“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…!)

 

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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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Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!

Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets!
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 Featured Education & Keynote Speaker
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® Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in MInd!

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Sharing the Secret Stories® just got a whole lot easier! Teachers’ favorite secret weapon for teaching all (and I mean ALL!) of those tricky letter sounds and phonics skills just got a “face-lift!”

Introducing the latest edition of Secret Stories® Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in Mind!— Version 2.0! 

The NEW Secret Stories® Phonics Book— Version 2.0! by Katie Garner

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!

The NEW Secret Stories® Phonics Book— Version 2.0!   by Katie Garner
The NEW Secret Stories® Phonics Book— Version 2.0!

The NEW Secret Stories® Phonics Book— Version 2.0!

The NEW Secret Stories® Phonics Book— Version 2.0!

The NEW Secret Stories® Phonics Book— Version 2.0!

The NEW Secret Stories® Phonics Book— Version 2.0!

The NEW Secret Stories® Phonics Book— Version 2.0!

The NEW Secret Stories® Phonics Book— Version 2.0!

The NEW Secret Stories® Phonics Book— Version 2.0!
The NEW Secret Stories® Phonics Book— Version 2.0!
And for those who might be wondering how to still make use of your existing book and/or poster set, here’s the best tip ever….and one that might even convince your principal to purchase it for you!

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.

A VERY "Well-Used" Secret Stories® Phonics Book
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.

Secret Stories® Phonics Posters in Peeps Classroom
(More on this adorable little PeeP-Pic on Instagram) 

Both are ideal ways to “let parents in on the SECRETS®” and how kids use them in the classroom to read and spell words!

To celebrate the new release,  I’m doing a special giveaway of the new book, along with the choice of poster styles (Fun & Funky, Space-Saver/Dual-Use Placards or Original) See Rafflecopter below for details on how to enter. 

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!

Secret Stories Phonics Mini Anchor Poster Sample Set
Download the FREE mini-anchor sample poster set
If you are subscribed to my newsletter, then you already know about the free download window for  the SECRET STORIES® Guided Reader “In the Fall!”  If not, be sure to grab it now before the window closes later this week!

Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader In the Fall
Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader —In the Fall
And finally, here’s a great video just posted to the SECRET STORIES YouTube Channel of some first graders just a couple of weeks into school, sharing the amazing “secret” discoveries they’ve made in their names!  (For more background, read herehere and here!) 

“Spotting SECRETS™ in my name!”  

To enter the Raffelcopter Drawing (which begins at midnight on Thursday, Nov. 3rd) post a comment below. You can also follow on Facebook and Twitter (or if you’re already following, just let me know :) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Fall!!!
I hope to have the chance to meet many of you during my conference travels this year!

Until Next Time,
Katie 
Katie Garner Education Speaker, Author and Literacy Consultant

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Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
Secret Stories® Phonics Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in Mind!
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 Speaker Author and Literacy Consultant
For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 


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“Beware of the stories you’ll read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.”   

                                                                                                                                       —Ben Okra     
                                  

Can you breathe underwater?

Obviously, the answer is no.

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 phonics skills to beginning grade level learners would be considered developmentally inappropriate—a position with which I would agree. But “giving” them these skills is a completely different “story!”

Using brain science as a road map, we can access earlier-developing, social-emotional learning pathways by wrapping phonics skills into stories, so as to “give” what we can’t yet “teach!” Stories are easy for kids to remember because stories are HOW kids remember. They act as a sort of “memory-enhancer” by providing a strong memory-holding template in the brain, and a much-needed framework for memory construction.

Secret Stories Phonics — "Stories act as memory-enhancers in the brain!"


Stories pose no developmental harm, nor are they age or grade-specific. Learners simply take away that which is personally meaningful and relevant to them, without expectation. In this way, the reading and writing (phonics) code is transformed into “skill-drenched” golden nuggets, buried within already familiar, learner-frameworks of social and emotional experience and understanding.

Secret Stories® provides an easily accessible “backdoor” delivery method for the totality of skills that are needed to read and write from the earliest possible grade level. Unlike phonics “skills,” the Secrets aren’t grade specific, and can be easily shared with any age learner, so as to be ready for use, when needed!

So hold your breath and prepare to dive into a new way of thinking about what we do and when we do it….and in no time, you AND your students will be breathing underwater!

