Try Your Best - don't worry!
Everyone can feel anxious about exams and tests - the best approach is simply to try your best.
by Margaret Liversidge
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To enable children to recognize that everyone can feel anxious about exams and tests and that the best approach is simply to 'Try your best'.
Preparation and materials
- OHT, projector and pens, or flip-chart.
- Introductory music as children are gathering: track from Rhythm of Peace, or Moods, the magic of the panpipes or other similar calming music.
- Launch straight into the assembly in story-telling mode:
James could hardly believe it. His teacher was actually in a good mood. She must have had a very good weekend - she hadn't mentioned revision or tests for at least an hour! Mrs Roberts was speaking:
'This morning children I have two tasks for you. First I would like you to make up as many acrostics as you can using the letters T, E, S, T, for TEST. Put your hand up when you've thought of a good one and it doesn't matter about your spelling, we can sort that out later.'
James could hardly believe his ears. They were actually going to make a joke out of tests. Hands began to shoot up all around the room.
'Tests Exist Simply for Teachers', said Sarah.
'These Exceptionally Stupid Tasks', shouted Callum and Joe.
'Tricky Exams Smell Terrible', said James, and everyone laughed.
Mrs Roberts then explained to the class what they were going to do next. 'We're going to use the "Tests Secrets" box which I've made for you. I'd like everyone to write anonymously on a piece of paper - what does "anonymously" mean Mahinda?'
'It means you don't put your name on it, Mrs Roberts.'
'Quite right Mahinda. So you're all going to write how you really feel about Tests and then we will post what you have written in the box. You can begin your sentences with "I think that ..." or "I feel that ..." and you can write as many comments as you like.'
It was then that James felt his heart sinking, his hands felt sweaty and a lump rose in his throat. 'Why do I have to feel like this every time we talk about tests?' he asked himself.
- Ask the children what they thought about the idea of the Tests Secrets box. Then ask for suggestions as to what some of the sentences might be that Mrs Roberts would find in the box. List on the OHT the children's key words/phrases, both positive and negative, which may be suggested, e.g. worried, excited, dreading, afraid, etc..
- In discussion, focus specifically on James. Encourage the children to describe how James was feeling physically. Explain that when we are anxious, the human body can naturally react in these ways. Such symptoms of anxiety are not unusual and it doesn't mean we are ill or different from others. Mention that adults too can feel worried about tests or exams, but worry can also have a positive effect, spurring us on to work hard and do our best.
- Enable the children to explain how James was feeling emotionally - refer to the OHT word list where relevant. Explain that others in the class shared James' concerns but because we are all individuals, no two children will react in exactly the same way.
Apply the issues that have arisen, with the emphasis on:
- Seeking help from parents and teachers and discussing any concerns the children may have. Explain that adults might not realize how children feel unless they are actually told.
- Emphasize that the most positive thing we can all do is to aim to 'Try our best'. Remind the children that they mustn't let themselves down by not working hard and doing what they are capable of, but having tried their best they can be satisfied and relieved to know that their best efforts will be appreciated.
Time for reflection
Project or write the key words 'Try your best' for the children to be aware of during the time for reflection. Ask them to consider how they feel about tests. Explain that negative feelings can become positive ones if they focus on 'Try your best', the assembly theme.
Explain that some people find it helpful to tell God how they are feeling, and ask for God's help. Refer to 1 Peter 5.7: 'Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.'
Thank you that you care about all our feelings and you never give up on us.
Please help us to think positively about all our schoolwork and about tests.
Help us to remember to always try our best.
'The wise may bring their learning' (Come and Praise 64).