Dyslexia, Reading, Phonics & the Brain

Decoding in Reading - The Dyslexic Brain

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin, characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language. (For more on dyslexia, what it is, and what it isn’t, click here.)

Some researchers in the field, however, believe that dyslexia is not always organic, but can also result from ineffective reading instruction and lack of phonics skill acquisition at the earliest grade levels. Regardless, the specific learning challenges, deficits and observed behaviors are the same, as is the need to circumvent areas of inherent weakness and tap into alternative areas of strength. And there are many areas of strength.

Dyslexics children, as well as dyslexic adults, are often the quintessential “backdoor” learners—looking for effective “work-arounds” to solve problems, and often exhibiting high levels of creativity in doing so. For dyslexics, the “front” door might be closed, but the backdoor is WIDE open!

They may not move from “A” to “B” to “C” as per the traditional learning path, but they somehow find a way….even if it means having to skip “B” entirely, circle “F” twice, and then work they way back around to “C!”  Traveling these unconventional paths allows them to observe more, think differently, be creative and build tenacity.

The key to helping dyslexic learners struggling to read is to provide them with an easily accessible, backdoor approach, so as to accelerate access to the phonics skills needed to read and write, and from the earliest possible grade levels.

The answers lie in the brain science.
(Before reading on, learn more about “backdoor” skill-access for struggling readers, here.)

Phonics for Dyslexia

Below is my interview with Elisheva Schwartz, of the Dyslexia Quest Podcast. I became aware of Dyslexia Quest after listening to a podcast interview with Harvard-trained neuroscientist and researcher, Dr. Mary-Helen Immordino-Yang, whose research on learning and the brain is incorporated into Secret Stories® backdoor approach to fast-tracking phonics for reading and writing.

The two-part podcast interview with Elisheva is below. In them, we discuss learning issues that are associated with dyslexia, and why the Secret Stories® are often referred to as “Phonics for Dyslexics”.  To play, click the arrow under each of the descriptions, and for additional podcasts on the topic, visit www.elishevaschwartz.com.


The Dyslexic Brain: A Backdoor Approach to Phonics for Reading – Pt. 1

Phonics for Dyslexics

      CLICK THE ARROW (ON LEFT) TO PLAY PT. 1

The Dyslexic Brain: A Backdoor Approach to Phonics for Reading – Pt. 2

Phonics for Dyslexia

      CLICK THE ARROW (ON LEFT) TO PLAY PT. 2

Finally, I wanted to share this review that I stumbled upon online. I am always so grateful when parents take the time to reach out and share their child’s struggles and successes, and while this one wasn’t sent to me directly, it was filled with some good information and helpful insight that I thought I would share.

How I Helped My Dyslexic Child Learn to Read

This book changed our life. I’ve taught my dyslexic daughter to read using the Secret Stories®.

After trying the regular phonics “programs,” Secret Stories was recommended by our homeschool support group. With the Secrets, we didn’t have to give up learning phonetically, despite my daughter having auditory processing problems.

We sat down with a print out copy of the first McGuffey Reader, and when we came to a Secret Story (i.e. letters not making the sound that they should) we looked it up its “secret” the book. The pictures that went with each Secret made them so easy for her to remember, not just the phonics pattern, but the sound/sounds. The Secrets helped her brain easily retain the phonics patterns and sounds that before she could never get, no matter what we tried or how many times we practiced them.

I’ve also begun using Secret Stories with my severely language-compromised son, and he giggles as we “make” the Secrets he knows out of his Theraputty (another great product) and make the words come alive! I’ve also used the Secret Stories in a fun way at our homeschool group—I made little capes with the Superhero Vowels® sewn onto the back to wear when the vowels “say their names!”

Seeing my daughter now want to read and write ALL the time is such a blessing, as it’s been a long road to get here! If she hadn’t learned the Secrets, I don’t think we would have ever made it to where we are now.

I wish every school would use Secret Stories along with their reading curriculum, as it’s so easy, and it covers all of the learning bases: kinesthetic, visual, auditory, and even emotion. It can help everyone, but especially those who don’t learn the “normal” way.

phonics for dyslexia


Learn more about how Secret Stories® can help struggling readers access critical phonics skills for reading and writing.

Phonics Stories - TH

Phonics Stories for Reading

 

phonics stories

phonics stories for reading

 

Phonics Stories

Learn the “secret” phonics stories that go with the pictures here!


 

How to Teach First Graders About Persuasive Writing

Teaching persuasive writing is not easy, and getting kids excited about doing it, especially first graders, is even harder….but not when there are leprechauns involved!

Persuasive Writing in First Grade

Now you might be thinking, “This lady is crazy! Look at that mess! Why would anyone purposely ransack their own classroom for the sake of a persuasive writing lesson?”
And maybe you’re right.

But in our little first grade classroom, reading and writing activities provide the perfect “playground” for adventures like these! Knowing the Secrets empowers my kiddos (many of whom are ELL) to read what they love and write the stories that they want to tell! And unlike average first graders midyear, they aren’t the least bit reliant on sight words to read and write, as they OWN the code!

My name is Renee McAnulty, and I am a first grade teacher at Cottonwood Elementary School in Hesperia California, and you may remember me from previous guest posts on Katie’s Blog.

Increasing Student Engagement with Persuasive Writing

I am that teacher who is constantly trying to come up with creative ways to get my kids completely engaged in our lessons. When it comes to teaching beginning readers and writers, the first (and most important) step is to ensure that they have the tools they need to read write with! And that’s not easy, given how little of the code (i.e. phonics skills) the average first grader has of the code at this point in first grade, as per the grade level scope and sequence in our reading series.

Add to that the constant pressure of trying to compete with video gaming, YouTube, high energy tv shows, etc., focusing students’ attention on reading and writing tasks can be challenging! My special recipe includes the “4C’s” — Creativity, Critical thinking, Collaboration, and Communication….along with a “sprinkling” of Secrets! Combining all of these ingredients has completely transformed what reading and writing looks like in our classroom. We have actually become so strong in our abilities, that we sometimes have to use writing to get ourselves out of sticky situations, like the one that happened last week.

Before I explain the chaos, keep in mind that we are first graders, and as such, we have very BIG imaginations!

—We believe in magic.
—We believe in fairies (and actually have one living in our classroom at the moment)
—We believe in elves (and host an Elf-exchange program with the North Pole each December)
—And we believe in leprechauns.

In fact, did you know that leprechauns are responsible for messing up classrooms all over the world? If you don’t believe me, Google it, as their mayhem is well-documented.

This is why I had my munchkins create leprechaun traps. We even put on a “leprechaun exhibit” for the entire school to show off our creative traps, and to encourage others to do the same.

