Published: 10 May 2016

N is for NAPLAN: Making the most of the moment

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If we are going to make NAPLAN a great learning experience for our children, here are 7 things we should focus on:

1. Make sure they know that these tests are not all that important in the scheme of things. They need to understand that all exams are just one test on one day. Later on when they’re in their final years of school or at university, even if they do a really awful job and fail an exam, there will still be ways for them to reach their goals. That’s the great thing about education today, that there are just so many pathways to get to a particular outcome. So talk to them about what the worst thing that can happen is.

2. Assure them that it’s more a test of what their school is doing, rather than them.  NAPLAN is chiefly used to compare schools, so what an individual achieves on these tests really only gives indicators to their teachers about additional areas of support they might have. If your child is worried about doing NAPLAN, point out that this is more of test of their teacher than them.

3. NAPLAN measures some things that they learn in school, but not all of them. Some young people would do better on a test that measured other skills and knowledge or used different methods to assess them. NAPLAN doesn’t test their knowledge of history or chemistry, their athletic ability or creativity in the arts or technology. That means that not everyone can play to their strengths on NAPLAN, in the same way that some do better in orals or assignments than exams.

4. We should all do our best to treat the NAPLAN days like any other day. In the past there’s been some focus on making sure kids have a good night sleep, a decent breakfast and a quiet morning. Lots of schools will put on a breakfast to make sure everyone has a well-fueled mind to do their best job. I think some of these tactics just send a signal to young people that NAPLAN is a bigger deal than it really needs to be. We don’t do this for a maths test at the end of term, or their weekly spelling test, so if we stick to our routines anxiety is less likely to be an issue.

5. Be inquisitive. At the end of each day, ask your children how they went. What did they find interesting in the test? Was there anything tricky? What have they learned for next time? And so on. This gives them a chance to debrief the experience and give you some idea what you can remind them of in two years time. It also means you can point out what things they were worried about that actually weren’t a big deal.

6. Celebrate when they’re over. We all need to feel good when we’ve accomplished something. Getting through NAPLAN is a practice run for doing an exam block in senior school or at university, so notch up that first success with an ice-cream on the way home or a favourite afternoon activity.

7. Show them the results when they arrive, if they’re interested. These usually arrive in August and are a good way for all of you to see where your child sits in comparison to others. Talk about which tests they did well on and which they might have struggled with, and put it in to context in comparison to the national averages. Link it back to what they liked and what they found tricky on the tests, and then pack that away as a good practice run for all next time.

Source: tweens2teen. 2016. NAPLAN. [ONLINE] Available at: http://tweens2teen.com/. [Accessed 10 May 2016].