phonics activities secret stories on boom

Hello, I am Janelle Schneider. Some of you may know me as Mrs. Schneider from Engage & Inspire with Mrs. Schneider. I wanted to share with you two of my favorite teaching resources, Boom Cards and Secret Stories! I am going to explain why Secret Stories phonics activities on Boom are the perfect addition to any phonics routine, and why Boom Cards provide such effective and efficient skill practice. Like Secret Stories, Boom Cards make your life easier and maximize student achievement.

As teachers, there are so many ideas and resources being thrown at us. It can be very overwhelming trying to figure out which ones work, and which ones aren’t worth our time. New curriculums, new programs, new teacher websites and apps, all promising to be the “magic tool” that’s missing. It’s frustrating to waste time and money on new websites and apps, only to find out that either kids don’t like them or that they’re ineffective.

During the 2020 COVID school closures, I was struggling to find a way to teach my students virtually. Through one of the second grade Facebook groups, I came across Boom Cards. Though I found the platform a bit confusing at first, I quickly grew to love it, and I eventually began making Boom Cards of my own. During this time, I also decided to obtain my graduate degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Through my coursework, I realized that Boom Cards were not only fun, but backed by Behavioral Learning Theory.

While reading and completing coursework on the different learning theories, I wrote this in one of my papers,

When it comes to teaching our diverse students, there is no one size fits all learning theory. Teachers find, trim, and arrange bits and pieces of many different learning theories to craft the beautiful mosaic of student learning. In any one lesson, it is typical for a teacher to have elements from cognitivism, behaviorism, constructivism, and humanism.”

One learning theory that supports the use and effectiveness of using Boom Cards is the Behavioral Learning Theory. When people think of behavioral learning or operant conditioning in the classroom, they typically envision the conditioning of student behavior in regard to discipline and classroom management; however, incorporating behaviorism in the classroom can greatly impact both teaching and learning.

Following is an excerpt from an article on Teaching and Education by Western Governors University.

The stimulus-response sequence is a key element of understanding behaviorism… Behavioral learning theory argues that even complex actions can be broken down into the stimulus-response” (Western Governors University, 2021).  In the case of Boom Cards, students hear a ding and see a green circle when they have a correct answer and they hear a “whoops” and see a red circle when they have an incorrect answer. Additionally, students must find and correct their error before moving on to the next card.

What I love most about Boom Cards, aside from the immediate feedback students receive, is the repetition! Students need to practice a skill several times to obtain mastery, and Boom offers this repetition, as well as immediate feedback and positive reinforcement.

Repetition and positive reinforcement go hand-in-hand with the behavioral learning theory…Positive reinforcement is key in the behavioral learning theory. Without positive reinforcement, students will quickly abandon their responses because they don’t appear to be working. (Western Governors University, 2021)

Think about it! How many times have your students abandoned their worksheets or other class assignments because they were “too hard,” or because they didn’t know if they were doing it correctly? How often are students completing work that won’t be graded until days later? How often do they practice skills incorrectly, and then have to “unlearn” them later? With Boom Cards, students are actively engaged because they know if they are doing their work correctly or not. They want to hear that ding! They want to feel successful, and when they hear the “Whoops” sound repeatedly, they know they’re doing something wrong. They know they need to ask for help. And for our shy students who won’t ask, we can see on their live report that they are struggling and in need of assistance. This allows us the opportunity to target struggling students and reteach the concepts in small group or “one-on-one” before they fall further behind.

behavioral learning strategies

How I Use Boom Cards in My Classroom

I scaffold all of my lessons using the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model. During COVID, I had structured all of my lessons (on Google Slides, Youtube, etc.) as “I do, We do, You do.” Now that we are back in the classroom, I structure my lessons as “I do. We do. You do (together), You do (individually).”

I begin with whole group direct instruction, making sure to build on students’ prior knowledge, and working on a examples together. Next, students work on an activity in partners or small groups. Then they complete their assigned Boom Card deck individually. I will also use Boom Cards to differentiate assignments and fill in learning gaps. I love that Boom Cards “self-grade” so you can look at the live data as students complete each deck. I use this as a daily formative assessment, and will sometimes even use Boom Cards as a summative assessment. The fact that they are SELF-GRADING is the best part, as this has saved me so much time, and truth be told, even given me some of my weekends back!