After making and setting our, we left them out overnight, and when we returned to our classroom the next morning, it was pure chaos! The leprechauns had not only escaped from our traps, but they trashed our room, and we had to clean up all of their mess…and they made a BIG mess!

First Grade Literacy Centers

First Grade Mess

First Grade Writing Activity

First Grade Fun

Still in shock, but with a full day of learning ahead of us and no time to waste, my little munchkins started cleaning the giant mess as fast as they could. Then, without any warnings, our principal entered the room (which I will admit, “may” have been pre-planned! ;-)

First Grade Leprechaun Classroom

His face showed his shock….and his disappointment. How could these precious first graders, who love their school, treat their classroom like this? He was speechless. The kids immediately tried to explain what had happened, “We didn’t do it! It was the leprechauns!”

The look on his face said he was not buying it. (Our principal had some theatre training and is a very good actor!) The kids could tell that he was thinking, that WE really did this! They tried their best to explain, but to no avail.

Leprechaun Fun in First Grade

Our principal is a very busy man, and he just doesn’t have time to listen to nonsense. However, despite his busy schedule, he is also very reasonable and very fair. So, he gives the kids their most important assignment to date, to explain to him, IN WRITING, why they are not responsible for the mess. If they can prove that the leprechauns were the real culprits by citing evidence and research, as well as the reasons that they believe that it was them who did this, then he might be convinced to believe us.

The kids wasted no time. They thanked him and then went to work cleaning the classroom. They un-flipped the tables, sharpened the pencils, and began writing.

1st Grade Classroom Destroyed by Leprechaun

Not Your Typical First Grade Writing

Now was not the time for, “How do you spell Leprechaun?”
Our reputation was on the line! It’s moments likes this when basic kid-writing simply with simple sight words just will not do. We were not going to be able to convince our principal that we were innocent with:
“I like leprechauns.”
“Leprechauns are cool!”
“I really really really like them.”
“Leprechauns are fun!”
Thankfully, we were armed with our Secret Stories and could write exactly what we wanted, no needed to say!

How incredible is that? We know how to write!
In fact, our writing is being requested by our principal!
Why? Because he can read it!

One of the many perks of kids knowing the letters’ “Secrets” is that they can not only read almost anything, they can write almost anything too! And so without any hesitation at all, the kids started to write….and write….and write.

First Grade Writing

Why did they write so much?
Because they could, and because it was fun!

This awesome (albeit messy) writing adventure was the perfect mixture of play, passion and skills! It wasn’t just fun, it was exciting! Who would think that words like these would ever be used to describe a first grade writing assignment?!!

Our First Grade Persuasive Writing

How to Teach Writing to First Graders


How to Teach Writing


Persuasive Writing Activity


First Grade Persuasive Writing Activity


How to Teach Persuasive Writing to Beginning Writers


First Grade Persuasive Writing


Teaching Beginning Writers


First Grade Writing


Teaching Persuasive Writing in First Grade


When the last of the writers finished up, I sent our class reps to the office to schedule a meeting with Mr. Mauger so that we could read our letters and plead our case. It was just after lunch that he called us in. The kids gave him their letters and showed him some of the research they had done online.

Then he read all of our letters.

 

After some persuasive conversation, our principal finally said that he believed us. The kids were so relieved, and so very proud that they had once again written their way out of another sticky situation! (You can read about our trauma over Rocky, the school mascot, here!)

When we got back to our classroom, we sat down and chatted about everything that had happened. I told them how proud I was of them. “Munchkins, because you are officially readers and writers! You wrote exactly what you wanted to say, and didn’t even have to ask me how to spell anything! You had the power and the confidence to write your own thoughts down on paper!” (A quick side note here— If you use Secret Stories, but don’t know about/use the “Zoo Keepers & M&M” strategy, you need to watch this and then download it NOW! It’s free, and really help kids understand that they must “capture” as many letters (and Secrets!) that they hear in the words they are trying to write. It’s a great tool for ensuring Secret Stories skill-transfer to writing. It also makes beginning writing much easier to read, and to enjoy! You can read more about writing with Secret Stories here.)

You might be thinking that such a huge production for a silly little writing lesson is unnecessary. And sure, I could have just passed out a worksheet with a couple of  leprechauns on it and a few lines for writing, while listening to the sighs and moans as I explained what the writing topic was and how many sentences they “had to write” in order to be “done.”

The whole lesson probably would have taken no more than twenty minutes and then we could have moved on to something else….all the while keeping our classroom neat and clean! But where is the fun in that?

The truth is that by next year, these kids won’t even remember learning to read and write, just like they don’t remember how they learned to walk and talk. These are tasks that they perform automatically with no effort at all.

Reading and Writing Fluency

And this is my goal for them as readers and writers—that every day, they will become more fluent! They may not recall the actual learning process, but they will never forget the day that a crazed group of leprechauns tore up their classroom, and how they had to rely on their writing abilities to persuade the principal that they were innocent of the crime!

Leprechaun Fun in First Grade Writing

The Importance of Play in Learning

I hope you enjoyed this peek into our first grade persuasive writing adventure, and I hope it inspires you to infuse more “play” into reading and writing activities in your own classroom!

Secret Stories is the missing piece to our “1,000 piece” puzzle!
Weaving “play” into literacy learning is so critical at the early grade levels, and Secret Stories transforms every reading and writing experience into a virtual playground! The Secrets are are play as far as kids are concerned! They can’t stop talking about them and actively “hunt” for them in words throughout the day. They role-play their sound behaviors to get the sounds/spellings they need to read/write.

This may sound odd to those who don’t use the Secrets, but it almost feels like my class and I are on an endless vacation of reading and writing adventures! I say “vacation” because we’ve long since surpassed all of our “required” first grade reading level objectives—with most of the kids reading (and writing) far above grade level, and those who would normally struggle, performing strongly on-grade level.

Our little first grade classroom has become a reading and writing playground where deep learning and critical thinking opportunities abound! (I actually saw a video clip of a kindergarten teacher trying to explain the same thing, and it’s exactly the way that I feel.)

When kids know the Secrets, they “own the code” and have everything they need to read and write what they want. And this is so important, as standard curriculum leaves so many holes. Before I started using Secret Stories, my first graders struggled to read and write anything, aside from the sight words they had memorized.

Teachers need tools, and so do kids! It drives me crazy when I hear teachers who are struggling to teach their kids their kids to read that they “don’t have time for one more thing!”

The Secrets aren’t one more thing. They are EVERYTHING that kids need to read and write, and everything that teachers need to teach them how to do it. They answer all of the questions about why letters make the sounds that they do when “jump off our alphabet chart and into the real words” that we see every day.

