Keeping Students Focused As Testing Season Looms

by | Mar 15, 2022 | Teaching Strategies, Test Prep | 0 comments

Can we be honest with each other? I always found this part of the school year to be the toughest. 

Testing season is coming quickly, with the promise of summer at its heels – but still too far away to feel like the end is near.

As a teacher, you are stressing over how to teach all the content your students need to master before the testing season begins. 

As for students, some may already be thinking about their summer plans and are getting a bit antsy. 

Why We Become Unfocused

Why do students (and teachers) become unfocused as the school year progresses? 

Many factors that go into our collective lack of focus as the final months of the school year approaches. Here are just a few. 

Warmer Weather

As spring appears and the weather gets warmer and sunnier, we all want to be outside more.

(Let’s be real, we never had this exact issue in Florida, but we do have a similar experience during spring. That is when our weather is ideal and no one wants to be inside!)

Warmer weather and the promise of summer are easily one of the top ways we become distracted during school. 

Have you ever seen your students glance out the window and immediately squirm? They want to be outside! And who can blame them? 

The Always Present Countdown

Summer is fast approaching and we all know it. Some classrooms might already have a countdown up, while others have students who are counting down for them. 

With the testing season looming, students just want to be finished. This desire is an easy distraction as well. 

So how do we keep our students focused as we inch closer and closer to testing and the end of the school year? 

Technology: Our Ally and Our Enemy

Over the last few years, we have used technology in our classrooms more than ever before. And while I think we can all agree that technology has helped us, it can also hurt us. 

When our students are learning via technology, they are easily distracted. Distractions can come in the form of their surroundings (their baby sister is loud, construction is happening outside their windows, etc.) and most distractions can’t be helped. 

There are many things in our student’s world that can distract them from engaging in the learning process. 

What can we do to keep our students focused, even when the world around them is distracting? 

Ways To Keep Students Focused

There are many ways to keep your students engaged in the content, even as the weather is enticing them. Here are a few of my favorites.


Guest Speaker

What are you teaching about in your current unit? Can you find someone to discuss the content at a personal level? 

If you are talking about a war, find a vet to talk to your students about their experience. 

If you are focusing on life cycles, find a biologist to chat with your students.

Learning about another culture? Ask someone from that culture to speak to your class. 

Getting another voice to speak to your classroom is a tested and true method for engaging your students in the content. 

While this takes a little bit of leg work on your part, the end result is worth it. TIP: Include a request for guest speakers in your classroom newsletter – that’s how I often found my guest speakers.


Friendly Competition 

If you are watching the life drain out of your students’ eyes it might be time for a change.  The quickest way to get your students re-engaged is to create some sort of friendly competition. 

Boys vs girls is the simplest way to split up your class, but you can also go by birthday months, favorite color, or any other easily known fact about your students. You can also invite another class to join you! 

Elements of Surprise 

Who doesn’t love a surprise? Now I know what you’re thinking, “Amy, I have enough content to cover before testing, I do NOT have time to also brainstorm surprises for my classroom!

These elements of surprise don’t need to be anything elaborate or complicated. 

  • Try introducing the theme of the week with a guessing game or a song. 
  • Introduce movement where there is usually stillness. 
  • Surprise your students with a “just because” treat at the end of the day – like a review game outside or five minutes of free time.

By incorporating a few simple elements of surprise into your classroom, students will find themselves sitting a bit closer to the edge of their seat, wondering what you will do next. Nothing keeps students engaged like anticipation. 

Make a Countdown

As we’ve already mentioned, students may have already started counting down the days until school is out. 

Instead of fighting against it, why not join them? 

Create a fun and engaging countdown or even better, have your students create it! 

Then you can put it up in your classroom and use it!

In addition to a visual countdown, you can always use the number of days left as the answer to a bell-ringer math problem – or have students write the problems!

Playing Games

If you don’t already know, I am a big proponent of meaningful, intentional games in your classroom. I think games are the perfect way to review concepts while keeping students engaged in something they actually enjoy. 

I love games so much, I created a TON for you to use in your classroom. You can check out my review games here

Keeping students focused on the task at hand is never an easy job. But as testing and the end of the year get closer, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep your students on track.
Use these tips in your classroom to see an increase in student engagement! 
Do you have other ideas for keeping students focused? Let me know! 

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Over twenty plus years, my educational career has spanned four continents and two states, as well as eight grade levels!

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