Secret Stories Phonics — Targeting Phonics Instruction to the Affective Learning Domain!
For more, subscribe free to the Secret Stories® YouTube Chanel.

For more on accessing “backdoor” learning channels to fast-track phonics skills for earlier reading and writing, check out these previous posts here and here. You can also check out the video below.

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 by using the link, below.

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reading Bucks
Free Secret Stories® Reward/Incentive Bucks

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 with Dr. Richard Allington, Dr. Anne Cunningham and Debbie Diller. I would love to see you there!

Katie Garner International Keynote Education Speaker with RIchard Allington Debbie Diller and Anne Cunningham
For more upcoming dates, check out my speaking schedule, here!
Until Next Time,
Katie 
Katie Garner — Literacy Professional Development and Education Speaker

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Secret Stories Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in Mind
Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
Secret Stories Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in Mind By Katie Garner #BrainRead
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 Literacy Consultant
For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 

 


Katie Garner Secret Stories Linkedin pageSecret Stories BlogSecret Stories Facebook PageSecret Stories Youtube PageSecret Stories TwitterSecret Stories PinterestSecret Stories Instagram
Secret Stories® Phonics #BrainRead

Secret Stories Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in Mind

 

Sight Words…. Friend or Foe?

Stanford Brain Study on Sight Words

Stanford University Brain Study on Sight Words

And the Research Says…..

Research shows that teaching kids to decode, or “sound out” words sparks far more optimal brain circuitry than instructing them to memorize them. 

Stanford University’s study on brain waves shows how different teaching methods affect reading development…

“Beginning readers who focus on letter-sound relationships, or phonics, instead of trying to learn whole words, increase activity in the area of their brains best wired for reading. In other words, to develop reading skills, teaching students to sound out “C-A-T” sparks more optimal brain circuitry than instructing them to memorize the word ‘cat,’ and the study found these teaching induced differences show up even on future encounters with the word. This groundbreaking study provides some of the first evidence that a specific teaching strategy for reading has direct neural impact.”
—Dr. Bruce McCandlss (Click here to access the study.)

In other words, never MEMORIZE what you can READ!
So why do beginning grade learners have to memorize so many sight words?

That’s easy.
It’s because they can’t read them.

The Science of Reading: Decoding Sight Words vs. Memorizing Them

Most kindergartners spend the entire grade level year learning the individual letters and sounds, which means that they whole year they’re in kindergarten, they can effectively read almost nothing. Even once they do master the individual letters and sounds, most still can’t read almost anything.

That’s because when letters get together in words, they most often make entirely different sounds than the ones they make by themselves. These letter sound patterns are called phonics skills and traditionally take between three to four grade level years to acquire, from prek to 3rd grade. That’s a long time to make kids wait for the whole code needed to read and write—especially since they’re doing both every day, beginning in kindergarten!

But how do beginning grade learners read words like: the, they, my, she, or, are, how, saw, too, day, girl, boy, more, etc.. when the letters they know aren’t making the sounds they should?

The answer is they don’t. They just have to memorize them.

Why Sight Words Don't Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early grade teachers often rely on sight word memorization to help beginning and struggling readers pass grade level text assessments. It’s meant to help compensate for all of the phonics skills not yet taught, and yet needed in order to read the words. The result, however, is that even “easy to read” words like those above are added on to an already overwhelming list of required sight words that kids have to memorize—not because they not decodable, but because they don’t yet have the code-based skills they need to read them.

Most districts across the U.S. currently require first grade students to “know” (not read) 300 words in order to pass on to second grade, which only serves to shift the instructional focus from teaching the reader to teaching the reading (i.e. the words). Not only is word memorization ineffective and potentially harmful as a reading strategy (as per the above research done by Stanford University and that related to the Science of Reading on Dyslexia)  but it’s also highly inefficient and developmentally inappropriate. With so much instructional time spent on memorizing words, there’s little left over to help learners develop the skills they actually need to read them. Not to mention that, for young children, the most meaningful learning occurs through movement, play, questioning and exploration.

Fast-Tracking Phonics through the Brain’s Backdoor

The Stanford study shows why it’s so important to underscore the traditionally slow pace of phonics instruction with Secret Stories®, particularly at the earliest grade levels where “daily reading and writing time” holds little value for students who haven’t yet learned the phonics skills needed to actually read or write.