Kids can’t help but ask “Why?” anytime they spot Secrets in a word they cannot read. They literally “beg” to hear them, and this is when you realize that you are no longer driving the learning train.  The kids are. They have taken over and are seated squarely in the driver’s seat and leading the way in their own learning!

We have time to relax and take literacy lessons to new heights that were never possible before in first grade. I know I sound like a broken record when I say that I cannot imagine teaching in a world without Secret Stories, and when I look back, I honestly have no idea how I ever did.

Renee McAnulty
(a.k.a.”Mrs. Mac’s Munchkins”)

PS I wanted to share a quick “techie-tool” that we use to tie in our technology component, called Flipgrid. The kids recorded themselves reading their letters to Mr. Mauger, and then he recorded his response. The kids love it, and we can even share the links with our parents!

Flip Grid for First Grade

And here is a rough screen recording of one of my littles reading her letter to Mr. Mauger along with his response. (The sound isn’t great, as the kids were all recording at the same time and so there is a lot of background noise.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join me LIVE on Youtube for “Secret Sundays” at 5pm EST for Brain Based Phonics for Accelerated Reading and Writing Instruction!

Secret Sundays - Episode 2

If you tuned in last Sunday for the very first Secret Sundays LIVE at 5 on YouTube, then you know it was a blast! (And if you didn’t, you can catch it by clicking on the video below.)

And if you tuned in for, what was supposed to be “Rewind Wednesday,” which was supposed to be a replay of Sunday’s episode on Facebook Live, but with me “chatting” live in the comments section throughout, then you know that was a complete debacle. Ugh!

Well, not a total debacle….at least, not once everyone from the THREE live groups (yes, I accidentally streamed three at the same time) all found their way into the one that I was actually in. But from that point on, it was smooth sailing! :-)

And finally, the UNPLANNED and totally IMPROVISED "Wednesday Rewind!”…..3rd time’s a charm! Lol 😊

Posted by Secret Stories- Cracking the Reading/Phonics Code with the Brain in Mind on Wednesday, December 12, 2018

So, if you’re up for a challenge, try and join me this weekend for the second episode of Secret Sunday LIVE at 5pm on YouTube for “Cheating the Brain for Easy & Early Access to Hard Phonics Skills!” You will discover the “secret” ingredients to cooking-up a powerful, brain-based phonics “stew” in your classroom! In this short 30 minute timeframe, you will learn how to align core tenets of brain based learning with your existing phonics instruction to accelerate access to the WHOLE code that kids need to read AND to write!

I will also be doing another giveaway for a FREE Secret Stories Classroom Kit OR (if you already have it) any other item of your choice from the Secret Stories® website—from the Flashcards, to the new Decorative Squares, the Manipulative Placards or a class set of Porta-Pics….it’s your choice! To win, just share this link to the live broadcast on your Facebook or Instagram page anytime between now and the 5pm broadcast, and then be sure to follow and tag! I will also be sharing a free download link to one of the most popular items in my TpT store— one that’s never been offered for free—to ALL who tune in to learn on your precious Sunday! :-)

Secret Stories Phonics Kit

Secret Stories® Phonics Flashcards

Secret Stories® Decorative Squares Phonics PostersSecret Stories® Phonics Manipulatives Placards

Secret Stories® Phonics Phonics for Homeschool

So I’ll see you all on Sunday….same time, same place!

Talk soon,
Katie
https://www.KatieGarner.com

PS And YAY! I actually did it!!!  I gave you a “heads-up” more than an hour in advance! Lol ;-)

Secret Stories Phonics Mommy E®—Making Phonics Make SENSE!
I received an email from the mom of an adorable little boy who had been diagnosed with high functioning autism. Her frustration and despair were heartfelt, and her words really struck a chord, both as a mom and as a teacher. With her permission, I wanted to share it…..
Hi Katie,
My son is in grade two and is not reading. He has a diagnosis of high functioning autism. When I asked my son’s doctor last week what I could do to help my son with reading, the doctor said, “He has autism, he might never read.” It feels that I am getting the same message from his school.
 
I struggled in school with a severe learning disability. The learning disability was not discovered until I was in grade 8. I spent many years, sitting in classrooms and not knowing what was going on. When I was diagnosed in grade 8, my parents were told I was “mentally retarded” and that I would never be able to succeed in the local public school.
 
My son told me that he sits in class and just looks at his worksheets for the entire class. I have spent many nights googling different ways to teach my son to read. I am a single mother and it seems hard sometimes not to have another person to share my worries with.
I just stumbled upon your method yesterday and I printed out some of your stories and read them to my son and showed him the pictures. He remembered the sounds right away.
 
I have been watching your videos on YouTube and they have been unbelievable. This is the first time in a long time that I have felt extremely hopeful.
 

About one month later…

Hi Katie,
I can’t thank you enough for your book. My son has started reading!
He loves the Secret Stories. He thanked me last night for getting the Secret Stories for him.
 
Last night, I asked him to read the word “cookie” using what he learned from the Secret Stories. His first response was, “I can’t read such a big word.”
 
I told him to try.
He sounded out the word right away.
He then said, “Mommy, I read the word cookie! I can’t believe I read such a big word!”
 
Katie, your program is unbelievable.
It really should be used in all schools to teach kids reading.
 
PS My son loves drawing in his sketchbook. He brought the Secret Stories with him to swimming and was drawing and practicing the stories before his class.  Here is a picture of him sketching the secrets in his sketchbook.
 

And here’s a wonderful picture of this adorable little guy with his Secret sketchbook at swim practice!

Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets — Making Phonics Make SENSE!

 

Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets — ER, IR, UR
Secret Stories® Phonics Secret ER, IR & UR
 
Every teacher knows it doesn’t get any better than this!

Although, these next notes from actual kiddos come close, beginning with this one from a SPED learner in South Carolina, sent to me by his wonderful literacy coach, Sheila Smith.
Secret Stories Phonics SPED Learner Writing
“I am thankful for (you) teaching me about words and Secret Stories
and words that don’t follow the rules…”

In addition to that wonderful note, her students are also working on a book about their all-time favorite Secret Stories®……

Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets— KIDS FAVES
Our favorite Secret Stories®!

