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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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The following scenario is one that could only happen in an early grade classroom, so I know all of you reading this will relate! It’s perhaps the most perfect example of “out-of-the-box” learning and authentic writing I’ve ever come across in all my years teaching first grade, so I just had to share it! (It’s so entertaining that even your students would it!)

Greetings and Happy Holidays from Mrs. Mac and her First Grade Munchkins! 

 
Our adventure began with our sweet, beautiful, and loving class Elf, Sparkle. Sparkle is a foreign exchange elf from the North Pole, sent to us by Santa, himself!
 

As you can see, Sparkle really gets into all of our lessons, especially story time!
The kids love her and she became part of our class family.
 
As it happened, we were right in the heart of our Gingerbread unit when Sparkle started having flash backs from last year’s Gingerbread Fiasco!

It’s difficult to talk about, but Sparkle had gotten tied-up by some pesky gingerbread men. She was so traumatized by these cookies that she no longer enjoys listening to their stories, so she made a sign boycotting Gingerbread Week, and even went to the extreme of hiding all of our Gingerbread books!
 

The kids were worried about her, and they assured her that they would do everything they could to protect her this year, but just as Sparkle began to feel safe and sound…tragedy struck!

Despite our class efforts, the Gingerbread Kids ran away again, and Sparkle, being the kind friend that she is, tried to stop them, only to find herself tied-up AGAIN!

 
Once the kids calmed down, they were able to read the note that Sparkle left for us… 
 
……all by themselves!
 
It was a very exciting moment when we realized that our ability to read could actually save elves’ lives… and you’ll be happy to know that our Gingerbread friends were found, and Sparkle was safely cut free.  
Extricating Sparkle 

Now, I had to tell you this story to set the stage for the REAL story.

 So sit back, relax, and prepare to laugh as you step foot into our crazy little classroom again for a first-hand account of this magical and adorable holiday adventure….

So the real story begins one brisk morning when I discovered a referral on the floor of my classroom. It was accompanied by Sparkle’s “No Gingerbread” sign, some cookie crumbs, and an empty bag of gingerbread cookies.

As I leaned in to read the referral, I discovered that it was from our principal, Mr. Mauger.  He had apparently walked in on a horrific sight…. Sparkle EATING her gingerbread friends!!!!

Now, we are a very close school family at Cottonwood Elementary and we don’t require a ton of rules to remind us to do what’s right. In fact, we live by the magnificent 7 Guidelines and the Rachel’s Challenge program, and neither, in any way, shape, or form, allow for eating our friends! 

The unfortunate situation left Mr. Mauger little choice but to take Sparkle down to his office for an ‘in-house suspension’ until further notice.

 

 
 

PERSUASIVE WRITING IN FIRST GRADE

“Sparkle needs to solve problems without hurting or devouring others…”
Now Sparkle’s referral may seem unfair in the real world, (as after all, gingerbread cookies are for eating!) but if you are open to the world of: magical elves living in your classroom for the month of December, cookies running away from your students, and Polar Express trains pulling up to your classroom door to drop off bells, cookies and hot chocolate…. then we must uphold the unwritten rule that we even if cookie friends get us mad and tie us up, we should not retaliate by eating them…right?…right!

 

Mr. Mauger, our principal, breaking the news about Sparkle
 
“I’m going to have to call Santa about Sparkle’s behavior”
The looks on their faces were priceless!
Because our principal is a very reasonable man, he told the kids that he would consider allowing Sparkle to come back if they could put “in writing” why Sparkle did what she did. 
 
Once he received something in writing and had a chance to speak with Santa about the situation, he would make a final decision.
 
For the kids, this was, without question, their most important assignment ever!
 
They would need to use all of the writing skills they’d acquired to persuade our principal to free Sparkle! If they failed, Sparkle would spend the only holiday they would have with him in Mr. Mauger’s office!  
 
The kiddos were confident, however, as they knew that their writing skills had developed greatly in the past few months, and so, without wasting a moment, they began the task of putting into writing all of the reasons why Sparkle should be freed.
 
