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!

 

 

Secret Stories Phonics Blocks

Teaching is not a profession for the weak.  It is a profession that you have to feel in your bones and your soul.  You have to wake up in the morning and know that you are going to make a difference in a child’s life by getting up and going to work.

The dedication and commitment it takes to be a teacher in today’s school system is not like it was when I graduated 32 years ago.  School systems are asking more than we can give, yet teachers find ways to keep giving.  That is because we know that the best has yet to come.  This is why I get up each day and I show up for my students.  I know that MY best day of teaching has yet to come. MY best year of teaching has yet to come!  I will continue to grow and learn and get better because that is what I do as a teacher.  I do what it takes for my students to succeed.  I want my retirement year of teaching to be MY best year of teaching!

The Best is Yet to Come
by Sheryl Nicholson, Kindergarten Teacher

Post-Covid Kindergarten in May
In the spring of 2021, after a crazy year of COVID shut-downs, I was preparing my lesson plans for the week and looking for a good YouTube video on blending CVC words because my students were really struggling with this skill, Somehow I clicked on a video of Katie Garner talking about the Secret Stories.

SIX HOURS LATER, I’d binge-watched everything I could get my hands on about the Secret Stories on Katie’s Youtube Channel. In a nutshell, the Secrets are short brain-based stories that explain the sounds letters make when they get together, with posters to help kids remember for independent reading and writing. They make phonics accessible by connecting skills to what kids already know (i.e. having a crush, not getting along, playing rough and getting hurt, being sneaky, listening to your mom or babysitter, etc.).

Everything made so much more sense, including why my students were still struggling with blending simple CVC words. If the only sounds they knew were the ones letters make individually, then CVC words were all they could read, and these words were the least likely to be encountered throughout the day.

That’s because most words we came across contained phonics patterns that we hadn’t learned yet and wouldn’t for at least one or two more grade level years in first and second grade. I was starting to understand why Katie said in the video that it’s actually  especially when we don’t have to. 
So with only six weeks left in the school year, I began frantically texting my teammate, and after a little arm-twisting, convinced her to jump in with me and start telling Secrets!

Sound Walls for Independent Reading & Writing

The more I learned about Secret Stories, the more excited I was to get them, and after waiting for what seemed like FOREVER, they came! We immediately laminated the posters and put them all up to make a sound wall that kids could use to help remember the new “secret” sounds they would be learning

phonics sound wall

I joined the Secret Facebook Group and found so many great ideas from other teachers on how to get started! I even found a cute idea posted in the free group files to create a “secret” cover for the section of my Secret Stories book that contained the Secrets!

secret phonics code book

Now we were ready to go!
Granted, we only had about six weeks of school left in the year, but I wanted to see if there was truly “magic” in these Secrets.

Having no clue where to start at the almost END of this school year, I just jumped in. The first “secret” I saw was in our school name, Lovejoy. So, Sneaky Y was the one that we started with, and I made a big deal about it being a grown-up reading “secret” that kids weren’t supposed to know. I even made them go and check the hallway to make sure that no one would hear! Then they all gathered around  on the carpet and I told the secret about WHY /y/ was so sneaky, as well as the sounds he could make. THEY ATE IT UP!!!!  After that one, we literally blew through the rest of the Secrets! They spotted them everywhere—in books, on the walls, in read alouds, at home…there was no escaping them!

The biggest change I saw was in their writing. They went from almost completely “inventive” spelling to using the secret phonics patterns.

Their confidence just soared with these new phonics tools under their belt.  The only downside was the short time we had remaining to use them since our first grade teachers didn’t have them. So before school ended, I made each student a Secret Stories key chain (with the Secret “Take-Home” Tags on Tpt) to review during the summer.

Phonics Brag Tags

Needless to say, word got around about these things called the “Secrets” and soon the other kindergarten teachers in our district wanted in on the action.  At the end of the school year, we found a foundation that awards grants to teachers through a rigorous proposal process. It’s highly competitive, so in order to stand out, your proposal must be creative. So we decided to incorporate the Secrets into our grant proposal with a mock Zoom call. It was a huge success and we were able to get Secret Stories for all nine kindergarten classrooms at our school!

