Product Review: PAIRSinPEARS

Yes, it is Monday, and for today’s Memory to Make You Laugh, you can head over to my WordPress blog to read about back pain. But here at Quirky Chrissy, I’ve got an exciting post lined up.

As many of you may remember, I was invited to attend a really spectacular event in Chicago, last month: The Chicago Toy & Game Fair.

At this event, I was invited to meet with game inventors, visit booths, and learn about new and popular games. I was also given a variety of free products to try out, and write about for you, my loyal readers!

One of the games that  I was very excited to play was Pairs in Pears, by the creators of Bananagrams.

If you haven’t heard of Bananagrams, shame on you! It’s the perfect game for word ninjas or word ninjas in training. I first played it when I was student teaching. We used it in the resource room on Fridays. The students loved the break from homework or silent reading, and I loved playing with words. It worked out really well. But this review is about Pairs in Pears, so I will leave Bananagrams for another day.

PAIRSinPEARS® (Suggested Retail Price: $14.95- Ages 3+)

PAIRSinPEARS or PAIRS in PEARS

What an excellent game. Much like its counterpart, Bananagrams, PAIRSinPEARS is a word ninja game. With several play options, this game is absolutely perfect for a variety of ages. The letter tiles are larger than those found in Bananagrams, which makes it easier for younger (and older) eyes.

As some of you may know, I spent the last two summers teaching reading comprehension, a position that I am incredible proud of and humbled by. I worked for a truly amazing company that not only worked with students who were sometimes considered “unteachable,” but we were able to teach them to read, spell, and write. My 5-year-old niece, The Princess, and my 7-year-old godson, Little A (or A, for short), both have some difficulty with the process of reading/writing. Now, they’re relatively young, but with my knowledge of literacy, I know that it’s important to boost their reading skills younger rather than waiting. PAIRSinPEARS is the perfect game to help Auntie Chrissy.

Kids don’t want to feel like learning is a chore. Especially when they’re hanging out with their favorite aunt. A loves games. Loves them. Like me, he developed the love early on, and it was evident that most of the grown ups in his life were not down with playing games. As I once spent many a Life games playing with my dog, I feel that it’s my duty to play with A and teach him about the joys of gaming. So a few weeks ago, I brought PAIRSinPEARS out to play with him.

The beauty of Pairs in Pears is the versatility. There are 8 different formal activities documented in the game rules, and 2 different competitive games (with varying degrees of difficulty for varying ages/reading levels).

A and I played the basic competitive version with my cousin, Rachel (A’s mom). I would be lying if I said we played fair…We definitely let A win, because with him it’s a learning game, and we want him to know he’s doing well (and we want him to have fun…and winning is definitely fun). The basic play for this game involves dividing up the letters equally among players, and racing to see who can build cross words faster. Here were A’s favorite words to use. Cute right?

PAIRSinPEARS Toy Joy

A required a little help, and it took him a while to get the basic idea of the game, but once he was in a groove, he was all over the place. he loved rhyming words because it was easier for him to find the same letters, so we let him play that way for a while…Then we upped the ante, by telling him that all of the letters had to be different. In addition to building his spelling skills, we were working on his vocabulary, too! By the end of the day, A was begging to come back and play more games with us.

PAIRS in PEARS Review

Definitely related to me…

A few days later, I had The Princess over. We were talking about school (she’s in Kindergarten) and she told me it was really hard for her. She said that she could read the letters, but had trouble spelling the words. Of course, I broke out Pairs in Pears to play-after I told her my secret: “Auntie Chrissy is really really good with words. She knows how to teach spelling and reading, so that you can be the smartest girl ever. Do you want me to help you?”

Her eyes got really big and wide before she said yes. (What can I say? I’ve got a magical way with the kiddos.) So we started playing some of the basic skill building activities that are discussed in the PAIRSinPEARS instruction booklet. We played Letter Hunt (in which I tell her what to look for, she finds it and uses it for whatever purpose. She found her name and spelled that. She found the vowels. She found a few other short words that she knew.) It was fun for her. And she was showing me what she knew.

