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How to Keep Students Quiet and Engaged During Assessments

The beginning of the school year is an interesting time! Just as you and your students are getting to know each other and are falling into a routine, it’s time to administer the beginning of the year assessments. One of the biggest hurdles in administering individual assessments is maintaining a quiet environment so that students can do their very best.  In this post, I wanted to share some tips for how to keep students quiet and engaged while you’re testing individual students. 

Keeping students quiet and engaged during individual assessments

The Challenges of Assessment in the Classroom

Testing students one at a time is essential for educational planning! While some assessments can be administered to a whole class, certain tests must be done individually.  If you don’t have an assessment team at your school, this task will likely be something you are asked to complete as part of your school day.  

As teachers, we know that testing in the classroom usually presents a few challenges. 

  • Keep Students Quiet: It’s difficult for students to focus on the assessment when they are half-listening to what their peers are talking about! Plus, it’s nearly impossible to hear quiet voices during fluency tests in a loud classroom.
  • Keep Students Seated:  Wandering students can be another distraction for test-takers.  The majority of the time, wandering students make their way over to the teacher to ask a question!
  • Keep Students Engaged:  I feel like this is the challenge that weighs on teachers the most.  We want our students to be engaged in worthwhile activities while we are testing since every school day counts!

How to Keep Students Quiet and Engaged While You Test

With those challenges in mind, I wanted to share some tips for keeping students quiet, seated, and engaged while you’re busy with assessments.

1. Focus on Community

Classroom community is often overlooked when people look for ways to keep students quiet during assessments.  Foster an environment of mutual respect and care! Encourage students to make choices that will help their peers, and remind them that their peers will do the same for them.

2. Dim the Lights

Dimming the classroom lights can be a visual reminder that the classroom needs to remain quiet.  You can also keep the lights on above the testing table, which serves as a reminder of why it’s important to be quiet. Plus, it ensures that your students can see their testing material!

3. Have a Procedure for Questions

One of the biggest interruptions for individual assessments is when students have questions.  Be sure to have a procedure in place for students to ask for help.  Whether it’s hand signals, a parking lot, or a question break after every few tests, make sure it’s communicated to students that they may not ask you questions during assessments.

4. Use Quiet Independent Classroom Activities

Rather than have students silently read for hours or use iPads all morning, find some quiet classroom activities that students can complete independently at their desks.

Close-up of an Animal Facts writing worksheet

5. Have Plenty of Fast Finisher Activities

Silent reading and educational iPad games are great fast-finisher activities.  However, some students might rush through their independent work to go straight to those activities.  You might consider using additional quiet learning activities for fast finishers, depending on your class.

6. Take Breaks

When you can sense that most students have moved on to a fast finisher activity, take a break! Give students a chance to stretch their legs, ask questions, and talk to their peers.

Quiet Independent Classroom Activities to Use During Testing

Are you feeling stumped for activity ideas to use during testing? I wanted to share some of my favorite activities that help to keep students quiet and seated during assessments. 

Fun Writing Activities

Writing activities with fun prompts are always a hit! Plus, these can serve as an independent writing sample for your back-to-school assessments. “Would You Rather…” writing activities are always popular with students!  They have so much fun answering the questions, they don’t realize they’re hard at work.

A Would You Rather writing activity for pretzels and chips

Math Fact Practice

There is always room for math fact practice in an elementary classroom!  I like to use math fact worksheets with additional tasks, like circling the problems that equal a particular number.  This slows students down and can actually help them catch some errors and self-correct. 

An addition facts worksheet

Engaging Literacy Practice

There are so many ways to make literacy worksheets more engaging for students!  My students love to do word-building activities with spinners.  They use a paperclip and a pencil as a spinner, then write down any real words they make. 

A make-a-word worksheet

Since your students will have a wide range of literacy skills, consider using literacy activities that have built-in support.  For example, instead of handing out a traditional reading passage and comprehension questions, I like to use a story that is visually divided into parts and illustrated.  This makes it easier for students to navigate the story to answer the questions independently.

A reading passage titled Brandon Bear's Busy Day

Fine Motor Activities

If your class is up to the challenge, fine motor activities are a great way to keep students quiet and seated.  I would not suggest using independent cutting and pasting activities in kindergarten, but second graders can definitely work on these tasks. Since these activities have multiple steps, students remain engaged for a longer period of time.

A back to school cut and paste alphabetizing activity

Coloring is another fine motor activity that students love.  One way that I like to encourage students to color while I’m testing is to use worksheets with plenty of clip-art on them!  Students love to color the fun graphics on each page, then turn over their worksheets to color on the back.

Three back-to-school activities for independent work

Printable Activities to Encourage a Quiet Classroom

Are you looking for a variety of activities to help your students remain seated and engaged while you test your students? Check out this resource with 60 pages of activities that are perfect for second graders!  

Three back to school activities for 2nd grade independent work

These learning activities review first-grade skills, making them perfect for independent work at the beginning of second grade. Since students will be working on these tasks independently, it can also provide a snapshot of their academic skills at the beginning of the year.

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How to Keep Students Quiet and Seated During While You Test

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