Any test preparation demands a specific knowhow, effective strategies, useful techniques, well-organized and on-time implemented planning, test anxiety management and a minimum - if not maximum - level of nurturing well-being for all participants. Successful Test Preparation presupposes effective language learning as certificate holders will not be able to face communication challenges without having developed verbal and non-verbal communication skills. It goes without saying that preparing students for examinations means practicing creative methodologies, pedagogies and cultures promoting in depth language acquisition so that the journey to knowledge does not conclude only to a piece of paper with a nice stamp on it. It is of utmost importance that it contributes to a long-lasting positive experience and growth mindsets. Education should be viewed in a holistic way anyway where exams play their natural part of assessing progress and do not constitute the main interest or the final destination of the process.
Having this in mind, teaching and coaching students to manage knowledge, time, emotions, building creatively language skills, forming characters and investing in learning how to learn are key practices to successful test preparation. Verbal and non-verbal communication as well as critical thinking should be prioritized and boosted. Some examples of promoting such practices are when a December 2022 Proficiency holder student of our language school shared valuable exam experience with May 2023 Proficiency takers or when a group of Senior Ds shared School Life Experiences and Test Preparation tips with some Senior As. After their impactful discussions, we concluded in some powerful ways to build grit in Language Testing Preparation.
Text by: Stella Kopakaki
Some examples of our strategies and practices are:
- Students read out loud with a mic - in front of classmates, teachers and/or students of other classes - their presentations on several topics chosen either out of their course books, actual events or carefully chosen topics raising awareness of several social life issues. In this way, students are simultaneously taught the language, build skills and form character. Their presentations are sometimes read out loud in front of a mirror so that students can see themselves while talking. It helps them build their self-image, correct their posture, tone of voice, style of reading or talking. In the long run, it encourages self-discipline and boosts self-esteem. Moreover, in order to enhance student’s taking up responsibility from a very young age - among other practices of course - we have written on the mirror: “The person you see in the mirror is No 1 responsible for their learning”. In some other cases, students are recorded while presenting or while reading aloud their essays/articles so that listening to themselves afterwards helps them correct their intonation, rhythm, pronunciation, volume. Sometimes, they may step on their desks to have a broader perspective of their audience and speak. In this way, potential is unlocked, fears of talking in front of others are faced, moving forward to growth zone is achieved,
- Literature, such as The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) and The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (Charlie Mackesy), as well as Poetry, such as If (Rudyard Kipling) and Ithaka (Konstantinos Kavafis) are used as prompts for discussion.
- TEDx talks are used to enhance listening comprehension, practice taking notes and inspire article/essay topics. They also enrich content of discussions; themes of writing and coaching sessions are used as warm-ups or lesson endings. We brainstorm for seminars through this kind of videos, “Grit: the power of passion and perseverance”, by Angela Lee Duckworth, “How to make stress your friend”, by Kelly McGonigal and “Why having fun is the secret to a healthier life”, by Catherine Price are some of the many brilliant examples of our work with TEDx videos,
- Discussion Clocks are combined with SWOT analysis - a coaching tool inspired from the field of economy for finding Strengths, Weaknesses, Obstacles/Opportunities, Threats/Risks of our ideas and reasoning - to boost brainstorming and relevant discussion before writing or speaking,
- Drama/Theatre techniques are used to assimilate better grammar and syntax, following directions, listening, speaking, making eye contact and staying motivated in the process of learning,
- Kinesthetic games help us keep and raise interest while examining vocabulary - as classes are delivered in a playful and enthusiastic manner.
- Tea or Chocolate time - that is treating our children to (cold or hot) tea or chocolate - along with the Student of the Month Award for each class group are reward systems for good effort, results and behavior which encourage, motivate and inspire students to keep developing to the fullest of their potential.
- Relieving stress techniques and workshops while preparing students for Exams play a vital role in classes. Here is a quick one inspired by Natalie Lancer (Chair of the British Psychological Society, Division of Coaching Psychology) and her “8 Tensions Framework” while on a Smart Supervision for Professional Coaches program: creating a Happy Box or/and a Worry Box putting in what makes us happy or/and what worries us accordingly can prove helpful in releasing emotions while preparing for exams. The box is either made of a shoe box (or any box) or on a piece of paper. This technique can be applied to any age group and not only in exam preparation ones. This way, students can learn to recognize, name and accept their happiness or/and their worries from a very young age building life skills with long-lasting results while preparing for exam taking.
In a nutshell, synthesizing traditional with progressive pedagogies creates and offers unique learning environments including actively all participants. Teachers are proud of their students’ achievements both in exams and in everyday classes. Students look forward to coming to their next class and ask their questions as they know they will find the guidelines and the encouragement they need in order to search on their own for the answers. Success in exams comes as a result not as the main purpose.