The letters they wrote are absolutely ADORABLE! They were written from the heart…. and with the Secret Stories, they did so with ease! No “sticking-to-sight-words” for these guys! 
 
They were on a mission to save Sparkle and did not shy away from big scary words! Instead, they tackled them head-on using the Secrets to sound them out and say exactly what was in their heads that they wanted Mr. Mauger to know!  
 
“Sparkle can fix it, just like the Grinch”
“Sparkle was just mad because the gingerbread men ‘raped’ her up with some string…”
“What if you were Sparkle and got tied-up? Wouldn’t you eat them too?”
After the kids finished up their letters, I sent them directly to the office for Mr. Mauger to read. The kids eagerly awaited their appointment with Mr. Mauger at 11:00 that afternoon.
 
When our appointment time finally came and we entered the outer office, we could hear Mr. Mauger talking to Sparkle, which we captured on the following clip….
 
Oh the look on their faces!


So we all settled (i.e. squished) into Mr. Mauger’s office and prepared for our meeting. Now as probably know, Santa is crazy-busy and nearly impossible to get hold of this time of year. However, as you may not know, school principals have a “special line” that they can use for emergencies… and this definitely qualified!

So Mr. Mauger was able to reach Mrs. Claus, who apparently was handling all of the “behavior business” that particular day. Mr Mauger had apparently been so impressed with our letters that he’d decided to read them to Mrs. Claus!

You can see bits of our principal’s conversation with Mrs. Claus regarding Sparkle’s inappropriate behavior, below.


Tensions run high as the conversation continues….

 
You could have heard a pin drop during the phone conversation with Mrs. Claus. 
 
The kids await Mr. Mauger’s decision, as Sparkle’s fate hangs in the balance
Finally, after a long conversation with Mrs. Claus, and careful review of the kids’ heart-felt documentation regarding the reasons for Sparkle’s poor choices,  Sparkle was given another chance and was able to come back to our classroom for the remainder of December!

The kids were so proud of themselves and so happy they could help a friend. Through their writing, they were able to give Sparkle the Elf a voice and save her holiday!

 

I hope you enjoyed hearing about our unusual holiday writing adventure, as it’s part of my attempt to incorporate Common Core-rich lessons, while still including a little holiday magic!

With a supportive principal, amazing kiddos, and the Secret Stories under our belts, anything is possible! No challenge is too great for these kids! They are so confident in their ever-increasing abilities as readers and writers! 


Wishing Everyone a Happy Holiday!

Thank you to Mrs. Mac and her brilliant munchkins for this wonderful holiday post!

Now if this doesn’t take the cake for the sneakiest persuasive writing lesson EVER, I don’t know what would! What a fun and engaging way to motivate young writers… using ‘real-world’ (well, kind of ;) experiences that are personally meaningful to learners!

This is the perfect recipe for both developing and reinforcing these beginning skills sound skills for reading and writing! Thank you to Mrs. Mac & her Munchkins for sharing your fantastic adventure with us!

Until Next Time,
Katie :-)

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Click to Download the FREE Secret Stories® Mini-Sample Poster Pack!

 

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And we have READERS!!!!

My first graders are literally OBSESSED with the Secret Stories!
 


Hello again from Mrs. Mac and her munchkins!

We have so much to share with you and so little time to do so! Busy, busy, busy we are at this time of year, but my students have been hounding me to sneak on Katie’s blog again and brag about their growth.
“Mrs. Mac… 
We need to let the people know how we’re doing!!!” 
I have learned over the years to never argue with determined 1st graders, so let’s get right down to the bragging….

These kids are officially crazy-in-love with Secret Stories! 
I cannot get through a lesson without them freaking out because they’ve discovered a Secret Story ‘hiding’ in a word.. and they go literally insane if the word has more than one Secret in it!

Here are some of our super-exciting Secret Stories-moments…

In this first clip, the kids were so excited that we actually had to stop what we were doing that moment and come to the carpet, so that they could “work the word.”