Below are step-by-step directions for creating a Boom account, as well as purchasing decks and assigning the to students in your classroom. I would also encourage you to check out the video below (and if helpful, please remember to like and subscribe!)

Boom Plans

Membership Plans: Free and Paid

boom plans

The Starter Plan (free): If you are a parent or if you homeschool 5 or less children, this is the plan for you. If you are a teacher that does not need to collect data on students’ progress, but want to give your students Boom Decks for extra practice of a particular skill, you can use the free account and assign “Fast Plays.”
*You will still need to purchase decks separately.

The Essential Plan ($25 year):  I recommend this plan for regular classroom teachers on a tight budget, as it’s only $25 per year. The only thing I don’t like about this plan is that you don’t get the “live reports,” only student progress.

The Premium Plan ($40/ year): This is the plan I recommend all teachers get if they can afford it, as it does include the live reports which are so helpful in tracking student progress in “real-time” and targeting students in need of reteaching.

The Publisher Plan ($50/year): If you plan to make Boom Cards for your students (and possibly even sell them) this is the plan you would need. It’s the plan that I have.

Navigating the Boom Store

Below are step by step directions that walk you through how to find, purchase and access your Boom Decks.

Boom Learning Store

  • When you first log in, this is what it looks like.
  • Click on “Store” to get started.

Boom Store

  • In the store, you can search for whatever material you need for your lesson. You can search: Secret Stories, phonics, cvc words, decoding, 3-digit addition, time, etc., and a list of available decks will come up. You can also click the “Find Free” green button to search all of the free decks.

Purchasing Boom Decks

  • You purchase decks with “points,” choosing from the following options:
    100 points=$1.00
    200 points is $2.00
    375 points is $3.75
    and so on….

As you can see in the screenshot of my own Boom Library below, I currently have 1281 points remaining to use. I always purchase the $50 option, as this makes it easier to quickly do the math and decide if a deck is “worth” the cost, as the decks range in price. You can preview the first 4 slides of any deck to see if you like it. Once you own the decks, you own them forever. Just like on Teachers Pay Teachers, you can continue to use them year after year.

Assigning Boom Cards to Students

How to Use Boom in the Classroom

  • After you purchase a deck, you can go to your library to find them, and them choose which deck you want to assign to students.

I recommend doing this right before you release students to work independently. The reason for this is that I’ve had a few “over-achievers” try to do Boom Cards before school in the morning before the concept has been taught. It only takes a minute to assign, so if you can wait until school begins or just before the lesson to assign each deck, that works the best.

  • You can also make folders and store the decks by topic or standard, or in any other way that you wish.

Boom Learning in the Classroom

  • First, click on “Action”
  • Next, click on “Assign”

Boom Directions

  • Choose which class you want to assign the deck to. (I have my regular second grade class in “class 1” and students that I tutor in “class 2”).
  • After checking the box to select the class, you can then “x” out of that screen.
  • Students can then refresh their screens and the assigned deck will appear at the top of their list.

Student View

Boom PIc

Boom Directions

Reading Boom Reports

Boom Learning

Boom

Boom

In addition to the information shown above, you can also get reports for each card so that you can identify common errors being made, or see which cards students struggled with the most.

  • To do this, just click on “title” when viewing the report.

boom

  • Then click on “Report by Cards”

boom

Now you can see the cards that had the most incorrect responses.

boom

 

I hope that this “crash-course” on Boom Learning is helpful, especially to those who may want to use the new Secret Stories® Boom Cards in their classrooms, but were unsure of how to get started.

Secret Stories® Boom Decks

Below are some of the Secret Stories® Boom Decks available with short videos showing how they can be used.

“Short & Lazy” Vowel Practice

The Short Vowel CVC Word Mapping Bundle and the Short Vowel CVC “Hear it, Tap it, Spell it” Bundle include decks for practicing and reinforcing all of the “short & lazy vowel” sounds. (Decks may also be purchased individually.)

secret stories short vowel practice on boom

 

short vowel cvc boom cards

 

Decoding Sight Words with Phonics Secrets

The Fry Sight Word Mapping Bundle and the Fry Phonics Flashcards Bundle include decks for practicing and reinforcing decoding and encoding with Secret Stories® phonics sounds/spelling patterns. (Note: A Dolch Word deck will be released soon so as to align Boom practice with the Decoding Sight Words with Phonics Secrets Pack on Teachers Pay Teachers.)

