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Spotting Secrets EVERYWHERE!

 

FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchor Pack with Highlighted Phonics "Secrets!"
FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchor Posters

Can your kids spot the Secrets in text around your classroom? 

These free shape anchors with highlighted Secrets in the text will help them make the connection between the “secrets” they know about the letters and how they can help them to read (and write!) the words that they see every day in the classroom. You can download the entire pack FREE here! 
FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchor Pack with Highlighted Phonics "Secrets!"
FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchors!
FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchor Pack with Highlighted Phonics "Secrets!"
FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchors!

 

Secret Stories Mommy E® Phonics Secret
Mommy E® Pack on TpT
FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchor Pack with Highlighted Phonics "Secrets!"
FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchors!
Secret Stories Superhero Vowels®
Secret Stories® “Cornerstone” Secrets
FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchor Pack with Highlighted Phonics "Secrets!"
FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchors!
Secret Stories Babysitter Vowels®
Babysitter Vowels® on TPT
FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchor Pack with Highlighted Phonics "Secrets!"FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchor Pack with Highlighted Phonics "Secrets!"

 

FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchor Pack with Highlighted Phonics "Secrets!"
FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchors!
Secret Stories® Phonics Secret— ING, ANG, ONG, UNG
Secret Stories® Phonics “Original”— ING, ANG, ONG, UNG 
FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchor Pack with Highlighted Phonics "Secrets!"
FREE Secret Stories® Shape Anchors!

Spotting Secret Stories® in Math— The “ci” Phonics Secret!
Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets— CE, CI, CY/ GE, GI, GY
Secret Stories® CE, CI, CY/ GE, GI, GY

 

If you would like to try a FREE “taste” of the Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets, CLICK HERE! 
FREE Secret Stories® Phonics "Appetizer" Anchor Posters
FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets “Appetizer” Poster Pack
FREE Secret Stories® Phonics "Appetizer" Anchor Posters
FREE Secret Stories® Phonics "Appetizer" Anchor Posters
FREE Secret Stories® Phonics "Appetizer" Anchor Posters

 

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics "Appetizer" Anchor Posters
And to all those who subscribe to the Secret newsletter (or follow me on Instagram) you should have received the free download link for the Secret Stories® Calendar Secrets, which are similar to the Shape Anchors in that they also contain highlighted Secret Stories® phonics patterns in the text. Below are a few pictures from the pack, along with the link. But grab them fast, as they will won’t be in the free subscriber window much longer! 
Secret Stories® Phonics Calendar Secrets
Secret Stories® Calendar SECRETS!
Secret Stories® Phonics Calendar Secrets
Secret Stories® Phonics Calendar Secrets
Secret Stories® Phonics Calendar Secrets
Did you happen to notice in the calendar pics above that the letter Y appears to be making every sound possible except for the ONE SOUND that kindergartners and first graders would likely expect it to?
Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
That’s because there are “grown-up” reading and writing Secrets in those words! You can learn them here, and then check out the video clip (below) for more! I promise that it will make you “re-think” your “calendar time!”  
“The LIE About Y”
(and why we keep telling it in kindergarten and first grade!)
Secret Stories® Phonics BETTER Alphabet Anchors
Secret Stories® BETTER Alphabet Chart
(for use with the “Better Alphabet Song” for accelerated letter-sound mastery in 2 wks- 2 mos!)
And as for sound that Y makes in words like: May, play, day and they… that’s not Sneaky Y®, that’s ey/ay, and they are just too cool! 
 
Secret Stories® Phonics Secret— EY & AY are just "too cool!"
EY & AY are just too cool….. “Aaaayyyyyyeeeee!”
Just like this kindergarten teacher from Washington State who does a fantastic job bringing the “ey/ay” Secret to life in this video!