Instant Speech to Print Connections for Beginning Reading & Writing

By the end of that school year, my mind was already racing with ideas for the next school year, and how I could make teaching the Secrets even better for my kindergartners.  I found the Secret Sound Stickers and these were the seeds for a million ideas!

phonics stickers

I knew that I wanted to start introducing the Secrets in August, but wasn’t sure how to do that since most of my students wouldn’t even know the names of the letters yet. We could sing the Better Alphabet Song to fast-track mastery of the individual letters and sounds, but in order for kids to actually USE them to read or write anything, they would also need to know the phonics Secrets.

I am a firm believer in teaching smarter, not harder. I thought about the things that I already do and how I could incorporate Secret Stories into them.

Secret Stories Phonics Stickers

Phonics Secrets in My Name
At the beginning of each school year, I make All About Me posters for each one of my students.  I send a form home at “Meet The Teacher” before school starts that parents and students fill out and return to me.  Then I make a personalized poster for each student and every day we highlight one.

Spotlighting the phonics Secrets in student names is a perfect way to introduce them. Why teach kids how to just “recognize” their names when they can use the Secrets to actually READ them? Not only did knowing the Secrets in their names  help to make sense of the sounds that the letters were making, it was also a personal way for kids to take ownership of the phonics skills.  As different phonics Secrets were introduced, we would add the small red cards (from the back of the Secret Stories book) to our pocket chart to keep track of them.

phonics cards

I even grouped students with the same phonics Secrets in their names together as I shared their posters.  For instance, I introduced everyone whose name had just one Secret, then I introduced those with a Mommy E in their name, and then I introduced those whose names started with the same blend, etc… This took about 4-5 weeks, but it was a perfect pace to introduce about 30 Secrets in 25 days or so.

 phonics patterns in names   phonics sounds in names

Here’s one of my little ones explaining the phonics Secrets in her friend Crew’s name. (The only thing they loved more than learning how to read and write their own name was learning how to read and write the names of their friends!)

I also made cards for all of the high-frequency “sight” words and used the digital stickers to make the phonics sounds in them more accessible by showing the  connection in a concrete way.

decoding sight words

First we would read the words with the Secret phonics sound EMBEDDED; then we read them with the Secrets phonics sound up ABOVE; and finally we read them just the LETTERS for gradual release from the Secrets.

Sight Wordsdecoding sight word cardslearning sight words

The sound stickers were such a game-changer for my students that I began sharing what I was doing with other teachers in the Secret Facebook Group.  It was there that I discovered that the Decoding Sight Words with Phonics Secrets project was well underway! So at Katie’s request along with Shelley Mahn, we created a teaching tool to help show the connections between the so-called “sight words” kids need to know and the phonics Secrets they need to actually READ them! (I made the video to show exactly how we use it.)

One Secret is Worth a Hundred Words
In past years, I would have introduced just 1-2 sight words a week, and by the end of the year, I would have introduced all the required words for kindergarten.

NOT THIS YEAR! I was able to give my students ALL 35 of the first semester words at once.  They immediately noticed that they had the same phonics Secrets in them that were in their names and loved seeing which words they “shared” Secrets with!

I literally spread the pile of words all over our floor and let the kids just walk around and talk about what they saw. The first thing they noticed was which ones had similar Secrets. For example, words like: at, an, and, can, etc… all shared the short /a/ Secret and so they wanted to group them together, just as they’d done with their names.

sorting sight words with phonics secrets

After laying out all of the Secret Stories Flashcards and sorting all the words, we discovered that only 3 of the 35 words actually had to be memorized as “heart words,” as the rest were all easily decodable!

It was so powerful to see these beginning kindergarten readers realize that this giant stack of unknown words wasn’t so scary, as they could already read them!

We continued doing the same sorting activities with these words that we had done with our names before adding them alongside on our Secret Sound Wall. (Note: The names and words were only displayed on our Secret Story sound posters temporarily to illustrate the connection between the Secret phonics patterns and the sounds they make in words. Once these concrete connections between sound and print were made clear, the Secret Stories posters were all they needed to read and spell throughout the day.)

