If your school is like mine, your students have been testing quite a bit lately. How can we as music teachers make sure that students are engaged and excited when they've already been sitting for hours, taking a test?

Here are some ideas that have worked with my classes.

No. 1: Play more games!

During testing days, I like to make sure kids get even more relaxation, so I'll shift the balance of concentration/relaxation and throw in another game or two, or let a game go longer than I would otherwise.

They've already been concentrating so much, so I'm okay giving up a little bit of focused work so they can get out their wiggles.

No. 2: Get them moving!

Along those lines, I will also throw in a movement activity, especially if I see they really need one. One of my favorites for lower elementary is the statues game, which is like freeze dance, but students make a statue when they freeze.

You can download the free visuals on Artie Almeida's website at www.artiealmeida.com. Click on “teacher resources,” then “teacher downloads,” then “statues.”

Another great way to get students moving is to put on a recording with a steady beat, and have them follow your beat motions. For example, students could listen to "Root Beer Rag" by Billy Joel, and you could tap your head for 8 beats, tap your shoulder for 8 beats, twist for 8 beats, dab for 8 beats...whatever!

And then, students follow you. Halfway through the song, I invite student volunteers to lead the beat. It's great for movement improvisation and for getting students moving!

No. 3: Take them outside

If the weather permits, you could take students aside...even if only for 15 minutes, to have them play singing games.

Whether you play "We are dancing,” “Big Fat Biscuit,” or “Black Snake,” the games are so much more fun outside. And let's face it, kids need the outside time after sitting inside testing!

No. 4: Allow for more student choice

During testing days, if a kid makes a request for a certain game or activity, I try to fit it in. Whether it be poison (a game in which students clap or sing everything but the poison pattern), or just one of their favorite singing games, if it's something that I could adapt my lesson and fit in, I will.

You could also save reward days for testing weeks. Reward days can happen after students earn a certain number of points for good behavior; I give up to 4 points per class, and when students earn 25 points, they can get a reward day for half of the next music class.

No. 5: Be understanding

On days that students have tested, they might not be as focused. They might be wiggly and giggly because they've been sitting still for so long and need to expend some energy.

We as teachers could be frustrated...or we could be understanding. Wouldn't you be unfocused, wiggly, and maybe even giggly if you'd be sitting still for potentially more than two hours taking a difficult test?

I hope this is helpful to you during your testing week! Good luck to you and your students, and happy teaching!