 

Secret Stories Phonics Mommy E®
Secret Stories Mommy E®

 

Secret Stories Sneaky Y® Secret Student Drawing & Story
Secret Stories Sneaky Y®
Secret Stories Sneaky Y® Secret Student Drawing & Story
Secret Stories Sneaky Y® Digital Supplement Pack
Secret Stories® Phonics Secret AU AW
Secret Stories Phonics Secrets AU AW

Secret Stories® AU & AW Phonics Secret

Secret Stories Phonics Secret EU EW
Secret Stories® Phonics Secret EU & EW
Secret Stories Phonics Secrets EU EW
FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Secret ER IR UR
Secret Stories® ER, IR & UR
FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Secret ER IR UR
FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Student Secrets
And some creative Secret “Odds & Ends!”

 

And if you don’t already have the Secrets, but would like to try sharing them with your students, you can download this mini-sampler poster pack FREE! 
FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Mini-Poster Sample Pack
FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Mini-Poster Pack
Until Next Time,
Katie :-)

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Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!

Try a “taste” of the Secrets with YOUR class 
and see the difference they make!
Click to Download the FREE Secret Stories® Mini-Sample Poster Pack!

 

For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 

 


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Does it ever feel like every day is a new day in Johnny’s head?
What I mean is, have you ever spent an entire week teaching something, only to have some kids look at you like they have NEVER seen it before on the following Monday? With so many skills to cover in so little time, teachers have to ensure that what they teach actually sticks.
Imagine that you are a bus driver and that the skill you are teaching is a stop along your route. Some of your students make it to the stop in time to catch the bus; others do not and so they are left behind. So what happens to the kids who miss the bus? Will there be another bus coming up behind it that they can catch? And what happens if they’re still not ready? How many more chances will they have to get on board?

Now instead of a bus driver, imagine that you are a merry-go-round operator, and the skill you are teaching is one of those pretty horses on the merry-go-round that keeps on spinning round and round. Opportunities to jump on are constant and ongoing, as it’s literally impossible to “miss” the merry-go-round!

Secret Stories® Phonics "Merry-Go-Round" Memories for Phonics Skills that Stick
Consider this same merry-go-round analogy as a framework for what brain science tells us makes memories stick, which is to provide spaced repetition at designated intervals (see below) so that the newly learned information just “keeps coming back,” and can therefore be more easily transferred into learners’ long-term memory. Once there, the information is theirs forever—never to be forgotten or fall prey to the “summer-slide!”
Skills that are traditionally introduced in a linear fashion over multiple grade level years (like letter sounds and phonics patterns) can be the most challenging to “bake” using the above recipe. With so many skills to cover, so little time to teach them, and so many students who are not developmentally ready to learn them in kindergarten, teachers in first and second grade are often trying to reinforce skills that many learners don’t even have.

If teachers in preK or kindergarten introduce a letter of the week, what happens when a student misses “D” week because he’s out sick? Worse yet, what if he is out for two weeks and misses both “D” and “E” weeks?  What if a learner isn’t developmentally ready for kindergarten and hardly picks up any of letter sounds the letter sounds introduced that year?

Click on the video above for individual letter sound mastery 
in 2 weeks to 2 months via early learners’ muscle memory.
Will the first grade bus have time to circle back around through each of those individual letter sound “stops” that he missed in kindergarten? If it does, will it be at the expense of making all of the necessary first grade stops— th, sh, ch, ph, wh, gh, etc..? And as he gets further and further behind having missed so many stops, how will he compensate for the skills he doesn’t have? Will he have to memorize even more sight words in order to make up for all of the skills he didn’t get that are in all of the words he can’t read?

When it comes to reading and writing and the skills kids need to do it, this conversation becomes critical. Traditionally, the “code” that’s needed to read and write— from the individual letter soundsblends and long and short vowels,  to the silent e/Mommy e®), Sneaky Y®digraphs, vowel combinations and VCCV/VCV/Babysitter Vowels®— are all “chopped-up and divvied-out” for formal introduction across multiple grade level years (PreK-2nd), which means that kids simply cannot afford to miss even ONE bus along the way….not if they’re supposed to be done “learning to read” by the end of second grade and ready to “read to learn” by third.

Closing the distance on all of the “missed stops” (i.e. phonics skills) in such a short amount of time is extremely difficult and rarely happens with traditional methods of instruction. Instead, kids who missed buses along the way must learn to compensate for the “holes” in their skill ability by memorizing more sight words and becoming better guessers, as the instructional focus is no longer on teaching the reader, but on teaching the reading. Struggling readers will carry these gaping holes with them through subsequent grade levels, where they become stuck on the instructional hump between learning to read and reading to learn.

The critical skills that kids need to read and write must be banned from the bus. They belong on the merry-go-round! And if you are using Secret Stories® to underscore your existing reading curriculum and instruction, then the merry-go-round is already spinning around in your classroom, though you probably didn’t even notice it. 

Secret Stories® Phonics Secret "AU/AW"

Every time you tell or retell a Secret, you are giving students another opportunity to jump on! 

Secret Stories® Phonics Secret "ER, IR, UR"

Each time you ask if there is a Secret in a word they are trying to read, or if they hear a Secret sound in a word they can’t spell, the merry-go-round is spinning…. solidifying a “deep-in-the-gut” level of skill-ownership for those who have already jumped on, while continually circling back for those not quite ready.

Secret Stories® Phonics Secret "EU/EW"

Using Secret Stories® to underscore existing core reading instruction makes it impossible for anyone to miss the bus because the Secrets just keep coming back— shared and re-shared, told and re-told, used and re-used— as students read and write across all content areas and throughout the entire instructional day.

Secret Stories® Phonics Secret "TH"
The Secrets are the ‘life-blood of our classroom, always within reach and ready for use, whenever and wherever they are needed” 
(Thank you, Tara Settle, for that great description!)
Underscoring core reading curriculum and instruction with the Secrets naturally provides for the spaced repetition and staggered reinforcement that research shows “makes skills stick.”  It’s not intentional, but automatic, and it continues with each subsequent grade level at which the Secrets are needed. The code doesn’t change with each grade level year, nor do the phonics skills kids need to crack it! Kinders are expected to read and write words like the, she, now, girl, boy, play, etc… even though they contain phonics skills that sit on the scope and sequence for first and second grade. “Three to four grade level years is just too long to make learners wait for access to the whole code.” (Dr. Richard Allington).
Secret Stories® Phonics Secret "OUS"

By targeting phonics skills to the earlier developing, affective “feeling” domain, Secret Stories® empowers learners as young as kindergarten with high-leverage phonics skills, like  Mommy E® and the Babysitter Vowels®, providing the much-needed “trigger” for determining whether a vowel will be long or short. And the same Babysitter Vowel® Secret that beginning readers need in order to decode words like making or motor, upper-grade readers can use to crack words in higher level text hibernating or migration

Secret Stories® Phonics "SECRETS" — Making Phonics Make SENSE!