By the end of kindergarten, we’d not only gone through all of our kindergarten words, but first grade’s list too! When kids own the code, kids can read ANY word, regardless of which grade level list they’re on….and that’s why Secret Stories make all the difference!

Look for part 2 of  Sheryl’s post to come soon….
THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

sheryl teacher of the year

Sheryl Nicholson is a kindergarten teacher in Allen, Texas and is an active member of the Science of Reading Meets the Science of Learning Secret Stories® Facebook Group. She will be sharing more in “part 2” of her blog soon, so stay tuned!

FREE Block Templates for More “Speech to Print” Phonics Fun

Download this free Secret Stores® Block template from the “Files” section of the Secret Facebook Group, Science of Reading Meets Science of Learning (Just look for the “Files” tab at the top of the group page.)

Secret Stories Phonics Blocks

And for “ready-made” Secret Stories® SoR-based phonics fun,  check out the Secret Stories® Phonics Centers for Phoneme Grapheme FUN.

Secret Stories Guided Reading

A guest post by second grade teacher, Kelli Gunkle.

Struggling Readers + Failing School = No Time for “Cute”

My name is Kelli Gunkle and I am a second grade teacher in Daytona Beach, Florida. I have been teaching for 5 years in a low-income, DDD, turn-around school with many struggling readers. If you are not familiar with a school climate like the one I teach in, you may have some questions about what all of that means.

In a nutshell, 90% of our students are on free and reduced lunch. We have been a D status for 3 years which placed us in “turn-around” status. This simply means that if we do not earn a C or better we will be taken over, closed down, or turned into a charter school. I tell you this to paint a tiny picture of the environment that I truly have the pleasure of working in.

read to self secret stories

People often look at statistics and status’ and use those as reasons not to be somewhere. I look at statistics a little differently. All of what I told you above is why I teach at my school. It’s why I get up everyday and teach my heart out. It’s why I don’t have time for the cute stuff.

In my first year teaching, I was like most teachers, and very aware of the “perfect” classrooms. Don’t get me wrong, I love anything that is aesthetically pleasing….who doesn’t?! More and more though, I was seeing too many “cute” activities and too little rigor. Activities that would get people to “pin, pin, pin” or “like, like, like,” but none that had much substance to move our struggling readers.

I am lucky enough to work for one of the best principals in our county, and under her training, I have learned a lot about choosing rigor over looks. The experience of working for this amazing woman taught me how to properly vet materials for quality before giving them over to my students. I don’t choose the craftivity; I rarely, if ever, even do them. Instead, I choose what I know is going to give my students the maximum instructional value, because our school just doesn’t have the time to “fluff” anything up.

Filling the Phonics Gaps for Reading

This past fall, I was looking for something — anything that could help fill the gaps in phonics with my struggling readers, who were at least a grade level behind in reading. I was given the opportunity to loop to third grade with my class, and so I was well aware of the gaps that they had. I went into this year knowing the holes that would need to be filled, but not knowing HOW I was going to fill them.

Enter Secret Stories
Through countless search attempts, I stumbled upon the Secret Stories website and started reading all of the reviews. I was hooked. The minute I read that students were ASKING to learn about letter sounds and phonics patterns, I knew it was what I needed for my kids. And while the Secrets may be cute, they are all “meat” and no fluff! And so, unbeknownst to anyone at my school, I ordered the kit, put up the posters, and let the magic unfold! I call it magic because that’s the only way to describe what happens once you let the “genie” out of the bottle and start telling the Secrets.

With the current status of our school, we are a revolving door of district, state, and management company personnel going in and out of our rooms on a weekly to monthly basis. We have extra trainings, new strategies, brand-new curriculum, and countless other responsibilities that all teachers have. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to learn one more routine, strategy, or program to implement in my classroom. My kids don’t have the ability to take anything else in. THAT is why I love Secret Stories so much. It runs itself!

The minute I told my students the first Secret, and that NO ONE could know what I was about to tell them— especially all of those people in suits that kept coming in and out of our classroom—they were hooked! They have been begging for more phonics Secrets ever since!

