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Play and Learn- Whether We Like It or Not

That’s not even a word. It’s not in the dictionary. I’ve never heard of that word.  Wordlers, people who solve daily Wordle puzzles, were angry.

Friday, September 16th, the five-letter word puzzle stumped the best of Wordlers.  I scrolled through FaceBook that morning and noted that three friends who regularly post successes hadn’t guessed the correct word in the six allotted tries. And a friend sent a mad emoji and her failed attempt.  Should I even try?

For you non-Wordlers, I didn’t see the words they tried, I saw colored boxes for the five letters: green for a correct letter in the correct place, orange for a letter in the word in an incorrect place, gray for a letter not in the word. 

On the fourth, fifth, and sixth tries, my friends’ puzzles showed one of two patterns. (I wish boxes were printed here in color.) Green, green, gray, green, green. Gray, green, green, green, green.

So, it was a word that is the hardest for me – a word that makes me play the rhyming game.  Rhyming words is a way many children learn to read.  After they learn the word ‘mad,’ they can substitute beginning letters and read dad, had, bad, sad, fad, and lad.  But the rhyming game is frustrating when there are many choices and only a few guesses.

I began with a word I sometimes use: adieu. The ‘e’ was in the right place and the word had an ‘a’ somewhere. I tried raked.  The ‘e’ and ‘a’ were in the right places, and there was a ‘r.’  Could it be maker, taker, farer, raker?

How about ‘r’ in three places:  rarer?  All were correct except the first letter and now I was stumped just like my friends had been. Barer, darer, carer, oarer, parer?  Were these all words?  My fourth guess was incorrect: carer.

For no good reason, my fifth guess was ‘parer’ and that was the answer.  A word I’ve never used.  Never heard. Never seen written.  One friend said that it wasn’t even in his online dictionary.

We all know what a paring knife is.  We pare down our wish list.  But who expected parer to be a Wordle word?

            According to my online Merriam-Webster dictionary, parer is a transitive verb meaning to trim off an outside or excess, as in to pare an apple or to pare fingernails. Vocabulary.com gives two definitions, both nouns: a small sharp knife used in paring fruits or vegetables, a manicurist who trims fingernails.

            The word originated from the Latin word parare, ‘prepare.’  The Middle English origin is derived from a French word that means to peel, to trim.  Which makes me wonder if parer was a common word during the time period from 1150 to 1450 in England?

            As friends ranted I listened, content that I had learned a new word, as did most Wordlers.  I discovered that only  41% of the millions of players guessed ‘parer.’ We learn through mistakes, whether we like it or not.

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Children Just Watch

My Grand was 4 1/2 years old and she beat me in a second game of UNO.  The first game, I’d played to her hand to make sure that she won.  The next game, I played my cards.  Lou had announced, “UNO.  Red,” and laid a Draw Four card on the table.  I drew four cards.  She played her last card and beamed.  “I won again.  Two for me.  None for you.”

“Lou, you’re a really good UNO player.  How did you learn?” I asked.

“I watched Mommy and Daddy and David (her older brother) play and I just learned how.  I just watched.  I do what they do.”  Her answer hit a nerve that’d been burned into my brain many years earlier when I taught fourth grade.

Melody was one of my best-dressed students.  Her mother curled her hair every morning and tied it with ribbons that matched her outfit.  No jeans and t-shirts for her.  Her infectious greeting, “Good morning, everybody!” lit our classroom.  She hurried to my side after hanging her red wool coat on a coat hook.  “Mrs. Ray, will you please roll up my sleeves?”

The long sleeves of her plaid blouse hung unbuttoned.  “Sure.  Didn’t your mom have time to do it this morning?’  I asked.

“She didn’t know how.  I want my sleeves just like yours and she didn’t do it right.”  Just like my button-cuff sleeves that I rolled up because they were three inches too short for my long arms.  What else did Melody do just like me?

My Grand, now 5 1/2, and I agreed last week that some things in her craft box needed replacing.  “Bring it with you when you spend the night and we’ll clean it out and then go shopping,” I told Lou.

She sorted trash and treasures, putting loose stickers in a zip lock plastic bag, while I put a pot of water on the stove to boil pasta.  “I’m ready to make my list.  How do you spell tape?”  Lou stood at the kitchen table, with pencil and paper in hand.  Ten minutes later, she had her list.  Tape, glue, stickers.

“This glue,” she said and put it in our shopping basket.  She laid her list on the store floor and drew a line through the word glue.  A dozen packages of stickers hung at her eye level.  “These two,” she said within ten seconds.  The tape was high, out of her reach.  “Can you get the one in the middle?”  She drew lines through two more words: stickers and tape.  I complimented her on being a fast and good shopper.  “That’s because I do it a lot,” she said.  Lou shops with her mother who writes a grocery list and crosses off items that she puts in her shopping cart.

A hand scribbled sign hangs over my writing desk.  “Children watch.  Children learn.”  A sign that I moved from my school desk to my home desk.