Inside Lakota Learning
Lakota Learning blog header

The Lakota learning experience is one filled with inquiry, innovation and discovery. Every student's learning style, passions and interests are different, which is why the experience of one student will never be exactly that of another. It's why Lakota teachers and support staff are committed to student-centered learning and providing a personalized approach marked by differentiated teaching methods. 

Let the Lakota Learning Team explain what that means and how that goal plays out on a daily basis in our classrooms. Through this blog, they'll guide parents and community members through the strategy behind Lakota's student-centered curriculum and how different methods meet students' educational needs. And because learning doesn't stop at school, they'll provide tips and strategies for how to be partners in the learning process and create a positive learning environment at home. 

Recent Posts

Karate photoTesting season is upon us. The pressure is on to cook breakfast, pack healthy snacks, put the kids to bed early - or even on time - and convince our children that tests are important. In reality, the state is still working out online testing and performance-based testing. The targets for performance are ever-changing. The data is often slow to come back, causing a reaction rather than pro-action.

However, even while the kinks are being worked out, the testing event is still important in your child’s life. Mastering test-taking is an effort, takes practice over multiple years as we/they grow and mature, and beyond the actual content being tested, it actually does foster success by building some very powerful life skills. The following five tips should help you set positive expectations and mindset:

1. Help your child develop a “smart” frame of mind.

On the morning before the test, especially the one your child finds most difficult, take 3-4 minutes to talk about the future. Ask your child to imagine themselves working at the best job they can imagine. Perhaps you have a third-grader who dreams of being a vet. Or, maybe your seventh-grader is set on being a pilot. Whatever the future brings, hard work is what will get them there. The morning’s test may be the hard work now, but imagine it as the path to their dreams. Research indicates that simple visualization produces results. A 2009 study by Guang Yue, a exercise physiologist, found that people who created mental images of exercise produced almost half the muscle strength as those who did the exercises outright. So imagine, just thinking about a successful future could at least help get them halfway there!

2. Talk about “grit”.

Grit is a bit of a buzzword right now.  According to, grit is, “firmness of character, indomitable spirit, pluck.” Don’t we all want to be described that way? Yet, the reason “grit” is such a buzzword is because we are trying to figure out how we get it and how we give it to our children. One thing I know for sure, and without consultation from an expert on parenting or education, we can’t foster grit if we don’t talk about it and point it out. Knowing it exists is enough to at least get kids thinking they should have it or want to develop it. Next week, as you set your child off for school, knowing they have a state test, remind them that they really do have what it takes. Some kids want to quit when they come upon an unknown problem or a difficult word. With grit in mind, the goal is to overcome, figure it out, or believe you will. No promises this will work next week, but as a life skill it is worth developing some grit.

3. Set some testing goals with your child.

Recently, I had to complete a lengthy assignment for a class I’m taking. Not as fun as writing this blog, it probably took me 40-45 hours. With such a daunting task before me, I found productivity by playing games of motivation. The accomplishment of tiny goals and subsequent rewards were very motivating. This is where you as the parent know your child best. You know what small things motivate them to do their best.  Does your child often not complete long tests? That could be a goal for the day. Do you have one who likes to rush through and be the first one done (I have to admit this was me)? Help them set a goal to read each question once before looking at answers and once again after reviewing the choices. Perhaps you have a day dreamer? If you believe they can still complete the task, allow them to take a mental break to sing a song in their head every time they complete a certain number of questions. Mini goals are motivating to big and little people. Take the time to talk with your child and figure out a small reward system that will help them get through the event. As a life skill, this will definitely come in handy in six-hour meetings, deciding to paint the house yourself (not my best idea), or waiting for that baby to arrive.

4. State tests are not intelligence tests.

Hopefully this isn’t news to you, yet it is certainly worth communicating to your son or daughter--THESE STATE TESTS DO NOT TELL YOU HOW INTELLIGENT YOU ARE! What you know today is not what you will know tomorrow or in the future. Let them know that questions that feel unknown are but only for now. Their potential grows everyday if they choose to learn everyday. However, the state and teachers are interested in what children know near the end of the year so that they can plan for moving each child along through better curriculum planning and lesson development. Teachers in Lakota spend a lot of time talking about individual children and their needs. State tests are important, but never have I seen a group of educators more interested in children as a whole than I do in Lakota. While state tests may feel like a big measuring stick, they are but one. Daily performance is what really matters.

5. Anxiety is power.

Anxiety is a fact of life. In fact, anxiety should be a constant in a full life. Talking with your child about how anxiety is a release of adrenaline that doesn’t always feel good but helps to sharpen the mind, is one of those powerful life skills. The butterflies or stomach ache means they care. Finding ways to help children channel anxiety for peak performance will suit them well in all of life’s anxious moments. Kid’s Health has a great website with information about anxiety. This link will take you to a page with a few breathing exercises for anxious kids.

I do want to mention that extreme anxiety is a medical condition and rare in children. If you believe that your child suffers from extreme anxiety, you will probably know well before the state test and should seek medical intervention. That being said, many tips to ease test anxiety are handled by the first four tips above: positive talk, imagining success, setting goals, and accepting that you may never know everything (honestly, no one will ever know everything).

With testing season just starting, it is not too late to use some of the ideas above first thing tomorrow and continue throughout the rest of their years in school and beyond. They will never avoid tests--life is full of them. Helping children navigate how they respond to testing can certainly make the event as stress-free as possible. You have all you need to help your child be successful in life. Testing needs to be the least of the conversation so that success takes over!

Erin Owens

Erin Owens is the K-6 director of Curriculum & Instruction at Lakota Local Schools. Follow her on Twitter @ElemCurric or email her at


Posted by  On Apr 06, 2018 at 4:18 PM 118 Comments