Fry sight word mapping boom

 

 

 

 

For more insight into these activities and everything else Secret Stories-related, join the  Secret Group on Facebook, and be sure to download all of the free resources in the group file! You can also subscribe to the Secret email for personal notifications delivered directly to your inbox.

💗Special thanks to Janelle Schneider/Engage & Inspire with Mrs. Schneider for this wonderful post!

 

 

Decoding Sight Words with Phonics Secrets is finally DONE!!
But before I share more about this, I wanted to explain why I created it in the first place….

decoding sight words with phonics skills

It’s always seems odd to me when I hear questions like…. “How do I know which Secrets to teach for each sight word?” or “Is there a list of sight words that has the Secrets I need to teach with them?” or my favorite, “I don’t have time to teach the Secrets because of all the sight words that I have to teach!” (Can you see the irony in that last one?)

​Phonics Keys to UNLOCK WORDS for Reading

Secrets are keys to unlock words. It’s really that simple. If kids don’t know the Secrets (a.k.a. phonics skills), then how can they read the words? Without the code, beginning and struggling readers have to rely solely on memorizing words while they wait for the slow pace of grade-level phonics instruction to catch-up.

That means if Howard wants to write about his pet mouse in kindergarten or first grade, he’s out of luck because the ou/ow phonics “skill” won’t formally introduced for another 1-2 years, about midway through second grade. Howard’s mouse will literally be DEAD by the time gets the sound for “owwww” that he needs to write about it his mouse, or to read about it…..let along to make make sense of his own name!

From a common sense perspective, it seems ridiculous to make kids wait 3-4 grade level years (from pk-2nd grade) for the “whole” code they need to read and write from the first day of kindergarten. But this is the nature of the beast when teaching “abstract” phonics skills to “concrete” level thinkers—who are often eating their shoes and licking the carpet during your reading instruction! ;-)

Enter the BRAIN SCIENCE
Research on early brain development shows that the brain develops from back to front, with the social-emotional “feeling” based systems developing far earlier than the higher-level, executive processing centers (which are actually the latest area to fully develop).

While traditional phonics instruction targets “underdeveloped” higher-level processing centers for skill mastery, Secret Stories sneaks through the brain’s backdoor, using muscle memory to fast-track individual letter sound mastery (in 2 weeks to 2 months) and aligning phonics skill concepts with “universally familiar” frameworks of learner-understanding.

Secrets aren’t skills, they’re just stories that kids already know, based on behaviors they already understand, like: having a crush, not getting along, getting hurt, being left out, being a good line leader, being sneaky, doing what your mom or babysitter tells you when they’re nearby, and of course, everything “superheroes!”

These connections exist in the earlier-developing emotional systems, or “feeling” based centers of the brain…..or what I like to refer to as the “tattling centers!” This is the part of kids’ brains that can easily keep track of all the social and emotional “goings-on,” like the behaviors of their classmates. By aligning letter behavior with kid behavior, they can easily keep track of, and even predict the most and next most likely sounds of letters, just as easily as they keep track of the behavior of their classmates and with just as much FUN!

So WHY WAIT?
Research shows that explicit, systematic and sequential phonics instruction is key, so it’s important to follow a scope and sequence. However, your scope and sequence should never tie your hands and prevent you from giving kids MORE of what they need to do what they’re ALREADY doing! Think of your scope and sequence as your “playground,” and the Secrets as the “muscles” kids need to maximize their time playing on it. The best way to ensure that kids take away maximum instructional value from your existing reading or phonics program is to give them the tools they need to actually READ it!

phonics sound wall posters

“S0-Called” SIGHT WORDS
Did you know that for experienced readers, virtually EVERY word is a sight word? That’s because the definition of a sight word is ANY word that’s recognized by sight, meaning that it has already been “orthographically mapped” in the brain. For beginning and struggling readers, the transfer of unfamiliar words into sight memory is the ultimate goal, but NOT through rote memorization of word lists.

Kids must be able to actively “decode” words by connecting letter patterns (graphemes) to sounds (phonemes), and to do this they need to know more than just the sounds of individual letters. They need to know the sounds that letters make when they get together, which commonly referred to as phonics skills. But they can’t wait 3 to 4 grade level years to learn them.