Secret Stories Phonics Secrets— The "Best Betting-Odds" in Las Vegas!
Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets— The “Best Betting-Odds” in Las Vegas!
I’ve said this before, but it always worth repeating! The prize for memorizing a sight word is ONE word…. but the prize for knowing one Secret is HUNDREDS of words!!! Secret Stories® give kids the “best betting-odds” in Las Vegas when it comes to predicting the most (and next most) likely sounds of letters in text…. like, for example, Y! Underscoring existing reading curriculum and instruction with the Secrets allows you to break down the grade level walls of phonics skill introduction that limit early learner-access to code— which they need ALL of to read and to write!
And the proof lies in the fact that all of the above sounds (i.e. Secrets) for Y (with the exception of “yuh”) fall on second grade’s scope and sequence for introduction (as per traditional core reading/phonics programs). Just think about that for a minute….. pretty ridiculous, huh?  We literally spend ALL YEAR LONG in kindergarten teaching and assessing kids on the ONE sound that the letter Y is the LEAST likely to make—“yuh!” They won’t learn its MOST likely sounds until the SECOND grade!!!!  So what are they supposed to do until then?  You guessed it! Memorize lots and lots of sight words!
But the good news (for kids who know the Secrets) is that you don’t have to memorize what you can READ!  And this is something that the first graders in this video know. They spot Secrets everywhere! In fact, they are finding so many in their guided reading, that they’re convinced that their book is “throwing-up” Secrets…..


When you spot SO many Secrets, 
it’s like the book is just “throwing them up!”

 

Until Next Time,
Katie Garner :-)
Katie Garner Education Author and Featured Keynote Speaker

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Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets
Try a “taste” of the Secrets with YOUR class 
and see the difference they make!
Click to Download the FREE Secret Stories® Mini-Sample Poster Pack!

 

Katie Garner Education Keynote Speaker and Secret Stories® Phonics Author
For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 

 


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Secret Stories® Phonics — Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in Mind!

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The 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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Katie Garner Secret Stories LinkedIN pageSecret Stories BlogSecret Stories Facebook PageSecret Stories Youtube PageSecret Stories TwitterSecret Stories PinterestSecret Stories Instagram
Secret Stories Banner

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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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 :-) 

Never Miss a Secret! Subscribe to the Newsletter! 

 


Katie Garner Secret Stories LinkedIN pageSecret Stories BlogSecret Stories Facebook PageSecret Stories Youtube PageSecret Stories TwitterSecret Stories PinterestSecret Stories Instagram
Secret Stories Banner
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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The more tools learners bring to the table, the more value they are able to take away…

In order for learners to take full advantage of the daily literacy experiences we provide in the classroom, they must be given access to as much of the “code” as possible, as soon as possible!
Knowing just 26 letter sounds and a handful of sight words doesn’t get you very far in reading OR writing, even in Kindergarten! I mean, seriously, how much could YOU write with only 26 individual letter sounds and 10 sight wordsNot to mention, how much could you actually READ? (Note that I said “read,” not memorize!)
Secret Stories® Phonics — Accelerating Early Learner Access to the WHOLE Phonics Code!
No matter how many rich, literacy activities and experiences we provide daily for students in our classrooms, they are of minimal value to those without enough skills to fully partake in them!
Secret Stories® Phonics Posters— The "ph" Secret!

Easy!  Just toss out some Secrets!


FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Mini-Poster Anchors "Appetizer" Pack!
FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Mini-Poster Anchors “Appetizer” Pack!

In conjunction with my guest posts on Mrs. Jump’s Class Blog, let’s take a peek at some KINDERGARTEN writing and see how knowing the phonics Secrets maximizes the “instructional-bang” for the buck in their writing!

As stated at the top of this post, the more tools (i.e. “pieces of the code”) that early learners bring to the table, the more value they take away from daily reading and writing experiences. So why delay divvy-out “bits & pieces” like a waitress when you could share all of the reading and writing Secrets they need on a BUFFET?

Secret Stories® Phonics — "Don't be a "phonics-waitress".....Build a BUFFET!!"
 “Don’t be a “phonics-waitress”…..Build a BUFFET!!”

Secret Stories® Phonics — Kindergarten Writing with "ay/ey" and "ou/ow" Secrets!
 

Notice the “ay” Secret in the word play, above? Watch the video clip below to see how EASY it is to teach…
and notice the Sneaky Y® Secret in the smartly-spelled word batterey in the sample, below. 
Secret Stories® Phonics — Kindergarten Writing with Sneaky Y® and "er, ir, ur" Secrets!
 

The er, ir ur Secret is easy-peasy to teach….
….and even EASIER to learn, as this little kindergartner demonstrates, below!

 
And then there’s the ar-Secret with Superhero A!
Secret Stories® Phonics — Kindergarten Writing with "ar" and "ie" Secrets!

 

Notice in the last two samples above, the Outlaw Words, one and there, depicted as “mug-shots” for posting on the class Word Jail (the Secret Stories®-version of a “Word Wall”)
Learn the trick for reading words like was, want, from, of, come, love, some, from, etc... with the "Head-Bop" Trick for Fickle Vowels!
Learn the trick for reading words like was, want, from, of, come, love, some, from, etc…
with the “Head-Bop” Trick for Fickle Vowels!