The Secrets give very young, as well as struggling upper grade learners, to make sense of letter sound behavior, in the same way they make sense of their own behavior, and that of their classmates….who doesn’t get along, who has crushes on each other, who always gets hurt, who is sneaky (and where they are likely to get away with it!), doing what your mom or babysitter says tells you to (but only if they are close enough to make you!) etc.

sound wall au aw

Social Emotional “Superhighways” for Accelerated Learning

Brain science carves-out a perfect “backdoor” pathway for learning, one that’s rooted in the earlier developing, affective, or “feeling” domain.  Our brain develops from back to front, and the earlier-developing “feeling-based” networks offer a more easily accessible and reliable pathway for learning than the later-to-develop, “higher level” cognitive processing centers.

This is especially true for very young learners, who often experience issues with developmental readiness, language delays, etc., as well as for older, struggling readers with different language backgrounds/deficits, cognitive processing delays, including dyslexic learners.

 

phonics for dyslexia

 

Taking advantage of the brain’s “backdoor” systems for learning by aligning phonics skill concepts with already familiar, social-emotional experiences and understanding empowers even very young and inexperienced learners to easily predict the “most” and “next-most” likely sounds of letters in words—even those they have never seen before.

The Secrets put meaning where there would otherwise be none (i.e. letters/sounds), giving teachers a way to make phonics make sense to kids! The more Secrets they know, the more words they can read…..and the less words they have to memorize!

“A Secret’s Worth a Thousand Words”

Knowing the Secrets empowers kids to decode approximately 95% of the most commonly memorized sight words, which means they can be crossed off the list of 300 words to memorize, and instead, be add to the ever-growing number of  words that they can just read.

 

decoding sight words

 

The Secrets work with any existing reading curriculum or phonics program to fast-track learner access to the code they need to read and write, with no grade level “walls” and no designated waiting times.

 

 

And to decode those seemingly “undecodable” words, like: of, was, want, what, some, come, love, done, etc., check out the  “Thinking Vowels/ Head Bop” strategy in the video below.

 

Secret Stories® is not a program, but works with any existing reading series and/or phonics curriculum to give teachers an easy way to fast-track more of the phonics skills kids need to read and write—with no “grade level” walls and no designated waiting times.

 

 

These little brain based stories explain the sounds letter make when they get together, with posters to help kids remember for independent reading and writing. Together, they help to cement the critical sound-symbol (i.e. speech to print) connections in the brain, and to empower even the youngest learners with the tools they need to read and write, instead of just copying words and memorizing them. 

A Secret Stories® Sound Wall crystalizes “speech to print” connections for reading and writing in a way that all learners can easily understand, even kindergartners!

 

secret stories sound wall posters

 

For a deeper dive into how we can use brain science as a road map to fast-track phonics skills for reading, check out this video clip, and continue the conversation in the NEW Secret Stories® “Teaching Phonics with the Brain in Mind!” Support Group on Facebook!


Katie Garner Secret Stories LinkedIN pageSecret Stories BlogSecret Stories Facebook PageSecret Stories Youtube PageSecret Stories TwitterSecret Stories PinterestSecret Stories Instagram
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 Literacy Consultant for Professional Development
For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 

 


Secret Stories® Phonics Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in Mind #BrainREAD

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Introducing, the NEW
(25 Individual, trifold desktop references for individual student use at school or at home!)
Secret Stories® Phonics Porta-Pics for Individual Student Home Use
Individual Porta-Pics Trifold Desktop References 

 

The Placards and Porta-Pics are the perfect supplements for Secret Stories® use in the classroom!
 (in conjunction with the “Original”,  “Fun & Funky” or Space-Saver Kits!)

 

The Placards

The Dual-Use Placards are 8.5×11 inch sturdy, cardstock manipulatives that offer easy teacher and student use anywhere and everywhere in the classroom. Intended for use in conjunction with the larger Secret Stories® posters on the wall, the “hands-on” placards are ideal for spotlighting individual Secrets during direct instruction, circle time, small group, literacy centers,
Secret Stories® Phonics Dual-Use Placards er ir ur
Secret Stories® “Dual-Use” Placards

The Porta-Pics

Unlike the Placards which are great for group use, the Porta-Pics are intended for individual student use, and are the ideal “take-home” tool for reading and writing outside of the classroom!
They are also ideal for individual use within the classroom, as well as in smaller resource room, “pull-out” settings. Sold in class sets of 25, the Porta-Pic trifold, desktop references are constructed of heavy-duty cardstock, that when laminated, can last multiple grade level years.