Waiting that long means that kids still have to memorize all of the words with phonics skills in them that they haven’t learned yet, which research shows is detrimental. Even teaching them as “heart words” (which are words that must be memorized “by heart” until such time as the phonics skills needed to read them are taught) kids are still having to memorize words that could be instantly read with the Secrets.

Decoding Sight Words with Phonics Secrets

So let’s get back to WHY I created this pack by addressing the three comments shared at the top about sight words.
1. “How do I know which Secrets to teach for each sight word?”
While it’s usually pretty straight forward to know which Secret or Secrets to teach for which words, sometimes it can be tricky. For example, Howard needed the “ou/ow” for the word mouse, not to mention for his own name. And there’s another Secret in is name too, which is “ar.” Just knowing these two Secrets empowers Howard (no “ow” pun intended!) to unlock hundreds of other words too, like: how, now, about, around, flower, are, hard, far, and so many more. Now imagine the alternative, which is making poor Howard wait until 2nd grade when this phonics skill is “supposed” to be introduced. Think how many MORE words poor Howard (not to mention the rest of the kids) would have to just memorize. So again, why should we wait?!

While words like mouse and Howard may be obvious, sometimes you do have to think outside of the box when it comes to certain words. Take, for example, common high-frequency words like: of, was, want, some, come, love, what, etc. By traditional phonics standards, these words are considered to be non-decodable, and thus relegated to becoming “heart words” to be memorized “by heart.”

But the beauty of the Secrets is that they aren’t binary phonics “rules” that either work or don’t. They are behaviors, which means that kids can “think-through” the most and next most likely sounds of letters and ultimately figure out the word. (You can learn more about this here.)

To make it easy, I’ve embedded the first 100 Dolch and Fry words (as well as several other common high-frequency words) with Secret sound graphics so that both teachers and students can easily see the Secrets and the sounds they make in the words.

2. “Is there a list of sight words that have the Secrets I need to teach with them?”
Not only are there lists of words alongside the Secrets that are needed to crack them, but the words are organized in ways that provide variations for structured literacy practice (i.e. to see, read, write, spell and even make new words with the same Secrets) to solidify the connection between phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (Secrets phonics patterns) and help support orthographic mapping in the brain. This process of cementing sound-symbol (i.e. “speech to print”) connections in the brain is the foundation of Secret Stories® instruction, and key to a Science of Reading-based approach to effective phonics instruction.

Editable templates are also included for each part so that you can use your own words for your specific grade level, with those “pre-embedded” with the Secret sound images servings as a guide. As with everything-Secret Stories®, through use, you become the expert by internalizing the concepts and making them your own. (This is the ultimate my goal for each Secret Stories® supplement that’s created, to understand how to use the Secrets even better!)

3. “I don’t have time to teach the Secrets because of all the sight words that I have to teach!”
I hope that after reading all of the above, this one is obvious. If kids DON’T know the phonics Secrets, how can they read the words?!! What exactly are you teaching if not the code kids need to actually read the words they’re seeing every day?

As teachers, our goal can’t be to have our kids just “look at words” all day but not actually read them. That’s just going through the motions and checking the box, not teaching them to read.

We don’t have the luxury of time to just “look” at words all day long and NOT take advantage of these opportunities to give kids the Secrets they need to actually READ them! Especially not now, given the loss of learning that’s occurred over the last two years. We need to take advantage of what we know about the brain’s systems, not just for learning to read, but for learning, in general, so as to work WITH the brain, not against it. The first step to doing this is to teach in a way that actually makes SENSE!

Secret Stories Science of Reading-Based Instruction 

So on that note, this email was a lot longer than I intended it to be, but I really hope it’s helpful as we gear up for another school year. Every day, I see so many great conversations about this and other topics in the Secret Group. It’s wonderful to read the in-depth conversations about Secret Stories and the Science of Reading now that so many states have provided training over the summer. I love seeing Secret Stories mentioned in different state trainings for LETRS, Reading 360, Phonics First, etc, as a way to help streamline and fast-track learner-access to the code.