Then we played Sound it Out, where I showed her letters and she sounded them out, telling me words that started with the same letter. She loved that game too. After a little while, she did get tired of letters…I could tell because she looked at me and said, “Auntie Chrissy…I think we should let my brother play with the letters.” He’s 2. You see where this is going. But it’s understandable. Her brain was working super hard! I used to have a student who would like at me with an adorable little lisp and say, “Yoooouuuuu make me so tiiiiiiiwed. Yoooouuuuu make my bwain huwt.”

All in all, PAIRSinPEARS is an AWESOME game. Both The Princess and Little A will be returning to our place to play the fun word game that they just learned. Their parents are thrilled, because it’s helping them learn, and they just think they’re playing games! I’m not sure that I would recommend this for a 3-year-old, but my 5 and 7 y/o niece and nephew think it’s a great game. As an educator, an auntie, and a gamer, I think so too.

You can buy a copy of PAIRSinPEARS for yourself at Barnes & Noble or Target (in stores and online!) With a low price of $14.95, this would make an awesome stocking stuffer for any kid or kid at heart!

**The opinions expressed in this blog post are my own. The fine people at Bananagrams DID give me a free copy of PAIRSinPEARS to sample and review. They DID NOT compensate me for my opinion in any way, shape, or form.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Why Banned Books are Better

Obviously, because when things are censored, everyone wants to read them!

Warning: This post uses the word, “fuck” a lot. I feel very strongly about books. You understand.

If you’re new to my bloggy blog, then you may not know it, but I spent a little bit of time as a teacher

During my stints as a student teacher and an observing teacher, I taught the following banned reading materials:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (My all-time favorite American novel)
To Kill a Mockingbird (sort of–I was working WITH my cooperating teacher)
A Farewell to Arms (I taught one lesson. I fucking love Hemingway.)
The Call of the Wild (just an excerpt, but still…)
Brave New World (A summer reading book–which I never actually read)
Cat’s Cradle (Another summer reading list book–this one was great!)

I also taught reading comprehension for a spell…we used the following banned/challenged books:

The Lord of the Flies (You want to teach a 13 year old boy how to read? Give him this book.)
The Outsiders (One of our middle school girl students read and loved this book)
Fallen Angels (I had a student who would literally change the language so that he wasn’t saying the “bad” words, even though I told him it was okay.)

So I’m no stranger to banned books–there’s a huge list of them that I read before I was 12 (Shel Silverstein, anyone? Alvin Shwartz? R.L. Stein? Roald Dahl? These dudes taught me to read, dammit!) I mean, come on–someone fuckin’ banned Where’s Waldo?!

I digress. Reading. It’s important. Reading something that’s “forbidden?” All of a sudden you’ve made it fun to read. In fact, you’ve made it downright exciting to read. So go ahead, ban books. Just don’t fucking burn them. Then I’ll have to hunt you down. And you’ll face the wrath of me. And trust me…I don’t tread lightly when it comes to destroying books. Ever.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a post about books, if I didn’t talk about an actual book for a little bit… (You want full fledged bookwormery, visit my bestie and her blog, Words for Worms) So you get my love affair with Mark Twain.

I love Huck. When I was planning with my cooperating teacher, she said that she hated Huck, and if I wanted to teach it, I could. I got really excited! I had all sorts of big plans. I remember the first time I read it on my own when I was a sophomore in high school. I loved it.

