What is mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is awareness that arises paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” 

How can mindfulness help the teacher at exam time? 

In the Pocket Guide to Mindfulness, Pearson 2019, teacher and Mindfulness expert at World of Amy, Amy Malloy says ‘Mindfulness can help with paying attention, Focus and Concentration, Observation without judgement, acceptance and self- compassion, stress management and performance and productivity’: click here >>

How can mindfulness help our students? 

Research shows that regular mindfulness practice can help young learners’ emotional wellbeing, improve concentration, help positive sleep habits, improve focus enhance their ability to manage emotions and reduce psychological distress and give students strategies for staying calm in stressful or worrying situations. Mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing and finding an anchor to help you focus can help students to stay present in the moment and tune out distractions. Additionally, setting aside time for regular physical activity can also help general well-being during this time. 

Fight Flight or Freeze and Exam time!

In the Pocket Guide to Mindfulness, Amy Malloy says:
When we feel threatened by something physical, the most primal part of our brain, the amygdala, sets off the alarm signals for our bodies to respond and either run away (flight), stay and defend ourselves (fight) or play dead (freeze). It signals to the hypothalamus to release adrenaline and cortisol and off we go. This process happens before our logical, conscious mind has even noticed. This part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) doesn’t get a seat at the table – the body takes care of it. This is very useful when facing a tiger. It is less useful for exams. Our brain doesn’t detect the difference between physical threat and emotional threat, so will fire off the same alarm signal whether facing a tiger or doing homework’.
So how can we relate this to exam time at school? It can be helpful to organize the time around the test or exam into three areas- before, during and after.

Before the Exam

Noticing your mindset and developing a growth mindset

Do you see a glass half-full or half-empty? It depends on your mindset! Mindfulness attitudes such as curiosity can help us notice our mindset. Research by Dr Carol Dweck in the USA shows that a fixed mindset means you have a fixed belief about your intelligence and ability and do not believe it can change, whereas a growth mindset means you believe your intelligence and ability can be developed through hard work and persistence. This is due to the plasticity of our brains.
A growth mindset can be beneficial for young learners during exam time because it helps them to view challenges and mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth, rather than as failures. Having a growth mindset can reduce stress and anxiety, which can help students to perform better in exams. Encourage young learners to adopt a growth mindset by praising their efforts and progress, rather than their innate abilities. Help them to understand that intelligence is not fixed but can be developed through hard work and persistence. Provide learners opportunities to take risks and learn from their mistakes. Remind them that failure is not a setback but a step towards success.
We can help our students develop a growth mindset to help them understand that they can change the way they perform in a test or an exam with the right amount of preparation, and the right mindset. In the Pocket Guide to happiness in the classroom@ Pearson Amy Malloy says:
 ‘We can practice a growth mindset in our learning by reminding ourselves ‘I can’t do this YET, but I will be able to if I practice’.

Finding balance during exam time 

In the Pocket guide to happiness in the classroom @Pearson Amy Malloy offers ideas and activities for well-being during exam time and describes the need to find balance during exam times.
Exams can put our nervous system into a state of ‘fight or flight’. In this state our creative and language areas of the brain are by passed and our body moves straight to physically escaping or fighting off the challenge. There are certain practices we can use especially at these times to keep our nervous systems online and keep the sympathetic nervous system (the ‘fight or flight’ mode) in balance’.

Revision before exams

It can be helpful for students to revise the vocabulary and grammar before an English Exam and useful phrases and topics. Sometimes it can be difficult for students to focus because the mind wanders. This is very normal as that is what minds do. If your students find they are losing concentration, reassure them that this is normal and invite them to see with curiosity where their mind has gone and acknowledge this and gently bring it back to focusing on what they are learning. Breathing activities can also help students focus on the breath and the present moment.
Vocabulary lists for the Pearson English International Certificate Young Learners can help students with revision.

Helping children to express their worries or anxiety about a test or an exam: thoughts are not facts!


So how can we help our children deal with worry they may have about tests or exams.  In her Guide 'Mindfulness activities to help children cope with stress’ In the Pearson Primary Academy Resources Amy Malloy teacher and mindfulness expert at World of Amy, says ‘many children may lack the language to express what they are feeling or even to recognize it’. Helping children name their emotions and worries about tests and exams can help them cope with them better. It is important to remind children that thoughts are not facts! 

During the Exam

Prioritizing self-care at exam time

Eating healthily, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep and taking breaks from revision and making time for exercise are all important aspects to self-care during exam time. 