Everyone’s ultimate goal is to make phonics make sense so that it’s easy for teachers to teach and for kids to learn—even if they’re sucking on their shoe while they’re doing it! ;-) Kindergarten teachers know exactly what I’m talking about!

science of reading aligned phonics instruction

You can watch a short video about the Decoding Sight Words with Phonics Secrets pack made by Sheryl Nicholson, whose tireless efforts in working with me over the past several months to create this pack are the reason that it’s ready in time for school to start!💗 And to read a post by Sheryl explaining more about how she uses Secret Stories® in her classroom, click here.

You can also find Sheryl in the Secret Group, which I’m thrilled to say now has over 40K members! If you’re not already a part of it, we would love for you to join us….as in there, the conversation never stops!

And you can find Decoding Sight Words here or by clicking on the picture up above.

Until Next Time,
Katie

 

SCIENCE OF READING phonics centers

How to Make Phoneme Grapheme Word Mapping Mats

This blog post has been reproduced, with permission, from Shelly Mahn’s blog. It provides step-by-step directions on make the Secret Stories® Phoneme Grapheme Word Mapping Mats that are included in the Science of Reading Secret Stories® Centers on TpT. (All links mentioned can be found inside the product.)

Note: To make these mats, you must first purchase the Science of Reading Secret Stories® Centers on Teachers Pay Teachers here. (Active Amazon links mentioned in the tutorial below are included in the product.)

 

science of reading with secret stories

orthographic mapping matorthographic mapping matorthographic mapping for phonicsscience of reading orthographic mappingscience of reading orthographic mapping with secret storiesscience of reading secret storiesscience of reading phonicsscience of reading secret stories phonicsscience of reading tapping wordsscience of reading secret stories phonics mats

Secret Stories® Phonics Supplements on Teachers Pay Teachers

I apologize for the looooong delay between blog posts, but like all of you, my time away wasn’t due to a wonderful summer vacation. Nope! On the contrary, I feel like there was NO summer this year, just a crazy-long Spring that somehow turned into Fall.  And now, here we are.

However, I was fortunate enough to see many of you “virtually” in your school and district professional developments over the summer, which was awesome! I loved getting to spend a full day together, even if it isn’t in person.

I also got to see over 30,000+ of you at the Get Your Teach On Virtual K/1 Conference, which was a whole new level of virtual FUN! If you weren’t one of the 30,000+ that attended, you can watch my two hour session free on my YouTube Channel! (And if you like, it, please click “like” and subscribe, as apparently, this is important, Lol! And you’ll see how I know this a bit further down, below!)


And while all that virtual learning was going on, I was on an obsessive mission (literally!) to create the digital resources that teachers needed to fully implement the Secret Stories® remotely, as well as model their use to read and spell words across the virtual learning day and beyond.

As many of you who’ve been using Secret Stories® for a while now already know, teaching kids the Secrets (i.e. phonics “skills”) is one thing, but teaching them how to apply them as “strategies” to read and write is another. Both are equally important!

It’s the latter—modeling strategy application—that was virtually impossible (no pun intended!) for teachers last year in distance learning lessons. That’s not to say that there weren’t some incredible ideas and lessons created by teachers to make it happen (you can find them here), but just that it wasn’t ready-made, easy and concrete. Now it is.

It’s not enough for kids to just “know” the Secrets. They need to be using them like keys to unlock the words that are all around them ALL DAY LONG, and especially when they are reading and writing at home!

To this end, I’m happy to say, I’ve got you covered! And everything that’s been created for virtual learning will be equally valuable in the “physical” classroom, as well!

Note: The only item not created this summer (but the MOST USEFUL) is the Porta-Pics. They were a lifeline for those who had them last year, as they are the equivalent of your classroom Secret Stories® wall of posters. Porta-Pics were #1 on “take-home” student supplies this year, just in case everything goes fully virtual—again!

Secret Stories® Porta Pics / $2.60 per student (25 set)
*Non-Consumable for use over multiple years, when laminated


​Here’s a quick run-down of all the NEW Secret Stories® digital resources….

 

The Secret Stories® Phonics iOS App in Apple Store 

This digital teaching tools puts all of the Secret Stories® sound graphics AND stories at your fingertips, as well as the Better Alphabet™ Song! Whether you’re a teacher, student or parent, this app is the #1 digital resource we’ve created. It is for use only on iPads or iPhones, and will not work on any other devices, or allow for screen-sharing or mirroring on other devices/platforms, due to the built-in technology.