I’m not going to lie, I actually had a few students who actually enjoyed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (I had a significantly larger number who thought I spent far too much time with it…but whatever). I got to teach this DURING banned books week, so that was super fun! We did a formal debate. It was stellar. Additionally, I gave the students options for their final Huck project. Write a paper (which way too many of them did, btw) or create your own project. I had one student who wrote The Huck Finn Rap. It was REALLY well done–covered the whole story.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. If you’re not the best reader–get the audio book. It helps. and if you really want to understand what’s going on, and need a little booster, we can set up a mini book club and Gchat about it. Because I love Huck that much. O:-)

Huck at Tom Sawyer Island

Tom Sawyer Island at Disney

Fuck yeah. (OK, that was gratuitous.)

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

An Inspirational Teacher

While I was in the early stages of my M.A. in Education, I was assigned an interview project. Meet with a teacher in your future specialty, and find out about their take on teaching. Ms. Tanner was one of the two teachers that inspired me to teach high school English. Here is what I wrote:

I had the privilege to learn from one of my personal heroes her views and beliefs on teaching. Having been one of her students eight years ago, I am able to understand how she has become such an amazing teacher.
Prior to becoming a teacher at the age of 37, Ms. Tanner had many career changes; from factories, restaurants, and retail, to running her own advertising agency, she truly tried them all. At that time, she was provided with the opportunity to travel with a fifth grade class to France. She and the fifth grade teacher toured France with the children, while keeping them up to date with their schooling.  Ms. Tanner learned that she greatly enjoyed being with the students, as well as being in the classroom environment, so she decided that she would become a teacher.
After considering teaching fifth grade, and remembering that she wasn’t a fan of math or science, Ms. Tanner decided that she would prefer more specified subject matter. A journalism degree and her strength in English classes led her to teaching high school English, where she would be able to help run a student newspaper.
As a teacher, Ms. Tanner has many roles. First and foremost, Ms. Tanner is a role model and a listener. I can attest that she has inspired many students, including myself, who still think extremely fondly of her. She makes a point to know something about each and every one of her students. She takes their writing to heart and keeps the information confidential. She provides a shoulder to cry on for students who need someone to talk out their problems with. She shares in the excitement of students who have succeeded and want to tell her first. She still visits with students who have graduated, and takes joy in learning about everything in their lives. As I was sitting in her classroom after school, an old student of Ms. Tanner’s came to visit. As he spoke, she listened with her entire being, happy for his accomplishments, and sorry for his losses.
Ms. Tanner believes that “the classroom is a mirror.” The way you treat the students reflects back on you. If you treat them with kindness, respect, and trust, you will get that back to you. She also believes that it’s important to divulge a piece of herself to her class. One of the first things you learn about Ms. Tanner, is that she’s married to Keanue Reeves. Or at least that’s what she tells you.  A little humor and embarrassment can go a long way. Her classroom is full of possibilities.
Another role that Ms. Tanner takes on a daily basis is that of a disciplinarian. She describes herself as a “foot soldier in the trenches to convey the administration’s rules,” and a “prison matron for the warden.”  She also considers herself a facilitator and a guider of learning. Her job is to “expose students to opportunities for learning.” Over the years she learned that her job is to bring the horses to the water, but she can’t always force them to drink.  She is not in charge of the learning. She provides the tools and the knowledge to learn. Only the students can make themselves learn.
Ms. Tanner is a professional colleague. She is a resource for young teachers. She feels a sense of camaraderie with her fellow teachers. Ms. Tanner also considers herself a bookkeeper. She tracks everything from assignments and grades to tardies and truancies. She is one of the few remaining of her colleagues to still use a paper grade book. She feels it’s important to have everything in one place, accessible immediately.
The challenges of teaching are always present. Some days Ms. Tanner wants to be too mean. She wants to yell and scream about the small things. She recounted a recent experience about a student who didn’t do his work all semester, but when grades came out, he asked what he could do. She told me that she was probably too harsh in her response, and days later she softened, giving him an opportunity to improve his grade. She sometimes wishes she didn’t react quite so immediately.
With challenges, come rewards. Ms. Tanner divulges all the perks of being a teacher. She loves working with students. All of the rewards are student based. “Students are fun. Adults not so fun,” she tells me. She appreciates seeing all of the students who come to visit her and the people she’s helped. She had inspirational teachers in high school and hopes that she is doing the same. I know from experience that she is.
In the 17 years that she has been teaching, Ms. Tanner has learned one very important thing. She never stops learning. “There’s never a dull, boring moment in teaching,” she reveals. She learns about human nature, her contribution to her job, and there’s always something new to learn about the subject. She regularly learns new things about the pedagogy. She recalls visiting several schools that run on a block schedule, which her school was considering. She is always learning new ways to deliver instruction. She smiles when she tells me, “You never know what the day will bring.”
Since becoming a teacher, Ms. Tanner has never looked back. Her only regret is that she didn’t start sooner. She wishes that she had known at 22 that she would love being a teacher. Of all the careers and jobs that she has had, teaching is, by far, the most rewarding and best job she has ever had.  She fondly discusses how enriching the job has been for her. She shares with me that she has been to many graduation parties, weddings, baby showers, and even funerals. Because she never had any children of her own, she always feels as though her students are her children. Ms. Tanner puts her whole world into teaching, and from what it appears, she gets a world back.
 