Notice that they are holding their hands over their sweet little mouths, which is what they do whenever they notice more than one Secret Story in a word. This helps them “hold the Secret in” so that they don’t accidentally blurt it out (completely their idea!)  Aren’t they just adorable?

Spotting SECRETS in the word ‘dangerous!’

This class has some real performers in it, and I love to tap into their hidden talents as much as possible! Here are few future actors performing their favorite…… the ous Secret! 

When ou & s get together, poor little o is always left out, and so it’s just US!”

Secret Stories® Phonics "ous" Secret

We spent 30 minutes acting this out. They got so into it that they just didn’t want to stop!  Below is a clip of one of my favorite groups acting out the ous Secret…

 
My favorite time to share and hear Secret Stories is during guided reading. I love Guided Reading! I could listen to them read all day. Using the Secret Stories has completely changed my approach to teaching kids how to read. It literally took all the stress off my shoulders! 
I used to really stress when I came across a word that I knew they couldn’t sound-out or identify using picture-support, but now I know the “Secrets” for all of those tricky words…. and so do THEY!

Guided Reading is now stress-free (or at least as stress-free as a first grade classroom can be!) The following clips include children on a variety of different reading levels, as I wanted to show how knowing the “grown-up” reading & writing Secrets make cracking the code easy for ALL learners- regardless of their level!
So here are some very proud kiddos who couldn’t wait to share their Secrets with you.
Can you see the pride in their faces? 
 
Sneaky Y®, Mommy E®, and the ‘al’ Secrets!
The “ce/ci/cy” Secret

 

The “ay” and “ing” Secrets
 

And here is a clip from our very first Reader’s Theater Production. These kids couldn’t believe that they could read a 40 page play…. but they did! And they even made their own costumes (well, headbands) to help them “get into their parts!” 

Readers Theater

Now this next clip requires an introduction.

This little guy is just a love bug. He comes from the most amazing supportive family. I have a great relationship with his mommy, and she’s a regular mommy-helper in our classroom. She was initially very concerned about her little guy, as there had been a few rough experiences in the past, and like any loving parent, wanted her baby to be successful!

At the time I’d captured this video, his mommy had just walked in as I’d started recording, so I quickly shooed-her right back out! Look at the pride in his face when he discovered that he could not only read the “big” word on the page, but the WHOLE sentence, as well!

When his mommy saw this clip, she had tears… and this is just the beginning!!!
I’m so thrilled that I will get to share all of his continuing growth with all of YOU this year!

Spotting the ‘ar’ SECRET in the word ‘shark!’

And finally, I have one more beautiful moment to share.

This student came rushing to the guided reading table when I called her group. The words she said touched my heart. What had initially sold me on Secret Stories was the idea of teaching my kids to read in a ‘stress-free’ way.

I teach it because I love it and it works, but I’m not the only one who had a life-changing moment. Listen to Lana as she explains why she loves Secret Stories so much, and how it has changed her life.

The “ing” Secret—
Lana shares why she loves knowing the Secrets (This one’s my favorite!!!)
 
Well folks, thanks so much for taking a quick peek into our little classroom,
and I hope that these small glimpses will help inspire you own Secret Stories journey!

xoxoxo
Renee McAnulty

PS I want to thank Katie for allowing me to guest-blog!

This approach has fostered a new way of thinking about teaching kids to read that has truly changed my life. Thank you for making me a better teacher for my amazing kids!!!!
Until Next Time,
Katie Garner :-) 

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Katie Garner Secret Stories LinkedIN pageSecret Stories BlogSecret Stories Facebook PageSecret Stories Youtube PageSecret Stories TwitterSecret Stories PinterestSecret Stories Instagram
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Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
Try a “taste” of the Secrets with YOUR class 
and see the difference they make!
Click to Download the FREE Secret Stories® Mini-Sample Poster Pack!

 

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

 


Katie Garner Secret Stories Linkedin pageSecret Stories BlogSecret Stories Facebook PageSecret Stories Youtube PageSecret Stories TwitterSecret Stories PinterestSecret Stories Instagram

 

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