If you’re a teacher, this app is not designed to “broadcast” the Secrets, but simply to put them all at your fingertips so that you have them all “on the ready” for instant access and use in your online reading lessons, and you don’t have to go rifling through a stack of posters on your desk, or re-adjust your camera to show the a particular poster on the wall. Plus, it will also tell the stories for you, just in case you’re not quite sure what they are, and can’t easily recall them by glancing at the poster (as you normally would in the physical classroom).

The app is equally valuable for parents and students to practice the Secrets, as well as the Better Alphabet® Song for individual letter sound mastery, if needed. Kids can select a Secret phonics image and listen to the story that explains its sound, or, they can test their Secret Story knowledge by listening to stories OR sounds and trying to identify the Secret phonics pattern before time runs out! They can sing along to the Better Alphabet® Song with individual letters highlighted as they are sung, helping to build the critical “sound-symbol” connections in the brain! Kids can also test themselves on the letter names and sounds with timed play. The static grid can also be used as a digital Porta-Pic for reference during independent reading and writing at home. (The app is especially helpful to remediate and reinforce phonics skills for struggling readers, as well as to allow advanced learners to learn more Secrets at a faster rate.)

Aside from the teacher video above, I also made an overview video below with more detailed information, explaining how it works, what it’s designed for, and how your parents and students can also use it at home.

All of this has also been added to the unlisted teacher page, as well as a short synopsis to the unlisted parent page. Both pages will continue to be added to over the course of this year, with more remote teaching ideas, distance learning lessons, and parent/student videos.  (You can read more about these way down below.)


The Secret Stories Better Alphabet™ Song Videos

These are for easy use during online learning lessons, as well as for student use and practice of the individual letters and sounds at home. The song videos include both the “original” version of the Better Alphabet™ Song, which uses muscle memory for fast mastery of the individual letters and sounds in as little as two weeks, as well as a second version by Jack Hartmann for a fun twist! (Think of the original version as what “builds” the reading & writing muscles, and Jack’s version as a way to “exercise” them!)

I’ve also added a third “hybrid” video of the original Better Alphabet™ Song with a split screen showing mouth positions alongside the letters, so as to maintain focus on the symbols that make the sounds, but also provide some additional insight into what to do and how to do it. You will be able to use this version interchangeably with the other original one, as both are designed specifically to strengthen the critical “sound-symbol” connections in the brain for reading and writing. You can find the videos here on TpT.  (All of the letter anchors displayed on the screen in the video match those on the Better Alphabet® Anchor posters and Digital Student Mini-Mats, shown down, below.)

I’m also excited to share this fun video that Jack and I did together, which is great for kids who know the original Better Alphabet™ Song to sing along with!  This video is great fun, but should not be used for actually  “teaching” the letters and sounds, as the focus is on Jack and I, more so than on the letters—which are what kids’ eyes should be GLUED to when singing the sounds in order to cement those “sound-symbol” connections in the brain! That said, as mentioned up above, it’s a great way to “exercise” those newly developing reading and writing muscles that the original Better Alphabet™ Song is building!

And just in case you’re wondering….
The Original Better Alphabet™ Song IS included in the Secret Stories® Kit music download (or CD in older versions), but it’s an audio file, rather than in video format. This is because, ideally (in the traditional classroom), kids should always “visit the letters where they live” on the on the classroom wall—whether it’s the alphabet anchors above your board, or the Secret Stories® posters hanging on your wall. This is critical, not just to solidify the skills, but to reinforce where to go to find them for independent reading and writing!

It’s also why, for years, I’ve recommended NOT using a PowerPoint to flash the letters (or the Secrets) on a screen when practicing them, as they disappear—and this effectively eliminates HALF the value of the time spent practicing them. Think of it this way, when you practice singing the letters and sounds, you’re teaching the “skills,” and when you reference them where they live on the wall, you’re teaching the “strategy” that kids need to know to USE them! :-)

That’s not to say that you can’t have fun singing along with the videos (the “original” version and Jack’s!) in the traditional classroom, but the core “twice a day” practice when learning the letters and sounds should be done with reference to the actual alphabet anchors in your classroom that kids will need to refer back to when reading and writing.