And that merry-go-round just keeps on spinning— providing ongoing and never-ending opportunities for all kids to hop on when they’re ready!  And hop on, they will because Secret Stories® transform the code from skills they have to learn into “secrets” they WANT to know!

 

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Mini-Poster Sampler Pack

Teaching phonics is not intuitive, but many things that great teachers naturally do are! Today’s educators can take advantage of the advancements in new technology and brain science to hone their teacher-instincts and streamline instructional practice.

An awareness and understanding of the brain science as it relates to best teaching and learning practices calls into question not only what we do, but also how, why, and even when we do it. It empowers us to go further— to be better, stronger and faster (think the Bionic Man!) and to hone our best teaching tools to perfection! “Neuroscience speaks loud and clear to educators, but it is up to us to heed its message!” (Dr. Kurt Fischer, Harvard University)

Secret Stories® Phonics— Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in Mind!
If you would like to dive deeper into the research behind Secret Stories® and the process of targeting phonics skill instruction to the affective domain for accelerated mastery, you can download the white paper by Dr. Jill Buchan, here.  (Dr. Buchan is also the author of the 2 Sisters Daily CAFE / Daily5 white paper.)

Finally, I want to let everyone know that I have dragged myself out of my comfort zone to learn about and become more active on Instagram. If you’re already on Instagram, you can find me @TheSecretStories, and if you’re not, you can get started with me! I’ve learned (and posted!) there every day over this past week, and have really enjoyed the more personal level of engagement and interaction that Instagram offers. I will continue to post there daily (cuz it’s a lot easier than composing a semi-well worded blog post— Lol!) sharing the latest research, live videos, YOURS and other teachers classroom pics and vids, as well as some behind-the-scenes conference and PD fun!

My hope is to create a special space where we can communicate, collaborate, grow and share as a Secret Stories® tribe, as well as continue discussions started in emails like this one. I really hope that you will join me! (And if you do, be sure to use the hashtag #SecretStoriesReading and #BrainRead in your post so that I see it.

Until Next Time,
Katie :-)

PS I will be doing multiple featured sessions at the Michigan Reading Conference next weekend, and the North Carolina Reading Conference the weekend after that, followed by the Montana State Title I Conference, where I’ll be doing a morning keynote and multiple breakouts. And if you would like to check out my spring/summer speaking dates, or schedule a school or district PD/workshop, just click here.

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Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
Secret Stories® Phonics
Try a “taste” of the Secrets with YOUR class 
and see the difference they make!
Click to Download the FREE Secret Stories® Mini-Sample Poster Pack!

 

Katie Garner Education Keynote Speaker and Secret Stories® Phonics Author
For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 

 


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Secret Stories® Phonics — Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in Mind!

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Hi there!
One of the most commonly asked questions I receive is how the Secret Stories® Classroom Kits are different from the digital Secret Stories® products on TpT

Dear Katie,
I am totally in L-O-V-E with my recently purchased kit of “The Secret Stories!” My K-5 intervention reading groups are absolutely reaping amazing rewards with this resource! I really wish that I had had it years ago. Okay, enough gushing… Here’s my question:
Since I do have the classroom kit, which TpT resources would you recommend to supplement it? I am about to purchase the Guided Reader books available here, as well as “Sneaky Y’s Secret!” Are there any others supplements that I might like to consider? 
Ideally, I’d love to see all supplements listed in one place—here or on your website/blog—so that I don’t replicate parts of the full kit, but can purchase all of the additions to it. 
Thanks so much for any advice you can offer! :-)

So just in case you’ve been wondering the same thing, here’s the scoop—
First and foremost, it’s important to know that everything needed to successfully implement the Secret Stories® IS included in the classroom kits— the book, all of the posters and the musical practice CD, and that the complete classroom kits are only sold in hard copy format on the Secret Stories® website. And if you’re wondering what the difference between the three different kits— OriginalFun & Funky and Space Savers— it’s simply the look and size of the posters. There are also some hard copy supplements that teachers who use and love the Secret Stories® often get, which are the Dual-Use Placards (for hands-on manipulative use anywhere in the classroom) and the Porta-Pics (for portable use both at home as well as in the classroom). The only other important point here that I would like to make is that if you are a primary grade teacher (preK-2), go for the larger posters (as opposed to the space-savers) as your kids will be using referencing them constantly, and from everywhere in the classroom! For this reason, easy visual access is a must!
Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets Fun & Funky Classroom Kit
Secret Stories® “Fun & Funky” Classroom Kit
So now let’s talk about the Secret Stories® on TpT…
(and I’ve included thumbnail pics of some of the FREEBIES!)
All of the Secret Stories® digital products on TpT are supplemental resources that serve one or more of three purposes:

1. Flexible size options of the core Secret Stories® graphics for multi-purpose use and reproducibility, via the digital format.  Whether you already have the classroom kit and want the added flexibility of owning these core pieces in a digital format, or if you’ve never tried the Secrets, but would like to test out some bits and pieces in your classroom— the following TPT products are ideal:

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets Poster Sampler
FREE Secret Stories® Poster Sampling Set

FREE Secret Stories® Sampling
Beethoven Blends
Superhero Vowels® Phonics Secrets
Sneaky Y® Phonics SecretBabysitter Vowels® Phonics Secret
Secrets of the Superhero Vowels® & More Bundle (which includes ALL of the above)

(FYI—The “Headband Packs listed in #3 also offer the smaller size options and are ideal for home-sharing, although they are not listed in this section, as their primary purpose is to provide practice both decoding and encoding by turning the kids into manipulatives! Similarly, the Mini-Mats (in #2) and Sneaky Y’s® Secret w/ Reading Puppet (#3) are also ideal for reproducible “home-sharing!”)
2. A vertical and/or horizontal classroom alphabet with “sound-accurate” picture cues for every possible sound a letter can make when it’s by itself! Also included are duplicate poster cards for the Superhero Vowels®, Sneaky Y® and the QU secret! All too often when I visit classrooms, I see alphabet trains (or whatever you want to call the above-board alphabet display) that contain picture sound cues that are either completely inaccurate or that identify the least most-likely sound option (i.e. an orange or an oyster for the letter o, a xylophone for the letter x, etc…) The following products were created to solve this problem, as well as a couple of others!
Secret Stories® “Vertical & Horizontal” Alphabet Display
Secret Stories® Alphabet Mini-Mats (for individual student use) 
Each set has the Secrets for the individual letter sound secrets (i.e. Superhero & Short & Lazy Vowel sounds, Sneaky Y® and QU) already embedded, along with accurate picture prompts for each sound a letter can make by itself (i.e. hard and soft G and C, 3 sounds of Y, etc…)  They also make for ideal references when singing the Secret Stories® Better Alphabet Song— which teachers kids ALL of the possible sounds that the letters can make by themselves AND in the most likely order! And the vertical-display option is a life-saver when trying to keep up with the fast-paced Letter Runs while pointing to each letter as you sing its sound/sounds! (And the mini-mats are also ideal for home practice and use!)
3. Provide for authentic, targeted practice of the Secret Stories® phonics patterns and sounds. In addition to enhancing learners’ visual acuity to more quickly recognize the Secret Stores® patterns in text, the following products help learners to both see and understand how the Secrets can be applied to text to help them read and/or write words. These TpT products include:
Spotting Secrets
Calendar Secrets
Secrets Number Secrets!
FREE Math Shape Anchors
FREE Secret Stories® Math Secrets Shape Anchors
FREE Math Anchor Poster Secrets