Secret Stories® Phonics Porta Pics
Secret Stories Porta-Pics
Just Remember that both the Placards and the Porta-Pics are supplemental only,
as both require the Secret Stories® Classroom Kit (book, posters & CD) for use.  
You can view the different poster versions included in each, below.
Secret Stories® Phonics Posters — Fun & Funky
Secret Stories® “Fun & Funky” Kit

 

Secret Stories® Phonics Posters — Original
Secret Stories® “Original” Kit
Secret Stories® Phonics Posters — Space Savers
Secret Stories® “Space-Saver” Kit
*Note— A “Parent/Home Version” is also available and may be found here.
And I just have to share this creatively-cut version of the Secret Stories® Original Posters, which are printed without a yellow border so that they may be “cut down” in size, as needed, to save space, and yet still be large enough to be easily visually accessible in the primary grade classrooms.
Secret Stories® Phonics Posters— Original Posters "cut-down"
Follow @TheSecretStories on Instagram for more “secret” tips & tricks!
And finally, all subscribers should have received a FREE download link in your email for the Secret Stories® Guided Reader, In the Fall…  (And if you are not already subscribed, you can do so here!)
Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader In the Fall
Secret Stories Phonics Guided Reader— In the Fall
Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader In the Fall
Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader In the Fall
Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader In the Fall

 

I want to wrap up this post with Mrs. Mac and her fabulous first graders doing their own, original rendition of the Secret Stories® Letter Runs— the “Jedi” version! So in case you missed it on the Secret Stories® Facebook Page, you check it out, below.


Subscribe to the SECRET STORIES® YouTube Channel for notification of new video postings!

Secret Stories® Phonics BETTER Alphabet Vertical Anchor
The BETTER Alphabet Vertical Anchor
(You can’t see it, but it’s what Ms. Mac is referencing while singing the “Letter Runs” in the video—
it’s vertical hanging option allows for easy reference during the fast pace of singing the sounds!)
Secret Stories® Phonics BETTER Alphabet Vertical Anchor
Until Next Time,
HAPPY FALL!
Katie :-)

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Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
Secret Stories® Phonics Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in Mind
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 Featured Education Keynote Speaker and Literacy Consultant
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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The Home School Connection

Letting Parents in on the “Secrets!”

“Last year, a lot of parents in my class were asking about the Secret Stories® and how they could use them at home to support what their child was learning in school. I want to respect the copyright, but I also love that parents want to know! 
 
Do you have suggestions on how to share the stories with parents? I noticed you’d suggested in another post that teachers could make a big book to send home using their older posters, but I don’t have the old posters.  I only have the smaller, cut-apart set that I use in small group to work with my kids?”
 
As soon as I received this question, I wanted to answer it here!

So here are some Do’s AND Don’ts for sharing the Secrets with your parents!

DO devote some time during Open House to let parents know about the Secrets (i.e. what they are, how kids use them to read/spell words, etc..) and be sure to send home a copy of the “Parent-Share” page (found in the white section of your Secret Stories® book). As time at Open House is short, the “Parent-Share” page is key, as it allows them to “dig deeper” later by accessing the Secret Stories® website,  YouTube Channel and even get information on the Parent/Home Version for acceleration or remediation at home.

Secret Stories® Phonics Book “Parent Share” Page

At our school, Open House was usually a couple of weeks into the school year, so news of the Secrets had already started to make its way home to many of the parents in my classroom.Some parents, however had no idea that the “secrets” their kids kept talking about were actually about the sounds of the letters! That’s why it’s important to let parents in on the Secrets as early in the year as possible. That way, parents know how to support reading and writing efforts at home by asking their child, “Do you see any Secrets? (when reading) and “Do you hear any Secret sounds?” (when writing). Parents don’t have to “know” all of the Secrets in order to remind their child to look and listen for them in words.

DO include the kids in sharing the Secrets! Whether at Open House or sometime in the first few weeks of school (or both!) you can let the kids “act-out” some Secret Stories® for their parents! It’s a great way to reinforce them with students while introducing them to parents, plus there’s NO learning curve! With the Secrets, everyone (students and parents, both!) just “get” them!

