How to Support Your STAAR Test Taker (And Get FREE Breakfast from McDonald’s)

This article is produced in partnership with McDonald's. The experts featured in this article offer their own opinions and tips independently of McDonald's.

From dreaded pop-quizzes to Friday spelling tests and major midterms to STAAR (or TAKS, or TAAS, or ITBS depending on your age!)—testing is stressful and can take a physical and mental toll on students from elementary to college. As much as we’d like to shield our kids from testing (and any high stress, high stakes experience) the fact of the matter is that they will be tested, pushed, and stretched beyond their comfort zones to problem solve, recall knowledge, and test physical limits throughout their lives. So how can we best prepare kids for all of the tests life will throw at them (but specifically, those academic tests)?

By teaching them to use the resources they’re provided, by encouraging self-care and mental wellness, and by doing what we can to support them in meeting basic needs through quality time and full bellies (keep reading for a great offer from McDonald’s to “STAAR Your Breakfast Off Right”) we can help our students do their best.

Quality Time and Basic Needs

One of the best ways to help our students deal with any kind of stressful situation is by providing them with opportunities for quality time, quality sleep, and quality nourishment. While that looks different for every family (and that’s ok!) the important thing is to remember that it’s hard to focus when you’re feeling sleepy or hungry and kids do their best work when they know they are loved, valued, and supported no matter the outcome of the test.

Advertisement for McDonalds Free Breakfast on April 5 for STAAR test takersContinuing their effort to support the community each franchise is located in, McDonald’s is helping with two of those—quality time and a full belly on the first day of STAAR testing. Have breakfast with your test taker(s) and spend a few minutes of quality time together the morning of the test.

San Antonio McDonald’s locations are offering students in grades 3–8 and local ISD employees (with valid ID) a free, healthy breakfast on the first day of STAAR testing, Tuesday, April 5, 2022, from 6:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Students must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or another caregiver, and depending on location, the offer may be drive-through or dine-in only.

STAAR Testers can choose from:

  • Choice of one (1): Egg McMuffin® or Fruit & Maple Oatmeal
  • Choice of one (1): Low-Fat Milk, Honest Kids® Appley Ever After®
    Apple Juice Drink, or small Minute Maid® Orange Juice
  • and Apple Slices

See other ways your local McDonald’s is supporting the community on their website and follow local McDonald’s restaurants here.

Use Your Resources

Offered by ACM Contributor Stephanie Tsapakis, M.A., Special Education Teacher and Wilson Reading Teacher

There are various types of test-taking strategies that cater to the individual needs of each student. For example, a student that is anxious about the general test itself is going to need a different strategy than a student who has attention and focus issues. Here are some suggestions to help your child’s specific needs on test day:

For the child struggling with academic test anxiety:

  • Don’t spend too much time talking about the test beforehand. It gives students extra time to anticipate everything that could go wrong, and it could result in them being anxious for even longer amounts of time.
  • Practice metacognition activities with your student—help them identify all the things they have learned, remember that they have mastered the materials, and even practice activities that you know they will ace to show them that they truly are ready.

For the child that struggles with focus:

  • Remind them to read the whole question and ALL the answer choices before choosing one.
  • Check-in with their teacher to make sure they will receive any accommodations listed in their IEP or 504 plan come test day.
  • Have them wear a resistance band around their ankles while sitting to take the test so they can feel some physical stimulation as they move their legs against the band.
  • Encourage them to use any extra time they have to look back over their answers.

    For the child that struggles with reading:

  • Check-in with their teacher to make sure they will receive any accommodations listed in their IEP or 504 plan come test day.
  • Remind them that their accommodations are there to level the playing field for them and that they should not be embarrassed to use them.
  • Practice dividing words into syllables at home so that they can get better at word-attack strategies.
  • Encourage them to circle words from passages that give them a picture in their mind (e.g., words like girl, run, cloud, blue, in, is, when). This will help with comprehension.

Work Through the Butterflies

Offered by ACM Contributor Erin Ross, Ph.D., LMFT, LPC

Some kids might feel academically prepared for the testing days, but those butterflies in the tummy seem to be getting the best of them. Not only is testing anxiety an unfortunate and inevitable part of a student’s life these days, but it can also prove to be quite impairing. With a solid mix of communication from you and a little extra relaxation help, guiding them through this stressful time can be useful during STAAR testing and in the future.

Here are some quick things to try for helping your child decrease those test day jitters.

Guided Meditation

Guided Meditation practices are quick and easy to do and can truly bring down the anxiety a few notches just by helping relax the senses and by bringing attention to their own natural calming abilities. (This is a helpful one for the night before exam days).

The Balloon Meditation

      • Ask your child to lay down in their bed and cover their body with a blanket for a feeling of warmth and security. Slowly have them become aware of their breathing by putting their hands on their belly while they breathe in and out. Count to five on the exhale, five on the inhale. Do this five times.
      • With eyes closed, ask your child to visualize lying in a bed of soft grass on a breezy spring day and visualize a white balloon floating up to the sky. As they watch the balloon, it continues to float away (through trees, past a pond, whatever seems peaceful to you as you tell the story). Have the child visualize watching the balloon until it cannot be seen any longer.
      • Gradually have the child begin to come back into the moment by thinking about the softness of the bed, the warmth of their blanket.

This can be done for any particular anxiety-provoking moment in your child’s life, but in testing times it can be something they learn to think about on their own as they learn to calm themselves in stressful times.

Visualization Exercises

For those older kids who might have done this already a time or two, they can share with you what they expect.

  • This means, what the testing room looks like, imagining the silence of the room (this can bother some kids just as much as too much noise can).
  • Have them share their vision of success in this test. What does that mean to them? Have them close their eyes and visualize success. That doesn’t always mean a perfect score, it can mean lowered anxiety, deep breaths in their seat before they begin, finishing within the time limits.

All of these visualizations can mean success for your child and that’s great! In fact, the less you mention the score, the better! Remind them that success comes in all different shapes and sizes and have them verbalize their visualizations to you for a shared experience.

Validate Emotions

Simply talking to your child about their fears and anxieties is incredibly helpful on its own. Let them know that it’s normal to be nervous and share a moment or two from your own experience in school. This helps them know they aren’t the only ones with butterflies in their tummies and helps you connect to your child.

It’s okay to be nervous—it’s a part of life for everyone. Help them recognize the difference between feeling nervous and feeling incapable. Remind them of their capability and of their courage! It always helps to walk into a testing day feeling proud and capable! Help them feel that way with your encouraging words.

Testing Day Ideas:

  • Decorate their door with encouraging notes.
  • Play their favorite music during breakfast.
  • Write a fun, encouraging message on their bathroom mirror.
  • Tell them you’re confident in them!
  • Tell them their worth is not tied to this test! They are good enough already!
  • Don’t rush the morning of the test. Leave plenty of time for breakfast from McDonald’s and on-time arrival at school.
A fifth-generation San Antonionian - who happened to spend her formative years in Austin - Amanda loves the SAT from the confetti in her hair to the bluebonnets under her feet. Never one to miss a reason to host a party or decorate for a theme, Amanda revels in the 'mas Fiesta' attitude of the city. She's mom to Vivi (2012) aka #HurricaneVivi, Mac (2020) and wife to Francois, whom she met at Texas A&M (FTAC '05). She has a Masters in Early Childhood Education and a Doctorate in Making it Up As She Goes - which means she's a sometimes-fun-mom. You can find her on Instagram . She loves confetti, croissants, and a cold Ranch Water. Favorite Restaurant: Piatti's Favorite Landmark: Johnson Street footbridge in King William Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Fiesta Medals