlet for all of the anxiety involved in  high-stakes testing.

We find that our students are more anxious than ever this year. In my school, we have an amazing guidance department, and these wonderful counselors have their hands full trying to get the kids to relax. So I feel like anything I can do to help the cause is time well spent.


Cognitive Benefits and Anxiety Reduction

There are other catalysts that produce both cognitive benefits and anxiety reduction. Here are a few more:

  • Gum chewing: Gum is never contraband in my class as long as I don’t see it, hear it, or smell it. Which transitions nicely to…
  • Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy works by encouraging deep breathing, which increases the flow of oxygen. Mint and pine both enhance memory, as well as aid relaxation.
  • Protein: My grandmother used to say that fish is brain food. Studies now prove that this is not just an old wives’ tale. I would love to hand out anchovies before a test, but I don’t think that would go over too well. So I encourage kids to eat protein foods for breakfast on a test day.
     I am now going to smack myself in the head so that I can go write some curriculum units. Please share any, and I mean any (obviously I am not choosy) outside-of -the-box test strategies you use! You can share here or on my Facebook page, which is https://www.facebook.com/DarleneAnne27You can find more awesome test strategies here:

Make test prep fun and easy with this engaging test tip flip book. Your students will enjoy creating the interactive book and reading and responding to tips; I know mine do! The best part is that they are having fun, while gaining lifelong skills necessary for success!