Below is a teacher dramatization of a Secret (you can find more on the Secret Stories® Youtube Channel here!)

 

Students as the Secret Stories Superhero Vowels®
Kids acting out the Superhero Vowels® and their “short & lazy” sounds!

—DO tell parents about new Secrets that were shared in the newsletter!

Open-ended questions are best, allowing kids to take full-ownership of the story, so anything along the lines of those below will do:
—”Ask Johnny to tell you the Secret we learned about au/aw!” 
—”See if Johnny can tell you some words that have the au/aw Secret!” 
—”Over the weekend, see how many words with the au/aw Secret Johnny can spot!”

Kids will take great pride in the Secrets that they know, as each new Secret represents their ever-growing power over text! It’s a mistake to assume that without including the actual story, kids won’t be able to tell parents the Secret. The more responsibility students are given, have,  the nore they will show, plus the Secrets are stored in the same social-emotional “feeling” based centers that keep track of “who got in trouble” and “who got to be the line leader,” so they’re not likely to forget them!

Now that’s not to say that there won’t be times when a little clarification might be needed. Like the time one of my kinders went home and told his mother…

“Mrs. Garner told us about this guy who’s married, but he has a girlfriend too, and he loves them both so much that he says “ahhhhhhhhh” with both of them! She talks about them every day and even has their picture up on the wall….”  

Secret Stories® Phonics AU & AW Secret
Secret Stories® Phonics Secret au/aw

He was talking about au/aw, but it took his mom (who came in first thing the following morning!) and I a good while to actually figure that out! And even though the Secret didn’t quite make it home completely intact, that same little guy could still put to immediate use to crack words like: August, awful, awesome or awful! 

—DO consider purchasing the Secret Stories® Porta-Pics ($2.50 per student, sold in sets of 25) for your class to use in the classroom and at home. They are cheaper than a Scholastic Book Order and can be used with multi-grade level siblings at home.

Secret Stories Phonics Porta-Pics for Take-Home Use
Providing the Porta-Pics for home use is also a great way to satisfy a common component of many School Improvement Plans, which is to foster connections between home and school learning and parent involvement. Many schools will offer a “Secret” Parent Night where they are given free to those parents who attend!

Secret Stories® Phonics Porta-Pics
SECRET STORIES® Porta-Pics

Secret Stories® Phonics Open House/ Parent-Share Night with Porta-Pics
A “Secret” Parent Night with Parent Resource hosted by PTA to familiarize parents with the Secrets!

—DO send home the reproducible Secret sheets (in the back of the Secret Stories® book) as they are mastered in guided group, and alert parents to look for them to come home regularly. Kids not only love earning a Secret “star” with each sheet mastered and moving on to the next Secret group, but sending them home is also a great way to keep parents informed and create a perfect summer review packet of all the Secrets!

Like the Secret sheets (which kids work-through in guided reading alongside actual text), the Secret Stories® Guided Readers provide another great way for parents to support and practice Secrets at home, as does Spotting Secretswhich includes thumbnail-sized graphics for many of the more common digraph-Secrets (th, ch, wh, sh, ph, gh, etc….).

Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Readers
Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Readers
(See individual reader links in product description.)
Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader— My Classmates
Secret Stories® Phonics Reader — My Classmates
Secret Stories® Phonics "Spotting Secrets!" (The Digraph Secrets)
Secret Stories® Spotting Secrets
Secret Stories® Phonics "Spotting Secrets!" (The Digraph Secrets—TH)
Secret Stories® Spotting Secrets  
 
In addition to the shown above, there are some other Secret Stories® supplements on TpT that offer reproducible options for easy home-sharing and practice, including the Secret Stories® Alphabet Mini-Mats (made to match the Secret Stories® BETTER Alphabet Anchor, below) and SECRETS of the Superhero Vowels®, both which contain several core Secret graphics.

-DO consider using your “old” Secret Stories® posters (for those who have them) to create “take-home” Secret Stories® big book that students can take home on a rotating basis. I explained more about this in a previous post that you can read here. This is a great idea for all those who have purchased the newly updated and expanded Secret Stories® edition, Version 2.0 with the new Fun & Funky, Original or Space Saver posters.