The Better Alphabet™ Song Video options were created for the sole purpose of helping teachers use the Better Alphabet™ Song most effectively in the current online learning envirnment, so as to focus learner-attention (i.e. “eye glue”) on each individual letter symbol as the sound is sung (“mouth muscles”). This visual-auditory connection is critical to cementing the “sound-symbol” relationship in the brain for reading and writing. Additionally, if kids have the at home, they contain the same seen in the video, so they kids can refer back to them for independent reading and writing at home.

And for everything you EVER wanted to know about the Better Alphabet™ Song, itself, check out the video below! 


The Better Alphabet™ Digital Mini Mats for Student Reference ​

These “mini-size” versions of the Better Alphabet™ classroom anchors posters are for individual student use and online distance learning. Both the mini-mats and the classroom anchor posters were recently updated to include an additional a “made-to-match” pastel version to go with the Decorative Square Poster colors. If you previously purchased either, you will be able to re-download and get the additional new set for free!

 

 


The Secret Stories® Interactive Phonics Instruction with “Copyright-Safe” Sound Graphics 
This Interactive Grid is the perfect teaching tool for modeling how to use the Secrets to read and write words in remote learning lessons. Offered in PowerPoint format and easily transferred to Keynote and Google Slides, it provides an easily accessible and concrete way to show students how to “make and break” words with the Secrets. It also includes digital Secret Stories® stickers with embedded sound graphic “hints” to help students forge concrete connections to the phonics patterns and their sounds. While still copy written, these digital stickers are “copyright-safe,” which means you can use them to create your own lessons for your students.


The Secret Stories® Digital Phonics Task Cards for Use with ANY Text
This was actually the first distance learning tools that was created last spring, and it’s recently been updated for easy use across all platforms, including PowerPoint. These digital task cards can be used with ANY text—from stories, to spelling and vocabulary lists. Like the Interactive Grid (above), these help students forge concrete connections between the Secrets they know and daily text—from simply spotting Secrets, to actually using them to read and spell words. These task cards are universal and evergreen for use over and over again. (video below)


Sharing and Support Pages for Secret Stories® Teachers and Parents

  • The “Unlisted” Teacher Page
    This page is not publicly available, but housed on the “back end” of the Secret Stories® website. It was created last year to provide teachers who are already using the Secret Stories® with “copyright-safe” ways to support instruction in distance learning lessons. It will continue being added to throughout this year as well.
  • The “Unlisted” Parent Page
    This page is designed just for parents to help them understand what the Secret Stories® are, how they work, and how they can best support their child’s use of the Secrets at home for independent reading and writing. Teachers are welcome to share this link with their parents. (There is a special parent video at the top that really helped with student progression last year!) Here is the direct link that you can copy and paste, as needed-
    https://www.thesecretstories.com/learn-more/free-phonics-resources-for-parents/.

What’s Coming Up

  • In February I’ll be doing a full-day PD (1/2 day each) with the wonderful Jen Jones of Hello Literacy on Brain Based Phonics Instruction and Word Work in Guided Reading. There will be both recorded and live components, and if you follow either of us on Instagram or Facebook, you will be hearing a lot about this very soon. (If not, I promise to send an email all about it once the details are complete!
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  • I’ve been running weekly contests on Instagram and Facebook to highlight “Class Pics/Vids of the Week” and would love to see yours! Any pics or vids sent carry over to the following week, and you can keep sending more thoughout the year! Whether sharing a pic of your Secret Stories® poster display, or a video snippet from your online lesson, I would love to see your “Secret Story-happenings” and share them, so send them my way! You can email them to me at Katie@KatieGarner.com, or post and share them on social media. Just be sure to tag me and use the hashtag #TheSecretStories. (If sharing on social media, you can message it to me as well, just to make sure I don’t miss it!)
melissa snyder

Follow on Instagram and Facebook for daily “Secret” tips, tools & tricks!

Before closing, I just want to remind you that the best way to “never miss a Secret” is to subscribe to the Secret Email Blast! While I try to post content from previous blasts to this blog, I tend to run several weeks behind. (For example, the unlisted teacher and parent page links were created in April, and I’m just now sharing them here- Lol!)

And stay “never miss a Secret” by joining the NEW Secret Stories® Support Group on Facebook!

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