Of course, inspiration from a truly great teacher does not a great teacher make, and teaching just wasn’t for me. As much as I loved working with the students, teaching was not what I hoped it would be. Ms. Tanner is still an encouragement, and I know that she’ll be proud, no matter which direction I take.  She has one of the rosiest, shiniest, happiest personalities in the whole world, and I’m proud to say that I know her.

To this day, when I chat with her, she’ll still call me Sunny or Sunshine, and I’m glad that she considers me a bright spot in her world of amazing students.

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Student Teacher Super Fans

I’ve been cleaning out my bedroom at my parents’ house recently, and occasionally, I’ll take a few moments to look through my box. Every sentimental kid has a box. You know, the one full of your childhood, high school, and college memories? Mine’s huge. It’s one of those under-the-bed storage containers, and it’s full to the brim with pictures, invitations, cards, letters, scrapbooks, and other memory paraphernalia.

I make a point to toss out a few things every now and then for good measure (so there’s room to add more, of course), and I almost threw a high-quality piece away. I opted not to. What is it? You may be asking yourself…

A tee-shirt

But it’s not just any tee-shirt. It’s one of those handmade with markers and paint white tee-shirts that high schoolers make for school spirit. Except that no where on it does the shirt say, “Go Rams!”

The shirt, made with two other matching tees (worn by my two actually-musically-talented pals, Sophie Bee and Kathrine Anne), had big bright letters that said, “Dillinger’s Biggest Fans.”

Who is Dillinger?

Well, Dillinger was our Music Theory AP student teacher. (Yes, I took MT AP. And barely made it out by the skin of my teeth.) 1st period of second semester. Every day. We walked in to see this handsome college guy, who would soon be a real high school music teacher. Oh-how-we-adored-him. So, like any love-sick teenage girl, we decided that we would make tee-shirts.

Using our crafty knowledge (as cheerleaders and poms) we followed standard tee-shirt protocol, using markers and paint in school colors to showcase our spirit. We gave ourselves numbers, and added Dilly (as we lovingly referred to him) quotes, like “Easy Peasy” and “I’m not trying to ignore, I’m just trying to share the wealth.” That last one, I’m sure, is because we demanded his constant attention…and he wasn’t always around us.

We wore these tee-shirts to a Friday night football game, to share our adoration with the world. Walking in front of the marching band and Mr. Dillinger was a pretty scary feat, but we really thought that it was a great idea. We pranced around showing off our “cool” tee-shirts and walked right up to him and showed him our awesome shirts. I’m pretty sure that Dillinger was incredibly embarrassed, and having now been a student teacher, I can say with perfect confidence that he likely had no idea what to do other than smile and laugh and tell us that we were a little crazy.

Indeed we were. Indeed. We. Were.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!