If you were to come into my classroom, you would be welcomed by one of my favorite sights—our Secret Stories phonics posters! My classroom is all pastel colors, so this set was perfect. My kids use these posters ALL DAY LONG to reference how to both sound-out AND spell words words. (Ignore the feet in the first pic, as it was a long day! ;-)

Weaving Phonics Skill Instruction into Reading & Writing Across the Instructional Day

I wanted my kids to be thinking about the Secret phonics patterns outside of reading block as well, so we started “catching” the Secret sounds wherever and whenever we came across them throughout the day! This could be during a math lesson, during I-Ready lessons, or during our read-to-self time. Whenever they find a Secret, they can “catch” it and add it to our collection.

Phonics Games Word Work

phonics for reading

I bought a shoe rack, added the Secret Stories cards from the back of the book to each pocket, and on the side, placed a container for half-sized index cards and markers. This gives them everything they need to catch Secret phonics patterns and sounds during centers, small group, etc.

Word Work Word Study Secret Stories

Word Study Word Work

Watch the video below to see how we use this to “catch” Secrets!

Secret Stories Sneaky Y

Small Group Reading Instruction and Assessment Prep

I also use the Secrets heavily during small group time. As I mentioned above, our school is in “turn-around” status, so it is incredibly important to fill as many gaps as possible in the primary grades before students move on to 3rd-5th. In small group, we have learning targets and success criteria for the skills we are working on. The success criteria helps my struggling readers to see what steps they need to take in order to master their “I can” targets.

guided reading group

They know that they must achieve these smaller goals in order to obtain their greater goal. To that end, they rely on the Secrets when reading their word lists, as well as whatever they are reading for their weekly text.

Teaching Vowels Sounds

When practicing test-taking strategies, we use the Secrets to help identify the phonics patterns and figure out new words in the text. This helps them to become more familiar with the text before they read it.

secret stories reading test assessment

That way, when they are taking tests, they know to look for phonics patterns in unfamiliar words to help them. This makes them feel more comfortable when they working with more complex text, especially my struggling readers.

Secret Stories Sneaky Y®

To see how we use Thinking Maps with Secret Stories, watch the video below.

Secret Stories Mommy E / Silent E

The Secrets have changed the way I teach phonics and, if I’m being honest, I will never go back to phonics-based routines in order to teach my students how to read. They do not need to memorize; they need to WANT to READ!

Love of Reading with Secret Stories

The Secrets have given my students a “need to know” the sounds, rather than me having to force them to learn them. Now, they are ASKING me to teach them….they want to know ALL of the Secrets!!

In a profession where we have no time for the cute stuff, the Secrets have found a way to be adorable AND rigorous. What an amazing accomplishment!

If you have any questions, or would like to reach out, you can find me in the Secret Stories® Support Group on Facebook, as well as on  and

Happy New Year!
Kelli

From Learning to Read, to Reading to Learn: A Third Grade Update

HELLO SECRET STORIES ……AND HELLO THIRD GRADE!  🙌🏻😍🙌🏻

Teachers Phonics Posters

I had been going into my classroom with my teammate to get things set up. While we didn’t know what this year will look like, setting up our classrooms has brought a much needed peace.  Just getting my Secret Stories Sound Wall up felt 👏🏻 so 👏🏻 good 👏🏻!

The Secret Stories are the keys to our reading, and they mean everything to me as a teacher. After using them for the first time last year, I will never go back! It is the best investment I’ve ever made for my classroom and my students’ learning💗 ….. not to mention my own learning as a teacher of reading.

Since last year’s blog post, I have looped on to third grade with my class. I am happy to say that, due to my students’ success in reading last year, there are now other teachers at my school who have caught “Secret Stories-fever” and are now using the Secrets with their students, as well.

The older kids get, the more they want you to just tell them how to spell words. Having not been with my class for six months, given our early release last spring due to Covid and summer vacation, I’ve had to to remind them to use the Secrets they know to spell words. For reading, this is a non-issue, as they just look at the Secret sound wall to decode the words, but for spelling, they often have to choose between two or three different ways to spell the sound.