 

FREE Secret Stories® Zoo Keeper/ M&M Writing Strategies
FREE “Write Like They Read” Zoo Keeper  and M&M Quizzes Pack
FREE Secret Stories® Fairytale Writing Pack
Free Fairytale Writing Pack!
Sneaky Y® Headband Pack                                                                                                —Babysitter Vowels® Headband Pack
 
And the Secret Stories® Guided Readers— 

 

Additionally, all of the Common Core Poster Sets (including the FREE Literacy Posters for PreK-3rd!) also contain Secret Stories® graphic references, where applicable, and the Science Sets are FREE, so be sure to check those out, as well! 
 
FREE Secret Stories® Common Core Literacy Posters for PK-3rd Grade
FREE Secret Stories® Common Core Literacy Posters for PK-3rd Grade
FREE Secret Stories® Common Core Science Posters for PK-3rd Grade
FREE Science Posters for PK-3rd! (Click here and select grade-level set desired.)
Social Studies Poster Sets are also available, as well as made-to-match “Literacy & Math Combo Sets” and “Essential Questions” sets, all of which may be accessed, by grade level, here. 
 
More Freebie “Odds & Ends”
FREE Gum Ball Grouping Pack!
Free Gumball Grouping

 

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Reward Bucks for Guided Reading
Free Secret Stories® Reward Bucks for Guided Reading
 
FREE Class Birthday Book Writing Pack!
FREE Class Birthday Book Writing
FREE Writing "Odds & Ends" Pack
FREE “Odds & Ends” Writing Journal
(*More to be added to this one, so follow on TpT for notification of all additions!)
FREE Bag Ladies "Projects in the Round" Mini-Unit
The Bag Ladies “Projects in the Round” FREEBIE!
(plus lots more awesome Bag Ladies mini-units by Cindy Guinn and Karen Simmons!)
……Plus lots, LOTS more not listed here! Just click the “follow” button on TpT while you’re there, and be sure to subscribe here to ensure that you are first to be notified of all upcoming Secret freebies! 

I hope this helps to clarify the differences between the actual Secret Stories® Classroom Kits and the digital supplements that are offered on TpT!
Until Next Time,
Katie 

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Secret Stories Banner
Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
Try a “taste” of the Secrets with YOUR class 
and see the difference they make!
Click to Download the FREE Secret Stories® Mini-Sample Poster Pack!

 

For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 

 


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Teaching Sight Words— Never Make Kids MEMORIZE What They Can READ!!!

The Secret Stories are the life-blood of our classroom. They are always in view, always in our whole and small group conversations. We couldn’t read words without them. They are our best friends. They are always there, always teaching. They are the tools that students will take with them to the next grade!”       —Tara Settle/1st Grade Teacher 
Secret Stories Phonics Superhero Vowels®
Kids who know the Secrets understand WHY letters make the many different sounds that they do. For example, they know that the Superhero Vowels® have a power that no other letter in the alphabet has—they can “SAY THEIR NAMES!” (like /i/ in hike or /a/ in hate). However, like all superheroes, they don’t want to be recognized, and so they will use short and lazy” sound disguises to keep from being noticed (like /i/ in hit or /a/ in hat).  To learn the Superhero Vowel® Secrets, check out the video vlog below, and watch the rest in this sequence on the Secret Stories® Youtube Channel. 
Secret Stories Superhero Vowels
Knowing the Secrets of the vowels also means knowing what triggers them to be long (i.e. use their superpowers to say their name) or short (i.e. be short & lazy). These are the Mommy E® and Babysitter Vowel® Secrets, which are high-leverage phonics skills, and yet easy to teach to preK and kindergartners! You can learn both in the video, below. 

How to Be a Good Word Doctor

So what about words in which vowels don’t make the sounds that they should? 
Like those pesky, high-frequency, one syllable sight words: of, was, come, love, what, some, want, etc… Well thanks to Tara Settle and her brilliant “Head-Bop/Thinking Vowels” trick, we can become even better Word Doctors, while at the same time, clear out some of the most frequent offenders that would otherwise have to be sentenced to Word Jail! (Note that in the “Word Jail” video was made before Tara had shared her trick with me, and so you will see many of the above word-offenders serving out their time!)
How to Teach Sight Words with Secret Stories Phonics Tricks

So here is Tara’s “Head-Bop” Word Doctor Strategy that you can start sharing with your kiddos!
(Keep in mind that this strategy is of much more value to kids who know the Secrets, given that they can decode almost everything except these words; whereas those who don’t know the Secrets, especially those in kindergarten and first grade, are likely unable to decode so many words that these are just the tip of the iceberg. This is due to the incredibly slow pace of phonics skill introduction, as per the grade level “scope & sequence” in common reading series and/or phonics programs.)

The “Thinking” Vowels— 
Sometimes a vowel just can’t make up his mind which sound to make… “Should I be long?… Should I be short?…. I just can’t make up my mind— Uhhhhhhhhhhh?”  (And here is where you give yourself a big BOP ON THE HEAD while making the “uhhhhh” sound, while prompting the kids to do the same!)

This handy “action-based” cue easily prompts kids to try the schwa, or “uhhh,” which is the MOST LIKELY sound-alternative for vowels that “stray” from their original sounds, allowing them to now easily decode: of, was, some, come, done, want, from, love, nothing, brother, again, around, among,  another, something, etc…  (For more tricks like this, as well as how to know when words really do have to be sentenced to jail time, you can check out this post.)

What I love about Tara’s trick is that, like the Secrets, it gives beginning and struggling readers even more power over text, minimizing the need to memorize words that can actually be read! Plus, look at how many words can now be “paroled” from Word Jail!
How to Teach and READ Sight WordsThanks to Tara and her student word doctors who who identified this tricky vowel-shifting patternkids all across the country now have a lot less sight words to memorize! 

