17 Things You Can Do While Actively Monitoring a Standardized Test

There’s just no way around it, people. Testing season is upon us.

We could talk all day about what’s wrong with standardized tests: that they kill creativity, discourage critical thinking, pad the wallets of people whose wallets most definitely do not need padding. But one of the worst and arguably least manageable aspects of standardized testing for teachers is active monitoring.

Active monitoring is an especially torturous form of boredom designed by The State to prevent students (and teachers) from cheating on standardized testing. Teachers may not talk, sit, grade papers, write, draw, read, use technology of any kind, or do anything that would be a distraction to students. In fact, the only things teachers can do during standardized testing, which can range from a few hours to, in some cases, full school days, are:

1) Walk around

2) Watch students take a test

Fifteen minutes of having nothing to do is a nice break. An hour of active monitoring is officially terrible. Consecutive days? Maddening.


Until now.

Here are ideas that will keep your mind and body occupied without breaking any testing rules. (I have some additional ideas on my blog.) I hope they help you this testing season. 

1. Memorize your students’ first, middle, and last names.

Gif of woman saying "I have a weird middle name."

Then totally freak them out by addressing them by their full names after testing, preferably in some kind of creepy whisper. “Thank you for your Scantron, Caitlin Elizabeth Haverford.”

2. Keep a small amount of Silly Putty in your hand and challenge yourself to make various shapes without looking. 

Gif of a clay dinosaur moving around.

Snake. Prism. Stack of pancakes.

3. Think about how you would describe the color red (or any color) to a person who cannot see.

Gif of a woman doing her hair.

One of my colleagues asked me this question once, and I thought about it for weeks. 

4. Think about your responses to these “Would you  rather … ?” questions or create some of your own.

Gif of a woman saying "well, that's a conundrum."

  • Would you rather have pogo sticks for legs or fully retractable arms?
  • Would you rather live in the worst place you can think of but have a travel budget to go anywhere you wanted in the world for three months out of the year, or be able to live anywhere in the world but never be able to leave it?
  • Would you rather own a dragon or be a dragon?

5. Pretend to be a car.

Gif of a kid with a Transformers costume transforming into a car.

I like to make the “scrrrrr!” noise in my head as I round the corner of a row.

6. Pretend to be a spider making a web.

Gif of a cartoon boy putting on a Spiderman mask.

Think about what pattern you would make if you were leaving a web behind as you weave around the room. Then think about how weird it would be if you were a human leaving a web behind. Then try not to laugh.

7. Pretend to be a ninja.

Gif of a woman saying "I've been a ninja since I was 45." to other women.

Do a lap around the room as silently as possible.

8. Think about what you would want your last words to be.

Gif of a Simpsons character drowning and saying "tell the world that I saved you all."

Macabre? Yes. But isn’t that how standardized testing makes us all feel? I love Bob Hope’s last words. He said, “Surprise me,” in response to his wife asking him where he wanted to be buried.

9. Put ice cream in a nondescript cup or mug in the back corner of the room just before testing.

Gif of a woman slurping a milkshake.

An hour or so in, treat yourself to a milkshake!

10. Find things in the room that rhyme or almost rhyme.

Gif of men rapping.

You can also use students’ names and/or emotions you are feeling as a proctor, for example, bored and Lourdes, table and miser-able. Haha.

11. Print out a sheet of riddles in a small font and put it somewhere only you will be able to see it.

Gif of Robin from Batman saying "Holy weird riddles, Batman!"

The back of a filing cabinet at the back of the room is perfect. Use your time monitoring to try to figure out the answer to the riddles. Once you solve it (or give up), casually walk by it to read the next one.

12. Listen to the soundtrack of a musical just before testing and enjoy every single song being in your head for the next eight hours.

Gif of people singing.

“Into the Woods” and “Les Miserables” work 100 percent of the time.

13. Send each child positive vibes, one at a time.

Gif of a man saying "Positive vibes, positive thoughts."

I imagine positive vibes being these yellow spaghetti-like wobbly tubes that actually connect between our brains, but you can imagine them however you like.

14. Arrange to have a specific treat after each day of testing.

Gif of a man and woman saying "Mimosas" "treat yourself"

That way you have something nice to think about during the post-lunch active monitoring slump, which is notoriously rough. Only a little bit longer and then I get to go home to the beef tips in my slow cooker! or This is rough, but in a few hours I’ll have my feet in moisturizing socks and be binge-watching Netflix! Except please make sure your treats are more exciting than mine.

15. Think about what school would be like if you were the principal.

Gif of men busting through a door and cheering.

Mandatory post-lunch naptime in secondary schools, for starters.

16. Do something healthy.

Gif of a man doing an exercise dance.

Sip some Airborne or green tea, take deep cleansing breaths, jog around the room. Just kidding about that last one. The State will punish you.

17. Think about what you would get on a vanity license plate.

Gif of a license plate that says "California FRESH"

If you get bored of that, think of what your favorite characters from literature or history would get on their vanity plates if they had them.

I would come up with an example for you for number 17, but I’m saving it for testing.

How do you make the time pass while monitoring standardized tests? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook. 

Plus, 12 Stages of Monitoring a Standardized Test

17 Things You Can Do While Actively Monitoring a Standardized Test