In late September, I asked my students to take notes on a story, focusing on the main character, their feelings, their motivations, and their actions. Each student wrote what they thought the character was feeling, and what they believed had motivated their actions.

When I looked at this particular student’s paper, I was absolutely ELATED!

She had written the words “geelous,” and I knew immediately which Secrets she’d used to figure out that spelling! She clearly had command of the ge/gi/gy and /ous/ Secrets. And while she didn’t spell the word jealous exactly right, her ability to “build” that word demonstrated her ownership of the phonics skills that were in it — skills that could be easily used to read ANY words with these Secrets in them!

After telling me the word that she’d written, I commended her for using the Secrets she knew to spell it. Then we made a comparison of “geelous” and “jealous” on the board. Seeing her use the /ge/ Secret for the /j/ sound, and then correctly spell the ending with the /ous/ Secret just made my teacher-heart explode!❤️

And it’s still September….phonics for writing

Before I close, I want to share something that Katie and I worked on together to help students notice and use the Secrets to read and spell in remote learning lessons (as well as in literacy centers, whole group, and small group classroom instruction in the physical classroom next school year). They are “universal” task cards that work with any text and any grade level and can be used over and over again, making it easy to target specific skills/ Secrets on an individual, whole, or small group level. They are also helpful for differentiation, given that they can be paired with any text – from guided readers, to poems on the board, to math directions — they will get your kids  searching for Secrets, no matter what they are reading!

Here is little sample batch that you can download and try, so you can see how they work. There is also a video down below that shows the complete set, which are available here. 

Secret Stories Phonics Task Cards

digital phonics task cards

For the complete set of Secret Stories® “Universal” Task Cards, click here.

Everything You Need to Know

I love watching the kids use our Secret posters on the wall to read and write whatever they want. It’s amazing what our youngest learners can do and how easily they can do it when we just give them the tools they need and let them ‘play!’

Which Posters/ Kit Should I Get?

FOR USE IN PRIMARY CLASSROOMS (K-2)
If you teach at the primary grade levels, it’s important that students have easy visual access to the posters from anywhere and everywhere they read and write in the classroom. This means that they need to be large enough for them to easily see, as they will be their lifeline for reading and writing ALL. DAY. LONG. That’s why I don’t recommend the Space-Saver Kit for use at the early grade levels. They are just too small for whole-class reference, and if kids can’t see them, they won’t use them. For primary grades, the Original, Fun & Funky and Decorative Squares Kits all work perfectly….as do the Porta-Pics for individual student reference in school and at home (if kids don’t eat them!)



INTERMEDIATE GRADE & RESOURCE CLASSROOMS:
While the Space Saver Posters are too small to provide easy visual access for reading and writing in the primary classroom, they are ideal small group reference in upper/intermediate classrooms, as well as smaller resource rooms.
Porta-Pics are also ideal for use at these grade levels, and especially with students who move between the regular and resource classroom (SpEd, ESL, Speech, etc…) as well as for home use. (Note: If the majority of your students struggle with reading and writing, you should always default to the larger size posters, regardless of grade level.)
So now that you have you’ve got your posters, it’s time to laminate them and get them up on the wall!
Secret Stories® Phonics Posters

But which wall, and in what order? What is the best way to display my Secret Stories® posters?

The most frequently asked question I hear with regard to the posters,  especially when visiting schools for “back-to-school” in-service when teachers are setting up their classrooms, is “What’s the best way to hang the posters?”
The short answer is that there really isn’t a “best” way to hang them, but there are some tips and tricks to ensure that students get the most out of them.

phonics posters for reading

Do I really need to hang ALL of the posters on Day 1? 

This is critical and I can’t say it loud enough….Put up EVERY SINGLE POSTER on Day 1! Never wait until you introduce a Secret to hang it on the wall. Waiting to hang them until you teach them slows everything down, as you “can’t control the code” and shouldn’t try to. It will only slow things down and prevent students from driving their own learning.