It is also important to keep in mind when working with your own student word doctors, that  thinking outside the box is much easier when you know what’s IN it!  And that’s what a Secret is—everything that’s “in the box” when it comes to a letter/phonics pattern and the sounds it can make. For more on how to get kids to think outside the box when working their way through unfamiliar text, watch the video clip below.

For more on “teaching the READER, not teaching the reading,” as well as insight into the brain on memorizing sight words vs. decoding text, click here or on the pictures below!

How to Decode Text with Best Betting Odds in Las Vegas!

Stanford University Brain Study on Sight Words and Secret Stories Phonics Program

You can also check out Tara’s most recent post for more on how she doesn’t teach sight words, here!

You Don't Have to Teach Sight Words with Secret Stories!

Secret Stories Phonics for Teaching Sight Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join in the discussion on Facebook! Check out the original post by clicking the image on the left, below! And thank you so much to Tara, who actually has her own interactive blog with lots of oodles of resources for teachers! It’s called “Settle On In” and you can find it here.

NEW Secret Stories Phonics Flashcards

Here’s Tara with not one, but TWO sets of the new flashcards!

The Scoop on Summer Reading Conferences!
Did you know that the summer is jam-packed with some of the most awesome teacher conferences? It’s true! And one of the best one of all is the International Literacy Association Conference in Orlando on July 15-17!
For those who have never been, it’s an incredible experience.  And for those who have, well you know how hard it can sometimes be to squeeze into the sessions that you reeeeeeallllly want to see— even just to sit on the floor, which teachers are usually more than happy to do!
Unfortunately, those pesky fire marshals don’t like floor-sitters too much, and will often ask them to leave, which is why I personally prefer to take cover underneath a nearby tablecloth (and out of fire marshal view) if it’s a session that I really want to hear and it’s full.  Otherwise, I’ll just hang outside of the session room door and strain to listen, which is a lot less fun!
But for those planning to attend my session at ILA, I have great news! It’s going to be in a BIG session room!!!  So, unlike last year, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have to resort to hiding under a tablecloth to get in!  If you would like session details or information on registering, click here.
Another great one is the National Charter School Conference on June 11-14 in  Washington, D.C., but don’t let the name fool you, as this conference is great for ALL educators, not just those who work with charter schools. It’s a big as ILA, but includes all subject areas, not just reading. And the best part (for me, anyway) is that my sessions are two and a half hours long instead of one…and there is a repeat for those unable to get into the first one, which means that once again, the chances of having your view obstructed by a tablecloth is minimal! For more information on this conference, you can click here.
And while this one isn’t a national conference, I want to mention it for all of my PK-2 teaching friends out there in South Dakota, as I’ll be in Beresford for the South Dakota Kindergarten Academy June 19-22 for two 2-day workshops! (The first 2-day session is already full and the other is almost capped, so register now if you want to go!) You can obtain more information here, including how to get college credit through the University of South Dakota for attending.

And for those who just can’t get away this summer, no worries! The National Title I Association brings the speakers to you with their Video On Demand series! There are so many amazing sessions, and now you can watch them all from home!

Katie Garner Education Keynote Speaker and Literacy Consultant National Title I Conference

You can watch highlights from my featured  Title I presented here, or by clicking directly on the video below. The full-length presentation is also available as part of Title I’s subscription series, but you can view it free in its entirety here, along with lots of other video clips from conferences, school and district PD Workshopsvideo blogs and more on the Secret Stories® YouTube Channel.

That’s all for now! 
So until next time… HAPPY “ALMOST” SUMMER!

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Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
Try a “taste” of the Secrets with YOUR class and see the difference they make!
Click to download the FREE Secret Stories® “Appetizer” Phonics Poster Anchor Pack!

Free Secret Stories Phonics Posters Anchor Posters

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Secret Stories® Phonics Posters


Another professional development day….

Oh joy! Another 8 hours of sitting while thinking of all the productive things that could be accomplished in my classroom!  

That’s what many teachers think when we hear the dreaded professional development “training days” agenda.
 
That all changed in October 2016 when I heard Katie Garner speak about the Secret Stories® at my school.  It was the best 8 hours of any training I had ever attended.  I walked away with a renewed motivation.  I could not wait to share this tool with my students!   

Upon arriving at school the day after Katie’s workshop, the students immediately noticed and questioned the “secret” posters hanging in our room. I informed them that I had attended a top secret training and I was allowed to share the secrets with them as I felt they were ready.  Instant engagement!  And from that moment on, their curiosity has guided the introduction and instruction of the Secret Stories®.

Later that morning, I shared the first secret with my students.  We just happened to be introducing the sight word “the” and one of my littles noticed that it had a /th/ in it just like the secret poster on the wall.  So because they had noticed, I very dramatically told them the time had come.  I shut the door, gathered them together, and told them their first secret.  From then on, you could say the rest is history.  

Each time I introduced a new secret, it was because of their interest and recognition of the letters in the secrets to words they found in their names… while we were reading, doing calendar activities, completing morning work, during math instruction, or even just walking down the hallway!  

This is my ninth year of teaching, and my fourth year teaching Kindergarten, and I can honestly say this has been the most exciting year of my career.  I have seen so much growth in my students since introducing the Secret Stories® into our room, and the best part about it is… the kids LOVE it!  They are able to read, blend, manipulate word inflections, and write words with fluency, understanding, and confidence! 
 
Here is some of our writing from October— 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now check out our January “ocean-themed” writing— 
just two months AFTER the Secret Stories®

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Students finding “Secrets” in their names— 

 

Er, ir ur love to go driving in cars……”ERRRRR!”

 

 

 

Mommy E® tells ‘o’ to SAY HIS NAME!

 

 

 

Au & aw have huge crushes on each other….”Ahhhhhh!”
Sneaky Y® will always be sneaky when he’s at the end and thinks no one can see him!

 

 Superhero Vowels® in our alphabet train and their “short & lazy” disguises!
 

 

 

The Secret Stories® posters— our “most-used” classroom visuals!
Secret Stories® Phonics Posters
Here are some of our Secrets!

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post by— 

 

 

 

Chastity Sharp/ Kindergarten Teacher

 

 

 

George Ward Elementary in Elkins, West Virginia 

 

                                                    

 

Thanks so much to Chastity for this awesome peek inside your classroom! I’m excited to see and hear more from your kiddos as they continue to progress throughout this year!

Until Next Time,

Katie 

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Secret Stories Banner
Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
Try a “taste” of the Secrets with YOUR class 
and see the difference they make!
Click to Download the FREE Secret Stories® Mini-Sample Poster Pack!

