How I Motivate & Encourage My Students for Under $20 During Testing Season

Testing season is HARD, y’all. Kids are stressed, teachers are stressed, and the end of the year is looming. Then, state testing rears its ugly head and throws off EVERYTHING you had going the entire year. For years, I stressed about the perfect incentive to motivate and encourage my students on testing day. This would typically end with me spending WAY too much money on something that was eaten or thrown away right after the test.

Fast forward to this year, and I think I’ve finally found the perfect combination of incentives to motivate, encourage and excite my students for state testing and during testing season in general. The best part? It cost me less than $20 total for four days of testing.

1. Write on Their Desks

This one is so simple, but seriously SO effective. It does take some time, especially if you have a large class, but it’s free! I use an expo marker to write a personalized note on the top of each child’s desk. I like to make sure each note is completely different from the rest. (I’ve learned from experience that they will call you out SO quick if you write the same thing on more than one desk) This one is great because they can have it on their desk DURING the test, as a constant reminder that their teacher believes in them! My kids also get excited about the fact that I took the time to write to each of them. Did I mention this one is totally free?

Standardized testing motivation for students

This one will take a minute if you have a large class, but the reaction is always worth it!

2. Water Bottle Labels

If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you know I love me some water bottle labels for ANY occasion. I’m obsessed with them because they are cheap and easy, but also practical and meaningful for the kids! You’ll need water bottles, which are great because they’re super cheap, especially in bulk. Here’s the gist for the labels: Print them out. (I have these labels in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, but there are free templates out there as well that you can use to make your own!

Standardized testing water bottle labels for students
The labels after printing and cutting. These are available in my tpt store.

Then, you just need to cut out the labels, and tape them onto your water bottles! This is so practical because again, the kids can keep them on their desks while testing. It cuts down on trips to the water fountain! I love how the bottles look with the labels attached–it really brightens up the room! This is probably my favorite way to motivate and encourage my students during testing.

State testing motivational water bottle labels.
The water bottles all assembled and ready to go!

3. Sticky Notes

This one is similar to writing on the desks, but for some reason my kids always FREAK when they get sticky notes that have been printed on. All you need are some sticky notes (I like to wait until after back to school season and they usually go on sale!) All I do is print motivational phrases on sticky notes using a sticky note template. I have a free blank template with phrases that you can download at the bottom of this post. Simply print the template, place your stickies on the boxes, then run it through the printer again! I stick them literally ALL over the room! On desks, chairs, the whiteboard, the door, the pencil sharpener–everywhere! If you are looking to save time, scroll to the bottom of this post to download my FREE set of ready-to-print motivational sticky notes!

standardized testing motivational sticky notes for the classroom.
This is what they will look like after printing.

It seems silly and way too simple, but the kids love it! They always think it’s so cool that I printed on sticky notes. I usually let my students keep them at the end of the day too (easy clean up!) The best part? No food/sugar involved, and you can get a ton of use out of just a few packs of sticky notes!

testing motivation sticky notes
The final product! Click to download.

Happy teaching, and best of luck this testing season!

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