Imagine going to a buffet and being told that dishes would be served one at a time, when they were ready. This would defeat the entire purpose of going to a buffet, where is you can have instant access to EVERYTHING….and with no designated waiting time! Otherwise, you might as well just go to a restaurant where you’re at the mercy of the waiter or waitress, who gets to decide “what” you can have and “when” you can have it. (Not to mention, the things you might not even know you want/need until you see them—like the cake you didn’t know you wanted until you saw it!)

3 Reasons Why You Need ALL of the Posters Up! 

  • You don’t know what you need until you need it!
    You never know what’s looming around the corner of your instructional day, as opportunities for sharing Secrets are everywhere, and you don’t want to miss them! Unlike phonics rules that you have to “teach,” Secrets are just stories that you share. And stories are harmless, with no expectations, so you don’t have to worry about whether kids are “ready” to hear them. Share them like keys to help kids unlock the words they’re already reading and writing across the day! And because the Secrets are embedded into social and emotional story-frameworks that kids already understand, they love hearing them and talking about them…. even before they begin using them to read and write. Whereas traditional phonics skill introduction takes 3-4 grade level years, you can share a Secret in an instant, years before it’s formal introduction on a grade level scope and sequence.
  • Empowering students to “drive” their own learning!
    Learner-driven instruction is a key tenet of brain based learning. When we WANT to know something, that information is marked for memory and prioritized learning in the brain. All you have to do to start the ball rolling is set the stage by letting kids know that anytime they can’t read or spell a word, it’s probably because there’s a “grown-up” reading secret in it that they don’t know! This not only helps them to understand and account for letters not making the sounds they’d expect, but also triggers a need to know the Secret! And most importantly, with all of the posters up, kids are able to verify that there IS a secret in the word they can’t read, as they can see the letters in the word are the same as the ones on the poster…and then ask you for it! Literally every time they see a letter not making the sound that it should, they know that’s one more Secret that you haven’t told them yet, and they demand to know what it is!
Phonics Connections
  • Increasing visual acuity for easy pattern recognition in text!
    Having all of the posters up requires students to visually scan all of the Secrets they don’t know in order to find the ones that they do every time they read and write. This continual scanning process serves to increase learners’ visual acuity so as to more easily recognize all of the patterns in text—even the ones they don’t know yet. That means that long before you actually share the Secret, the phonics pattern is incubating….like a classmate whose face you recognize, even though you don’t yet know his name!

Is there a special way to group the posters on the wall?

I recommend hanging all of the posters together on one wall (which will be your sound wall, or your “Wall of Secrets!”) That is, with the exception of the Superhero Vowel®, Sneaky Y® and QU posters, which should be hung above or in place of their “like-letters” in your existing classroom alphabet.
Secret Stories® Phonics Posters— Superhero Vowels®
Superhero Vowels in Better AlphabetSecret Stories Phonics with Letterland
The purpose of this is to draw learners’ attention to their alternative sounds, as unlike most Secrets, which explain what letters do when they get together, these letters have their own individual Secrets! This allows for easier sound reference when singing The Better Alphabet Song, which is what’s used to fast-track individual letters sound mastery using muscle memory in just two weeks to two months. (Note: For the letter /Q/, I suggest using a permanent marker to write in the letter /u/ after the /q/ and referring to it as /qu/, as  /q/ never goes anywhere without /u/, and together they make ONE sound-  “kwa.” Even though the /qu/ poster will be hanging just above, it still helps to visually cement the two letters together into one for reading and spelling.)

Can I use my existing alphabet anchors?

The answer is yes, IF you they are “elephant-free” (Be sure to watch the video below to see what this means!)

Check over your existing alphabet anchors to make sure that the picture cues used for each letter accurately depict its most likely sound/sounds, as most do not. You might be surprised to discover lots “elephants” in your alphabet. If the letter /o/ in your alphabet has a picture of an orange or an oyster, that’s bad, as the letter /o/ (by itself) can only make two sounds— long (as in oak) and short (as in octopus). Equally concerning is if only ONE sound depiction for the vowels is shown, as kids need both to read and write!

