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What Snacks Do You Give Students On Test-Taking Days?


(After I posted this, BK Smith sent me this article from The Washington Post talking about schools using peppermint)

I’ve written before about how at our school we generally do very little specific test-preparation with our students and, instead, feel that if we focus on preparing them to be life-long learners during the year they’ll do okay on the tests.

But these state tests are pretty high-stakes, so though we certainly don’t “teach to the test,” I do a half-hour lesson on test-taking strategies and we try to maximize student comfort level on test days. I’ve also written about an idea from Malcolm Gladwell that I’m considering trying.

I’ve generally brought fruit juice and a snack like pretzels for students to eat and drink during test breaks on those days. However, I haven’t really found much research identifying the best kinds of snacks for kids to eat during those times.

Do you know of any related-research? What do you give to your students — if anything?

ADDENDUM: Cinnamon Boosts Learning Ability is from Psy Blog and Cinnamon may aid learning ability is from Science Daily. I’ve previously written about research on peppermint supposedly doing something similar. I always have cinnamon flavored Graham crackers in my classroom for students because those are usually the least expensive at Costco, but maybe they’ve had another benefit, too?

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. You picked a sore spot with me. I really, really, resent that each year we teachers are expected to provide “healthy snacks” for our students on testing dates. I am supposed to go to the store and buy, with my own money, snacks for teen aged students. Not with school money, not with district money, but my money. It really frosts my cake!

    • That is terriable! maybe this is a silly but can I ask why you don’t ask for a room mom? I have been a room mom for 3 of my daughter’s teacher’s. Send e-mails to parents on up coming events, tell them all what is needed, i.e. brain snacks for testing. I need one more idea and that is how I came upon this website. Parents are always willing to help. It fills up fast. Now you usually have the same parent’s that are always helping and what a blessing they are. Then some you don’t hear from. You don’t know what already have in their budget for that time. I can’t imaigne you bearing all that cost. I hope you can atleast have a sign up sheet next year. There are 3 this year for 1 teacher and we all take turns.

  2. My school buys apples, bananas, and sometimes oranges. They provide that for all students on test days. It’s pretty cool because I too wouldn’t want to have to buy that with my own money.

  3. I ask parents to donate some healthy snacks-usually pretzels, string cheese and juice- but then elementary parents usually will do this-probably not high school-
    sometimes I wonder if it should be Jolt cola- to wake them up!

  4. Our school provide water and some type of snacks like gold fish crackers. We have several peanut allergic kids. Several years ago I had to raise the alarm because the snacks provided were not peanut free. They had may contain warnings. (the warnings were difficult to see and hard to find if you aren’t used to looking for them. I’ve been doing this for 40+ years so I know were to look for warnings).

    I had snacks in my room that were peanut free. We used those. My principal bought me replacements. Now he has me double check the snacks and we just avoid buying certain brands that seem to go back and forth with peanut warnings.

  5. Down here in Victoria, Australia, our school provides snacks in the morning for the year 3 and 5 students taking national tests for the week. It’s an assortment of mostly fruit and cheese, and then danishes – but I think the fruit is probably best for them.

    I do about two weeks preparation for the tests, as I take year 3. I concentrate on test-taking strategies, and I largely follow the workshop-based method in “Children at the Center” by Taylor and Walton. I’ve found that it helps, considering they’ve never come across something like this before, and we don’t have as much standardised testing as you guys. (Of course, during the two weeks, I don’t just teach test-taking, I continue other studies as well!)

  6. Anytime I give an end of unit test, I give all of my students a peppermint – I also do it on standardized test days. I’ve done it for years and can’t remember the “source”.

    Probably not so much “research” as “old wives tale”, but “they” say peppermint boosts concentration. The children really enjoy it and never fail to say thank you.

  7. Our school provides free breakfast for all of the students, if they wish to have it. Most of my students eat their breakfast at home, but I encourage each one of them to have a morning meal. I give my students peppermints during the afternoon test. It is 55 minutes of working hard, sitting still, and concentrating, and I know that I would, especially during the last days of a week of testing, appreciate something to help keep me awake and alert. They do just that when I am on a long drive of interstate.

  8. About four years ago, I began teaching at my current school where all middle school students have a recess/snack/break between their two morning blocks. Each day, they have options such as string cheese, low-fat granola bars, and whole fruit (bananas, apples, oranges). I couldn’t believe that every child had a snack available (not always chosen, but at least an option) daily.
    As a result, kids don’t bring candy and the like to school very often, and they’re far more alert during the late morning until lunch. Does this affect academic performance? I certainly think so. A well-fed body can be a better host to an engaged mind.
    I wish more schools could afford to do this for their children. When I was in elementary school, we always had graham crackers or saltines with milk. Those of use who didn’t bring money for milk each week would get water with our crackers. Still, better than nothing.

  9. We are a Grades 5-8 school and allow each grade level to decide what works best for their students on state test dates. We have discovered that 5th graders don’t need a lot of “change” on test days so water, juice, or snacks aren’t provided during testing. It is amazing how the smallest amount of water causes large numbers of these kids to need unplanned restroom visits. The older students are provided a small bottled water and a cookie. Some of our teachers provide small peppermint candies.

  10. We don’t have mandatory standardized tests. For my grade six class, if I have a fairly major test I usually bring “brain food”. If the class is small enough, and we aren’t in the computer lab when we write, I often bring “Tim Horton’s Donuts” – a truly “Canadian” snack eh. Healthy – absolutely not. Fun to eat – definitely. If it is a really BIG class I bring Timbits which are equally unhealthy but smaller and cheaper. I live in the city and commute out so Tims aren’t an everyday thing here at school. I do it because I want to and when it works for me. I don’t buy stickers or pencils for my students. I don’t tend to have parties with lots of donated sugary snacks.

    We also have a snack program Tuesdays and Thursdays at our K-12 school. My treats don’t happen very often; they are kind of like Skinner’s concept of “intermitent reinforcement. (I can’t spell – maybe I need a donut!)

    Have a good night eh!

  11. Larry,
    I have heard about some research that says that peppermint can help students’ mental processes…to include helping students to do better on tests. I do not have the research, but if this is true, a peppermint candy would be good…or in absence of candy, some essential oil in placed in the class. It makes the class smell good too!

  12. I am a retired teacher and I don’t know what the school’s policy is now, but when I taught the students were not allowed to have snacks during testing at our school. In fact, they could not even leave the room to go to the restroom without an “escort.” That being said, I always encouraged my students to eat a good breakfast with some protein: eggs, bacon or sausage, something that would stick to their ribs. I told them NOT to eat doughnuts, sweet rolls, or sweet cereal. This advice comes from ACT prep manuals I have used with my kids.

  13. I buy apples, oranges, bananas, gummies. The community donates sugar treats.

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