Peppermints (1 per student)
A dash of imagination
Disperse peppermints among students (one per child). Deny any claims that they are "just peppermints." Explain that these are special "smart pills," to be taken only when a little brain-boost is needed (before a test, before beginning a project, in the morning when you didn't eat enough breakfast, when a sore throat is interfering with your focus, etc.) Assure students that the smart pill will work just long enough for them to complete their "task."
Realistically speaking, no, these are not actual "pills." You will not need a prescription for them, nor are they FDA-approved. No true medication or magic is involved. They are just peppermints. If you can't get past that reality, then this tactic isn't for you. However, if you feel a need to spice up your assessment procedures and, like me, want to see your students enjoy every aspect of your classroom (even those boring tests), then you might want to give this a try. The more you build it up -the grander your presentation- the more your students will really believe in your "smart pills." The neat thing about this is that some research supports the use of peppermint to enhance concentration and focus. In recent years, many teachers have adopted this peppermint-strategy. (Do a little google search if you don't believe me!)
For me, this was a way to make even a test a little magical for my students. Sure, there were skeptics among them. There always will be. However, even the skeptics took their smart pills. The best part was watching their little faces once those peppermints touched their tongues. One child looked up at me and whispered, "Mrs. Tally, I think it's already working!" Now that's a great confidence booster for that child, isn't it?!?
Question of the Day: "But Mrs. Tally, why does it say 'Mrs. Tally's Smart Pills'? They're for us to take!" Sadly, there was enough logic in that question to make me pause and think, Well, he has a point...