Superhero Vowel A

Similarly, kids need to know both the hard and soft sounds of the letters /c/ and /g/ (as in cat/circus and goat/giraffe). Another letter to check is /x/, as often this letter is depicted with a xylophone or an x-ray—neither of which are sounds that /x/ is most likely to make. It’s most likely sound is “ks,” like in the words box and ox.

Better Alphabet Song Posters
better alphabet song poster g

For obvious reasons, instructional focus should always be on the most likely sound/sounds that letters make, not the least likely. 
All too often, a publisher (or TpT creator’s) priority is “pretty pictures” rather than accurate sound depictions.

Is there a Secret Stories® Alphabet?

Yes! I actually created the Secret Stories® Better Alphabet™ Anchors and individual student Mini-Mats for all of the reasons listed above. You don’t have to use them if your alphabet is “elephant-free,” as you have the Secret Stories® posters you need to use with your existing one. However, if elephants are everywhere, the Better Alphabet Anchors might just be the better option.

Due to the remote learning needs this year, I created a video version of the original Better Alphabet™ Song (which is song #1 on the CD or music download that came with your Secret Stories® kit). It’s been extremely helpful for online learning and student home practice, as the graphics are identical to the ones on the Better Alphabet™ anchors (and mini-mats) providing for consistent student reference. Like the Better Alphabet Anchors, you don’t need the video to sing the Better Alphabet Song that’s in your kit, but it is helpful, especially in remote learning. Below is a video about the Better Alphabet, as well as the video.


Click to view the Better Alphabet™ Video on TpT

Secret Stories® Phonics BETTER Alphabet Mini-Mat
Both the classroom anchors and individual student mini-mats are available in digital format, with the Superhero Vowels®, Sneaky Y® and /qu/ graphics already embedded so you don’t need to use the ones in your kit.
The digital Better Alphabet™ Anchors includes both the “red” and “decorative” versions (to match the Secret Stories® phonics posters) in multiple size options to create a horizontal and vertical alphabet (for easy singing of the lightning-fast Letter Runs!)
Multiple Size Options for Horizontal & Vertical DisplayBetter Alphabet Song Posters
Secret Stories® Phonics BETTER Alphabet
Better Alphabet Veritcal

Where’s the best place to hang the posters in my classroom?

I can tell you from personal experience that finding a place where kids can easily see ALL of the posters from everywhere they read and write in the classroom is easier said than done! They will be referencing them constantly— in whole group, small group, circle time, centers, and of course reading and writing at their desks. The posters will be their “lifeline” for reading and writing across the entire instructional day!
If kids can’t see them easily, they will be constantly out of their seats to locate the the Secrets they need to read and spell words….and it will drive you crazy! It’s especially difficult in kindergarten and first grade classrooms, given how much “stuff” we have at the early grade levels, which makes easy visual access virtually impossible….aside from posting on the ceiling, which one teacher actually did!
Secret Stories Decorative Squares Phonics Posters
Don’t be afraid to try different spots if the current one isn’t ideal. My poor assistant moved ours several times before we finally found the perfect spot. (So be sure to bring your assistant a big, frothy Starbucks coffee when making these moves!) Also, keep in mind that if there is no perfect spot in your classroom where all of the kids can see all of the posters, the Porta-Pics are a great alternative, as kids can keep them in their reading/writing folders for individual access and use.

phonics cards

Phonics Games for Reading
Secret Stories® Phonics Porta-Pics for Portable Reference and Home Use

If my posters are all on the wall, what can I use for “hands-on” lessons and activities with the Secrets?

It’s always handy to have an extra set of Secret visuals on hand, not just for lessons, but also for games and activities. The best “hands-on” options are the Dual-Use Placards and Flashcards, as they are sturdy, small and convenient for student use. The small “cut-apart” cards in the back of the Secret Stories® book are also helpful for very small group work and one-on-one practice. You can view all of these below.

The “Dual-Use” Placards 

SIGHT WORDS AND PHONICS]

 

 

phonics rules in reading series

 

 

The Flashcardsphonics flashcards

 

phonics flashcards with kids

 

The “Cut-Apart” Cards 

In the back of the book are “cut-apart” cards for use very small groups and one-on-one work.