 

For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 

 


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“Why do I have to write two T’s in the word butter when I only hear one sound? 
And how do I know whether to make the long or short sound for the letter u?” 
As teachers, we know that the trick to figuring this out is based on the syllabic division of a word.
VCV (vowel—consonant—vowel) = “open” syllable = long sound (as in bite)
VCCV (vowel—consonant—consonant—vowel) = “closed” syllable = short sound (as in bitter)

But for early and struggling, upper grade learners,  this “trick” can actually be more confusing than the problem it solves, thus making an already difficult task seem even more complicated, especially for the average “concrete-thinker” (which early learners are).

If you’ve been following my blog (or are using the SECRET STORIES®) then you know how quickly and easily the Mommy E® and Babysitter Vowels® secrets are an easy-fix for this pervasive problem. This is because kids already know that when their Mommy (or Babysitter) is nearby, they have to behave and do what they’re told! And when they are not, all behavior-bets are off!

Secret Stories® Phonics Book— Mommy E®
Click here to learn the “Chin-It” Trick that these kids are using in the picture above!

Framing the abstract VCV/VCCV concepts in this way activates the affective thinking (“feeling”) domain— an earlier developing area of the brain that is far more accessible to very young and/or struggling learners, making it a perfect “backdoor-route” for critical skill acquisition!

For more on Mommy E® and the Babysitter Vowels®, watch this short video clip below.

Now let’s take a peek at a kindergarten guided reading lesson to see just how easy it is…

These “social-emotional” (affective) learning connections to Mommy E® and the Babysitter Vowels® are already deeply entrenched within the learner, and it is this inherent understanding that easily and effortlessly drives their decision-making when working with unfamiliar text. 

Secret Stories® Phonics Book— Mommy E®
Secret Stories® Phonics Book by Katie Garner
Excerpt from Fall 2016 Secret Stories® Book Edition—”Version 2.0!

 

Simplified alternatives, like Sparkly E or Magic E are less effective for a couple of reasons:
—Listening to mommy or a babysitter is already rooted in what kids already know and understand , as they are part of their social emotional framework of understanding. However, Sparkly E and Magic E are random and arbitrary, and therefore require an additional step in the learning process before they can be applied.
Sparkly E and Magic E only apply to one syllable words ending in silent e (bike, rake, use, etc…) and does not help kids to decode all VCV/ VCCV words, like: going, making, rider, motor, etc…  They don’t provide much bang for the instructional-buck, as they only work when there is an e at the end, and otherwise leaving learners “high and dry!”

Kids who know the Secrets can easily crack even more advanced, multi-syllabic words, like hibernate! All they need to know is that much like their own mommy, sometimes Mommy E® just has to get out of the house! When she does, she’ll put another vowel in charge to babysit, and he does exactly what Mommy would do if she were there, which is tell any vowel that’s one letter away, “You say your name!” Works like a charm every time!

So let’s see just how easy this is, even for kindergartners!

 

Secret Stories® Phonics Mommy E® Pack
Mommy E®

Knowing the Mommy E® and Babysitter Vowels® Secrets instantly equip even the youngest four or five year old learners with the “best-betting odds for Las Vegas” when it comes to the most likely sound a vowel will make—even in words they’ve never seen before!

That’s the benefit of targeting phonics instruction to the earlier-developing, affective “feeling” domain, rather than the later developing, executive functioning centers. It’s also why these brain-based tricks for critical phonemic skill mastery are a ‘must-have’ for every reading teacher (and their students!)

So back to the original question about how to know how many /t/’s to use when spelling the word butter. Watch this short video clip from a professional development workshop to find out!

Start sharing “secrets” with your class tomorrow! 
Download the FREE Secret Stories® “Appetizer” Anchor Poster Pack

Free Phonics Posters by Secret Stories

 


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For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here.

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Now you can cross at one more thing off of your December “to-do” list… finding the perfect holiday gifts for students to make for their parents (or class volunteers, secretaries, custodians, etc…!)

 

Follow Me on Pintreret and Save All of My BEST Teaching Finds!

I thought I would save you some precious holiday time and share some of the cutest student-made gift ideas here, along with a free download of the Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader—Like a Snowball, to help keep your guided reading groups on track over the next week! 

Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader "Like a Snow Ball"
SECRET STORIES® Guided Reader— Download it FREE!!

 

Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader "Like a Snow Ball"
Spotting Secrets— ER, MOMMY E®, TH, OW, AY, and ING

 

Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader "Like a Snow Ball"
SECRET STORIES® Outlaw Words— there, to, do

Okay, first up…
Holiday Glitter Angels 
I actually found these on a teaching site that is not in English, but that had lots of great pictures. I’ve only included a few of them here, but if you click on the links below the pictures, the ‘angel-creation’ process is shown step-by-step!

Hand Print Angels

This Hanging-Around Ornament is from Mrs. Goff’s PreK Tales, and if you visit her site, she has posted lots more pictures showing different (but equally adorable!) variations on this theme! 

Hanging-Around Ornaments from Mrs. Goff’s PreK Tales
These next two are both tied for my favorites! I saw the first one on Pinterest, and then upon going to the website, Art Projects for Kids, I found the second one. I especially like these because they both allow for easy incorporation of simple math concepts, which the directions mention, as well!
Abstract Winter Trees by Art Projects for Kids

Stained Glass Foil Ornaments by Art Projects for Kids

 

I love this next one—Watercolor Pine Ornamentsmainly because I adore watercolors! The addition of real pine branches in contrast to the watercolor ornaments on black makes it the perfect piece of “kid-art” to frame and keep forever!!
 
There was no link to this one, but the directions included with the pin were as follows:
-Have kids paint on thick paper with watercolor paint in desired colors and cut out in circle shapes. Glue circles on black paper. 
-Use a bit of gold glitter to make the ornament clasp.
-Place ornament hook around a thin pine branch and glue as shown (Kids can also make water colored frames for this, or you can purchase cheap plastic ones in black from the Dollar Store :)
This one from Kathy’s Angelnik Blogspot is my absolute favorite, I think it’s just stunning! Kathy provides easy-to-follow directions for kids to make it on her blog— Thank you, Kathy!
Frosty Christmas Window Kathy’s Angelnik Blogspot 

And last but not least, add some extra “sparkle and shine” to your holiday gift ideas with this easy recipe for Glossy Sparkle by Pixe Pumps! This glittery-glaze provides the finishing touch for any student gift!

Glittery Glaze from Pixe Pumps

I hope that these “go-to” gift ideas make your holiday just a little bit easier and that Like a Snowball brings some wintery-fun to your guided group time!
 
Wishing You the Warmest of Holiday Wishes,
Katie Garner

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