Our focus for Naplan should be “trying your hardest”!

Naplan is just about here for another year. Running from the 10th of May in 2022, it is often a time of high anxiety, and polarising views regarding the importance, use of and reasons why the tests are run.

For the past few weeks, my social feeds have been overloaded with tutoring companies targeting parents regarding NAPLAN. As much as it is important for our children to feel confident in the test and the procedures of test environments, conventions of taking a test and so on and so forth; I always feel the added pressure of children pushed to receive high marks, is that polarising view.

As a teacher, educator and owner of a tutoring centre, my whole focus is on building confidence in our learners at Breakaway Tuition, and trying to encourage our students to simply try their hardest.

However, with everything, sometimes as parents, we feel that we need our children to attain high marks in these types of tests, and sometimes that pressure is being put on by the school that our children attend as well.High marks though, don’t necessarily show what areas your child is struggling in, and areas of improvement for them either.

The National Assessment Program for Literacy And Numeracy has been put into place in order to see where students are sitting on a national level, in order to ensure that the right supports and funding is being placed into schools where it is needed. It is used by schools, to see where their students are sitting within their cohort across Australia and then also allows schools to provide targeted assistance where required, and sometimes, as a whole school initiative.

There are plenty of examples around where schools have done this effectively. Perhaps the school noticed that all of Year 5 students were struggling with writing, and so with a writing emphasis in the following year, they were able to better support their students in writing tasks and outcomes.

As with anything though, sometimes, the NAPLAN tests feel like a “competition” and this can generate huge amounts of anxiety in our kids. When students are in Year 3, for many students, this is the first time they are sitting a test in the first place. There are test conventions to learn and know and behaviours to adapt to as well. We expect our students: to be quite for the test period; not receive specific help from the teacher; read each of the questions and provide an answer for them; not talk to their friends …… and these things alone, are often difficult for our Year 3 students to get used to.

The massive difference in the newest variations of the NAPLAN assessments is that the computer version, adjusts in difficulty as the students are completing the test. This is thought to provide a more accurate picture of where students are struggling and how they are going across the various areas of content. The other side of this is that students completing the test, may also be more likely to continue to try their best, rather than feel that the questions are too hard, and shut down or not attempt to answer the rest of the test.

The wording I would love parents to use with their children for this years run of NAPLAN is simply “try your hardest”. “Our hardest” looks different across all of our children (and everyone). Ensuring that our kids know that we are proud of their hardest achievements is really important for our children’s mental health, and for their ability to understand that it is not a competition at all. Rather it is put into place to see how they are going.

At the end of the day, NAPLAN is a snapshot of your child’s abilities on a particular day. Nothing else. It gives us some clues as to where they may be struggling, it tells us what areas we may focus on for continuing to build our children’s confidence, but other than that, it doesn’t tell us if the child on the other end was: unwell, unsure, anxious, confused or had other external factors impacting their test on that particular day.

On that note, we should always be encouraging our child to try their hardest, because that is all that we can really do- in school, at work and in life.

There are a few things that we can do as parents to help your child heading into the tests.

1. “Try your best” is the best approach for children feeling anxious or concerned.
2. Make sure you read the questions carefully. If you are not sure, read the question again.
3. Skip the question to come back to at the end if you are really stuck.
4. Sit down and go through an example of the test layout, especially if you know they will be completing the online test.
5. If they are doing an online version, get them to try practicing their typing for the writing section of the test.
6. Talking to them about what to remember in writing (capital letters, punctuation, writing sentences that make sense) will also help them have a “tick list” to check over before submitting their work.
7. Get them to check and recheck their answers.

The above list is not exhaustive, and is simply focused around skills that students can use, not only for NAPLAN, but for any test they may need to complete in the future – both computer based and paper based.

Remember, all our children can do …… is try their very best!

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