Secret Stories® Phonics "Fun & Funky" Posters Teacher Kit
Secret Stories® with “Fun & Funky” Posters
Secret Stories® Phonics "Original Posters" Teacher Kit
Secret Stories® with “Original” Posters

—DON’T copy the Secret Stories® graphics (posters, book or “cut-apart” cards) or any of the copy written text. Not only is it infringing on the copyrights and trademarks, but at just $2.50 a student, the Porta-Pics are a much cheaper way to send all of the Secrets home with kids than paying to make illegal color copies….plus they won’t land you in hot water with your school or district!

I had to mention this one because oftentimes, as teachers, we are provided with adopted, reading series material that we ARE allowed to copy and distribute to our students, as per the licensing agreement when purchased. With Secret Stories® however, this is not the case, which is why the Porta-Pics were created— to provide teachers with an easy and inexpensive way to send the Secrets home to parents.

—DON’T make copies of the Porta-Pics either— Lol! ;-)

DON’T RE-produce, RE-type, RE-write, or RE-word the story text or graphics in handouts, class newsletters, class websites, Weeblys, Google docs, Prezis, Promethean/Smart Board documents, etc…

You wouldn’t believe some of the unusual “Secret” things that I’ve have found (and that folks kind folks have discovered and sent to me) online! By far, the absolute strangest was the way that someone had attempted to “share” the Secret Storie® was by uploading to Google Docs a 200+ page PDF file  of the Secret Stories® book, held in her hand, one page at a time… from cover to cover! (The funniest part was that she was holding it up, as if she were reading it to the class, which meant that her fingers were prominently featured in every shot!) I cannot even imagine how long the entire process of photographing every single pari of pages— from cover to cover— must have taken her…. or how she was able to find someone to actually take all of those pictures!!! In her defense though, the Porta-Pics hadn’t been available at that time! ;-)

PS  Just in case you hadn’t found them yet, you can download FREE PreK-3rd Common Core Literacy Posters w/Secret Stories® graphic-supports here, as well as FREE made-to-match Common Core Science Posters (see individual grade level links, below.)
FREE Second Grade (2nd Grade) Common Core Science Posters
FREE Science Common Core Posters for 2nd Grade
FREE Third Grade (3rd Grade) Common Core Science Posters
FREE Science Common Core Posters for 3rd Grade
“Made-to-Match” Literacy & Math Combo Sets, Essential Questions and Social Studies poster sets are also available.
PreK-3rd Common Core Literacy & Math Poster Combo Sets
“Made-to-Match” PreK-3rd Common Core Literacy & Math Combo
PreK-3rd Common Core Essential Questions Posters
“Made-to-Match” PreK-3rd Common Core Essential Questions Posters 
PreK-3rd Common Core Social Studies Posters
“Made-to-Match” PreK-3rd Common Core Social Studies Posters 
Until Next Time,
Katie 

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Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
Katie Garner Education Keynote Speaker and Literacy Consultant
For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 
Secret Stories® Phonics Posters, Book & CD
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 Secret Stories Linkedin pageSecret Stories BlogSecret Stories Facebook PageSecret Stories Youtube PageSecret Stories TwitterSecret Stories PinterestSecret Stories Instagram
Secret Stories® Phonics— Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in Mind!

Secret Stories Banner Bottom

 

 

The brain is a pattern-making machine—seeking-out patterns and creating new ones. This is its natural system for learning. And yet, when it comes to teaching abstract letter sound and phonics skills for reading, it can be difficult (if not impossible) to feed the brain the logical explanations for letter sound behavior that it craves!

Secret Stories® Phonics— The Brain is a "Pattern-Making" Machine!

The Best Thinkers are the Best “Pattern-Makers”

