About one month later…
And here’s a wonderful picture of this adorable little guy with his Secret sketchbook at swim practice!
|Secret Stories® Phonics Secret ER, IR & UR|
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.
In addition to that wonderful note, her students are also working on a book about their all-time favorite Secret Stories®……
|Our favorite Secret Stories®!|
|Secret Stories Mommy E®|
|Secret Stories Sneaky Y®|
|Secret Stories Sneaky Y® Digital Supplement Pack|
|Secret Stories® Phonics Secret EU & EW|
|Secret Stories® ER, IR & UR|
|And some creative Secret “Odds & Ends!”|
|FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Mini-Poster Pack|
Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
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!
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?
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 sounds, blends 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.
Every time you tell or retell a Secret, you are giving students another opportunity to jump on!
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.
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.
(Thank you, Tara Settle, for that great description!)
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 hibernating or migration.
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!
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)
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.
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.
|Secret Stories® “Fun & Funky” Classroom Kit|
(and I’ve included thumbnail pics of some of the FREEBIES!)
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® Poster Sampling Set|
—FREE Secret Stories® Sampling
—Superhero Vowels® Phonics Secrets
—Sneaky Y® Phonics Secret, Babysitter Vowels® Phonics Secret
—Secrets of the Superhero Vowels® & More Bundle (which includes ALL of the above)
—Secret Stories® “Vertical & Horizontal” Alphabet Display
—Secret Stories® Alphabet Mini-Mats (for individual student use)
—Secrets Number Secrets!
—FREE Math Shape Anchors
|FREE Math Anchor Poster Secrets|
|FREE “Write Like They Read” Zoo Keeper and M&M Quizzes Pack|
|Free Fairytale Writing Pack!|
- My Classmates
- My Class
- A Barn Owl’s Tale
- In the Fall
- Farmer Gobbler’s Birthday
- Like a Snowball
- Troy’s Quest
- Dean’s Treehouse.
|FREE Science Posters for PK-3rd! (Click here and select grade-level set desired.)|
|Free Gumball Grouping|
|Free Secret Stories® Reward Bucks for Guided Reading|
|FREE Class Birthday Book Writing|
|FREE “Odds & Ends” Writing Journal
(*More to be added to this one, so follow on TpT for notification of all additions!)
|The Bag Ladies “Projects in the Round” FREEBIE!
(plus lots more awesome Bag Ladies mini-units by Cindy Guinn and Karen Simmons!)
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
How to Be a Good Word Doctor
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!
Thanks to Tara and her student word doctors who who identified this tricky vowel-shifting pattern, kids all across the country now have a lot less sight words to memorize!
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!
You can also check out Tara’s most recent post for more on how she doesn’t teach sight words, here!
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.
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!
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 Workshops, video blogs and more on the Secret Stories® YouTube Channel.
Oh joy! Another 8 hours of sitting while thinking of all the productive things that could be accomplished in my classroom!
|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!|
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!
|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.
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.
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!
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
|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® Guided Reader— Download it FREE!!|
|Spotting Secrets— ER, MOMMY E®, TH, OW, AY, and ING|
|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|
|Abstract Winter Trees by Art Projects for Kids|
|Stained Glass Foil Ornaments by Art Projects for Kids|
|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!
Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
Introducing the latest edition of Secret Stories® Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in Mind!— Version 2.0!
This NEW edition of the Secret Stories® book and posters was just released this fall! If you’ve been waiting for the right time to update yours, or if you have always wanted to buy it, now is the time!
The new look, layout design makes it easy to start sharing the Secrets! Instructional icons, in-line text boxes and “just-so-you-know” tags, the new book is easy to navigate and grab what you need in a hurry! Plus, it’s jam-packed with new sections, including how to dig even deeper into the affective learning domain for accelerated reading and writing (phonics) skill access!
Ideally, every classroom using the Secret Stories® should have a ‘loaner’ book available for parents to check-out, as needed, to remediate and/or accelerate learning at home. Your old book makes the perfect parent resource, plus it’s an easy way to satisfy School Improvement Plans that Require teachers and administrators to connect school and home learning, so as to foster stronger home-school connections.
|Quite possibly, the world’s most well-used “old” Secret Stories® Book!|
Similarly, your old Secret Stories® posters can be bound together to make a ‘big book’ of all the Secrets that students can take turns taking it home to share. (This will be the most valuable commodity in your classroom, as all of them will want to be privy to new Secrets that you haven’t yet shared, which makes it a great behavior incentive!) Simply staple or hole-punch/bind posters together. If you had originally cut your posters, don’t fret, as they can easily be re-mounted onto large pieces of construction paper (preferably yellow, black or read) and them laminated.
|(More on this adorable little PeeP-Pic on Instagram)|
But you don’t have to win to get started sharing Secrets, as you can download the FREE mini-anchor sample set, here, or by clicking on the link, below!
|Download the FREE mini-anchor sample poster set|
|Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader —In the Fall|
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.
But what if you lived in a world where breathing underwater was possible?
Then the correct answer would be yes.
In other words, the answer depends on the context.
Traditionally, the idea of teaching complex phonic concepts and strategies to beginning, early grade learners would be considered developmentally inappropriate—a position with which I would have to agree.
Giving them however, is a completely different story!
By wrapping skills up into stories, we can give them what can’t be taught. Stories are easy for kids to remember because stories are HOW kids remember. Stories act as a sort of “memory-enhancer.” They serve as strong memory-holding templates in the brain and provide a much-needed framework for memory construction.
Stories pose no developmental harm, nor are they age or grade-specific, as learners naturally take away only what is personally meaningful and relevant to them, without any expectations. In this way, the reading and writing code is transformed into ‘skill-drenched’ golden nuggets, buried within familiar and easy-to-remember stories, allowing learners to become their own “gate-keeper” of skills.
So hold your breath and prepare to dive into a new way of thinking about what we do and why we do it, and in no time, you and your students will be breathing underwater!
|For more, subscribe free to the Secret Stories® YouTube Chanel.|
You can also check out this video below on the brain’s development, back to front, and how to activate the earlier-developing, social and emotional “feeling” networks for use as a backdoor for accelerated skill mastery.
Before I close, I wanted to kick-off the new school year with this fun and FREE 36 page Secret Stories® Reward/Incentive Bucks Pack! It even includes a student purse and wallet for safekeeping of students “secret” earnings! Inside, you will find information on how to use it with the Secret Stories® in the classroom. You can grab it by clicking here or on the link, below.
On a side note, I always love getting to meet so many incredible teachers at conferences around the US! And over the next couple of years, in addition to my current speaking schedule, I will be doing a series of keynotes in cities throughout the US and Canada as part of the Vulnerable Learners Summits some of my personal mentors, Dr. Richard Allington, Dr. Anne Cunningham and Debbie Diller (see promo below.) If you have the chance to attend one of the Summits, do go! They are amazing and each of us gets to spend some quality time with attendees, with alternating keynotes and lots of follow-up extended length break out sessions. I hope to one day have the chance to meet YOU! :-)
|For more upcoming dates, check out my speaking schedule, here!|
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