Please Read the Directions Silently as I Read Them Aloud


Statewide public school testing began this week in Delaware, and, oh, how it brings me back.

Ah, standardized testing—what memories I have of night-before-the-test panic, time spent scouring the house for number 2 pencils, and out of control anxiety over my 4th grade classmate Steve Roycroft’s warning that you’ll get an automatic zero if you stray outside the bubbles when filling in the letters of your name on the test form’s personal information section.

Considering that I’ve made it this far, I think that Steve might have been wrong. Either that or I’m pretty darn good at bubble-filling, a skill which I’m sure has got to be marketable, even in our declining economic climate.

The Delaware state tests (or DSTP‘s) are benchmarks of curriculum elements that students should have learned already, so I don’t think that there’s much one can do academically to prepare for them. It’s not like in high school when I got busted by my guidance counselor for spending 5 minutes talking to my friends (class time that Mrs. X spent on a phone call) instead of reviewing the SAT vocabulary flashcards that I’d never bothered to make (“Cheryl Osiecki, I’m ashamed of you!”). Not that I’m bitter…I mean, it’s not like I ended up having a fairly respectable combined score of 1400 or anything (which, actually, I did).

Thinking about it now, though, imagine the 1600 I could have gotten—or how frequently I would now use the word ‘obsequious’—if I’d just thrown a little extra brain power at that one.

Around my house, we’ve implemented the no-brainer DSTP prep tips, things like reasonable bedtime, good night’s sleep, and low household stress. And after talking to my son’s teacher about the nutritionally bankrupt daily free breakfast offerings at school (in no way is a doughnut a healthy choice, folks), my husband and I took the kids on a high protein, high fruit, breakfast food run last night, picking up raisin bran, peanut butter, and, yes, bacon. Not sure where the syrup we served on the pancakes this morning scores on the brain food scale, but at least each of my children did receive a glass of milk, even if they did sip it through Cocoa Krispies Cereal Straws.

My daughter helped me to remember a pre-test relaxer and brain booster that we did last year: a before-school mall walk. I guess we could have just walked to school, accomplishing the “exercise gets you thinking” goal while saving a tablespoon of gas, but I think that the novelty of the mall loop really did something for her. She’s a pretty spacially-oriented thinker, and she was particularly grooving on walking on the black tiles that run along the mall’s perimeter. I’m sure there’s some geometry application there, but, in any case, walking at the mall gave me the opportunity to see the maintenance guys changing out the gigantic sign at the tuxedo rental place, which was actually kind of cool.

On the way back from the mall she and I also did some mental calisthenics, using this interesting exercise: Count from 1 to 100. Raise your left hand on every multiple of 3, and stamp your foot on every multiple of 5. That was fun (and just a little confusing—51 and 57 just don’t ever sound right, do they?), but if you’re really ambitious (and just a little bit spazzy), add raising your right hand for every multiple of 4 and clapping for every multiple of 12. Then try stopping for every red light and successfully making every turn between your house and the mall. Then try explaining to the police officer who pulls you over that all you were doing was getting your child mentally ready for the DSTP, and that, no, you haven’t been drinking.

And, oh yeah, don’t tell him it was my idea.



  1. Lorraine said,

    March 13, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Hey, I love your “mental callisthenics” I’m going to try that next week with the class.
    One of my colleagues saw a British programme where the teacher was using “Kung Fu punctuation” to teach the kids. My class love it and even better there has been an improvement in their skills. When we work on punctuation together – they correct board work – they then have to stand up and each item has its own actions. It’s hysterical but it works so your idea might too!

  2. scheirmad said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Oooh, kung fu punctuation…tell me more! I’m particularly curious as to the move for my favorite punctuation, semi-colon–something heady, but effective, I’m sure.

    Uh-oh, I think I just revealed my grammar geekdom.

  3. Lorraine said,

    March 14, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I haven’t learnt the semi-colon yet. For example the full stop is a karate jab out – fist down and in to rest in front with the fist facing up. As we jab we call out “full (on the jab outwards) stop as the hand comes back in)”. The kids are particularly fond of the apostrophe where we hook the index finger into an apostrophe, hold in above our heads and accompany with the bl,bl,bl sound made when flicking the tongue and sort of vibrating the top lip!! Hard to explain but easy to do! I shall interrogate my mentor on Monday and find out about the semi-colon but hey, I’m happy if the kidlets put a full-stop at the end of a sentence so I’m delirious that some are now using, not only . but ! and even ? in the correct spots!

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