Watch as these first graders are transformed into analytical “word doctors” upon coming across the /ie/ phonics Secret during guided reading. Watch as they think-through (i.e. pattern-out) all of the Secrets they know about Superhero I in order to account for his (sound) behavior, and while doing so, also create a brand NEW pattern! Their diagnosis? Apparently, Superhero I has some sort of obsessive “cookie-eating” and then “excessive exercising” disorder— Lol! (If your kids  know the /ie/ phonics Secret, they will LOVE watching this clip!)
Secret Stories® Phonics—  The Superhero Vowels® I Poster
Secret Stories® Superhero I
Secret Stories® Phonics Poster—The  IE "Secret!"
Secret Stories® Phonics “ie” Secret
And now for some teacher-fun!
These very talented teachers from Bremerton, Washington are bringing the “ie Secret” to life in their own way, which you can watch below. You can find this video and more on the free Secret Stories® Youtube Channel!
Underscoring existing reading and writing (phonics) curriculum and instruction with Secret Stories® makes kids privy to all of the letters’ “Secrets,” creating a “learner-driven” instructional environment that transforms daily reading and writing into a virtual playground for critical thinking and deeper literacy learning!
Secret Stories® Brain Based Phonics
“The measure of intelligence lies in the ability to see patterns where others see randomness.”
Now let’s watch the same first graders (from Mrs. Mac’s 1st Grade Class) in a whole group mini-lesson, during which the kids have noticed that in the word light, the /i/ is making its long sound, despite the fact that there is no Mommy E® or Babysitter Vowel® in sight! This conundrum sparks a creative (and highly imaginative) conversation about letter-sound behavior that is purely driven by  learners’ “need-to-know!”  (This is actually one of my ALL-TIME-FAVORITE clips!)
It’s difficult to imagine, given the high level of interest and student engagement seen in this video, that these first graders are actually discussing the impact of the /gh/phonics pattern on the sound of the letter /i/ when reading and writing words like sight and night.  Their enthusiasm for debating letter behavior is similar to that which is shown when discussing the behavior (or misbehavior!) of their classmates. This is because both concepts are anchored in the same familiar framework of social and emotional experience and understanding, making it easily accessible and ready for use!
Secret Stories® Phonics— From Apathy to Engagement!
“It’s neurobiologically impossible to think deeply about things you don’t care about.”
— Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang (Harvard Neuroscientist)
By aligning letter-behavior to kid-behavior, Secret Stories® forges learners’ own personal connections to letter sound and phonics skills, which allows inexperienced, beginning and struggling upper grade learners to easily hypothesize and deduce letters’ “most” and “next most” likely sounds.  Targeting phonics instruction to the social-emotional “feeling” domain transforms letters and sounds from skills they have to learn into “secrets” they want to know! And the fact that they are grown-up reading and writing “secrets” makes them even more important and helps mark them for memory and prioritized learning in the brain!
Secret Stories® Brain Based Phonics
Secrets make information important to learners, 
marking it for memory and prioritized learning in the brain.

And if you were wondering how these first graders so easily identified the different sounds for /gh/, you can learn the phonics Secret in the video, below. (Note the little girl standing next to the lady who is re-telling the Secret, as she is watching her closely to make sure that she doesn’t screw it up— Lol!)

Moving Phonics Instruction from Apathy to Engagement

All kids are naturally fascinated by the behaviors of other kids (i.e. “who did what to who, and why”)  and this inherent “need to know” is what naturally drives their desire to learn more Secrets! Even kindergartners can easily remember who the line leader is, who can’t sit together, and who always gets in trouble. The same “social-emotional” learning networks that store and retrieve this information can be used to help them keep track of letter sound behavior, making it easy for them to predict their “most” and “next most” likely sounds.  Secret Stories® provides the logical explanations that our brains crave about why the letters do what they do, so as to make phonics make sense! Secrets make phonics make SENSE because they are based on social and emotional frameworks that are already deeply entrenched within the learner. Knowing the letters’ “secrets” spark their natural curiosity. motivating them to engage more with text.

 

Secret Stories® Phonics— "Giving" Skills, Not "Teaching" Them for Accelerated Access to the Code
“Giving” Phonics Skills, Not “Teaching” Them for Accelerated Access to the Code

 

To wrap things up, I just had to share this wonderful email and picture that was sent to me by Aimee Meyer and her first grade class from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Receiving letters like this one mean EVERYTHING to me, and I cannot thank her enough for taking the time to send it!
Secret Stories® Phonics Poster by First Grade Class
For More “Kid-Made’ Versions of the Secrets, Check Out This Post!

 


Dear Katie,
I just wanted to share our latest first grade classwork at St. Thomas More in Baton Rouge. My student made up their own Secret Story posters…..”Drop the “y” to add “ed” and “es! We adore our Secret Stories! I’d feel so lost without it! My school sent me to New Orleans a couple of years ago where I got to meet you and listen to you speak. Afterward, I went home and purchased the Secret Stories Classroom Kit as soon as could!

Thank you so much.
You don’t know how many little lives you’ve changed.

Aimee Meyer
PS Every K-4 classroom in America needs to implement Secret Stories!