 

cut apart phonics cards

The “Cut-Apart” Cards in Back of Book

Phonics Cards

I have the “Original” posters, so do I need to cut them down?

Secret Stories Phonics Posters

Unlike the Fun & Funky  and  Space-Saver Phonics Posters, which both have a yellow border that separates them visually when hung together on the wall, the Original Posters were designed to be “cut-down” and clustered together, so as to take up less space on the wall, while still being large enough to see from anywhere in the primary classroom. 

Phonics Posters

“Creative-Cutting” Fun!

Without a definitive border, the phonics patterns on the Original posters can appear to run together when posted “as is” close together on the wall, which is why they should be cut and mounted on colored paper. When cutting the posters, you can make them as simple or as creative as you like!

If I upgrade my Kit, what can I do with my old Secret Stories® posters?

If you decide to upgrade your old Secret Stories® Kit, you can always use your old posters to make a “Big Book of Secrets” that students will LOVE! It can be taken home and shared with parents on a rotating basis, or even as a special reward! It’s also an ideal way to connect parents with the learning…and the Secrets!
Take-Home “Big Book” of Secrets
All you need to do is back your old posters on large sheets on construction paper, re-laminate the pages, and “bind” them together using ring hooks. (If you really want to get creative, you can cover the front and back page in foil and glue plastic gems and feathers to make your book look super “secret!”) And Voile! Your very own class “Book of Secrets!” (And on a side note, you can also use your old Secret Stories® book as a parent “check-out” resource that parents can take home to remediate or accelerate, as needed.)
Additional Uses for Old Poster Sets
Some schools and districts intentionally order extra posters sets to display in common areas where kids tend to congregate—in the hallways, the cafeteria line, the media center, the front office wall, etc… This is a great way to spur conversation between students about “who knows what Secrets,” as well as to educate parents on what the Secrets are and how they’re used. It also helps to build learners’ visual acuity for increased pattern-recognition when working with text. (Schools will sometimes also purchase extra copies of the book to house in a parent resource room for parent check-out. These copies are often paid for with School Improvement Funds for Home/Parent Involvement.)

I wish I could see how other teachers display the Secret Stories® posters in their classrooms!

Your wish is granted! Below are more pictures that show all of the creative ways that teachers display the Secret Stories® phonics posters in their classrooms. And for many more ideas, as well free Secret resources and real teacher-talk, join the new Secret Stories® Support Group on Facebook!
Secret Stories® Phonics "Secrets!"
Secret Stories Sound Wall
Phonics Posters
Secret Stories Phonics Sound Wall
secret stories phonics posters
Secret stories phonics fun
happy teacher phonics
Secret Stories® Phonics Posters with Student Names
Remote Phonics Lesson
Classroom Set Up
Phonics Fun with Secret Stories
Secret Stories Phonics Reading Classroom
phonics posters
Secret Stories Phonics Posters
Secret Stories® Phonics Posters
sound wall for reading and writing - secret stories
Secret Stories Sound Wall for Reading
And finally, check out these miniature Secret Stories® phonics posters in this adorable “Peep” Classroom, created by Mrs. Mac’s Munchkins!
Secret Stories® Phonics Posters — The "Peep" Version!
And to bring this very long “poster-post” to a close, I just had to share an awesome Secret Stories® Superhero door transformation! (You can read more here!
Secret Stories® Phonics Door

And here are some close-up pics….

Secret Stories® Phonics Door

 

Secret Stories® Phonics Door
Secret Stories® Phonics Door

 

Secret Stories® Phonics Door
Secret Stories® Phonics Door
Secret Stories® Phonics Door
And if you aren’t using the Secret Stories® yet, but you’re thinking about trying them, you can download a free poster “appetizer” pack and just watch how fast kids start using them to read and write!
Free Secret Stories® Phonics Posters

To ensure that you never miss a Secret,
subscribe to the Secret Stories® Newsletter!

And continue the conversation by joining the new Secret Stories® Phonics with the Brain in Mind Support Group on Facebook!

Secret Stories Phonics Facebook Group

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