@ Billy Bot Gold 2023 Pearson

Finding your anchor

One of the key aspects of mindfulness is to focus our attention on a physical anchor in the present moment. During exam time this has been demonstrated to help children concentrate more easily on the exam. The anchor most commonly used is the sensation of the breath moving in the body, or maybe the scent of the air going into the nose. It may also be focusing on the sensations in a part of the body, or focusing our gaze or hearing on something around us. Finger breathing can also help be an anchor for children.

In her guide ‘Mindfulness Activities to help children cope with stress’ Amy Malloy offers ideas to introduce breathing activities in the primary classroom: ‘by helping children to focus on their breathing, we can teach them that even if things feel wobbly around them, their breath is always there. The act of focusing on the breath also helps settle the fight or flight branch of their nervous system into a calmer, more balanced state’.


Children can use their breath or their hand or their feet as an anchor to help ground them. Breathing takes place in the present moment and can help release children from having regrets about the past and worrying about the future. At exam time this can help children be focused in the present on their revision or exam preparation or during the exam. Click here>>

Helping students to notice and raise attention or concentration levels

If you would like to try some activities for mindful moments with your students, you can use the Mindful Moment Cards by Amy Malloy. These are a set of cut-out printables to keep with you in class as on-the-go prompts for the mindfulness exercises. The Mindful Moment Cards include: observation without judgment, concentration, acceptance and curiosity.
For example getting students to notice and be more mindful about what is around them and then reflect on what they have found.


Curiosity: I have never seen this before

Look around the classroom and choose an object that looks interesting. Look at the object. Imagine you’ve never seen it before. Is it interesting? What colour is it? Does the colour change in the light? Close your eyes or look at the ceiling. Feel the object. What does it feel like in your hands? Shake the object. What does it sound like when it moves? Look at the object again. Can you see anything different? Put the object away. Think about how you feel now. What did you learn?

The Mindful Moment Cards by Amy Malloy can be downloaded here:  click here >>

A positive attitude

During exam time a positive attitude towards the exam can help young learners. “The alarm bell of your brain — the amygdala — uses about two-thirds of its neurons to look for bad news: it’s primed to go negative. The negativity bias is part of human evolution, but we have the chance to change this, by appreciating and lingering on tiny positive moments every day.”

As teachers we can invite our students to consider their own life with greater awareness and appreciation. Encourage students during your lessons to think about things that have been positive for them this week. The small positives help to instill gratitude. 

“… A 2019 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age 5. This means that instilling gratitude in your children at a young age could help them grow up to be happier people…. grateful children (ages 11 to 13) tend to be happier, more optimistic”.

After exams

Thoughts aren’t facts!

After the test it is important for children to stay positive and focus on the present. Not worry about how they did or think about what their results may be and ruminate over them! It is important to remember that thoughts aren’t facts. Ensure children have time to do nice things and also time to wind down after their exam! 

A celebration after the exam! 

At the end of the year at school have a celebration party/festival to praise the achievement of every student in some way in the class. All students taking the Pearson English International Certificate get a certificate and this ensures an inclusive end of year certificate ceremony where everyone is celebrated.

Pearson International Certificate of English Young Learners: Firstwords

Prepare your students in 5A elementare for the Pearson International Certificate of English Young Learners Firstwords.
Pearson Firstwords is an English examination based on four skills (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking) recognised by the Ministry of Education and issued by Pearson Edexcel, the UK's largest certification body for academic qualifications.
In the fourth and fifth grade digital kit of the Go Kids and Billy Bot Gold and Rise and Shine courses, the ebook Top Tips and Practice for Firstwords is available to prepare pupils and guide them for the certification exam. The Pearson Firstwords activities are naturally based on the language the child is learning with the Pearson textbook. These activities help pupils improve their English level by increasing their vocabulary, developing oral skills and strengthening their preparation for the INVALSI test. 


Each child receives a certificate with 2-5 stars depending on their score. Pearson Firstwords aims to build confidence and reward each child's effort. It is designed to celebrate their achievements and build a foundation for learning English. Pearson Firstwords is a child-friendly exam with a group oral exam that consists of a board game so that children do not feel like they are being examined. The written exam includes activities containing all the members of the Brown family so that the characters are familiar and the children feel that they already know the exam through the characters they have encountered in the preparation material.
To find out more about the Pearson English International Certificate Young Learners: click here >>
To receive the Pocket guide to happiness in the classroom and the Pocket Guide to Mindfulness by Amy Malloy  ask your Pearson/Sanoma representative.


Pocket Guide to Mindfulness by Amy Malloy. Italian and English Versions 

Mindful Moment Printable Cards to download and use in the classroom by Amy Malloy: click here >>

To read more about mindfulness in our website: click here >>

Reference iconografiche:©ESB Professional/Shutterstock; © Billy Bot Gold 2023 Pearson