The Secret Stories® Word Jail is reserved for words that are truly “un-figure-outable”…. not random sight words, as most are easily decodable for learners who know the Secrets…. even in kindergarten!

Secret Stories® Phonics — Stanford Brain Study on Sight Words— "No More Memorizing!"
For more on writing with the Secrets, check out the video below and download the FREE Secret Writing Pack underneath!
FREE Secret Stories® Phonics "Zoo Keeper" Strategy Pack for Beginning Writers!
FREE Secret Stories® “Zoo Keeper” Strategies for Beginning Writers
Kids can’t read OR write about their pet mouse with only 26 individual letter sounds and a handful of sight words! They need ALL of the code to do ANYTHING with it, and from the earliest possible grade levels! Check out these kindergartners and see how easy it is to break down those grade level walls that delay learner access to the code!
My kids are OBSESSED with the Secret Stories!!
Mrs. Mac’s students, looking up the “ie” Secret in the SECRET STORIES book! 
(She hadn’t shared that one yet, but the kids said they needed it NOW!!!)

I received the series of short video clips from Mrs. Mac and her class on Halloween, along with the very excited caption- “And we have READERS!!!” 

 
For more posts by Mrs. Mac, click herehere, here and here!
And if you would like to try sharing Secrets with your students, you can download this mini-poster “appetizer” pack FREE! 
Free Phonics Posters by Secret Stories
FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Mini-Poster Pack
Until Next Time,
Katie :-)

Never Miss a Secret! Subscribe to the Newsletter! 


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

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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“But NINE other people were doing it too!”

As September draws to a close, that initial excitement over “going back to school” begins to wear off.

Most students by now have become acclimated to their new routine and the increased learning and behavior expectations in their new classroom.  But for those who haven’t, the behavior and/ or progress notes continue to be sent home, prompting conversations like the one below…
“But NINE other people were doing it too!”

This is my younger daughter, Emma (when in first grade) doing her best to stand up to my “teacher-mommy” grilling about her red behavior note, sent home at around this same time of year.  It was so hard to keep a straight face! I gave her a big hug at the end (although it’s cut off) for finally coming clean about what had really happened, and I’m happy to say that she never again hid a behavior note! (though it would be several more weeks before she finally stopped earning them! :)

Aside from showing that it’s harder to justify your behavior note when your mom is a teacher,  this video also demonstrates the importance of trust between teacher and parent, specifically in regard to the feedback provided regarding concerns about their child’s progress in the classroom.

It always seems that it’s around this time that the honeymoon-stage comes to an end, prompting bubbles to burst, and tempers to flare.

This is why it’s so very important that we continue to reinforce to our parents (especially at the early grades) that we truly are all in this together and that either everybody wins or everybody loses.

Even the most experienced teachers can feel frustrated when the “thoughtfully written, time-consuming, and well-intentioned” note sent home, detailing a student’s behavior or academic progress, is met with an accusatory response or angry rebuttal.

Parents don’t always realize that it takes a tremendous amount of time for teachers to provide them with detailed, written accounts of situations regarding their child, (like the one received from my daughter’s teacher, above) especially on an ongoing basis, but as teachers, we know that these communications are critical to student success.

Even our most well-intentioned correspondence, however, is likely to be met with animosity until trust has been established.

Secret Stories® Phonics — Notes Home

So here are just a couple of simple tips that I’ve found work wonders to build and maintain parent-trust!

Give parents your personal phone number! 

While this may seem counter-intuitive, it’s actually a powerful show of trust, and one that parents who haven’t yet gotten to know you (especially at the earliest grade levels) truly appreciate.

And don’t worry…..most of your parents won’t even use it!  Knowing that they have it is enough.

For those parents who do call, they are the ones who would have otherwise “stewed all day and night” over something that is easily clarified or handled!  Their being able to call you immediately means that you (or your administrator!) will not be dealing with a gigantic mess the following school day!

Implement an “open-door” policy when it comes to your parent volunteers in your classroom!

Most classroom teachers have designated days and times each week during which parents may sign-up in advance to come and volunteer in their classroom.

My policy was a little simpler… “Anyone, anytime, any day!” 

While this may sound like a nightmare waiting to happen, it’s actually just the opposite!
The natural concern is that when given the option, the most difficult parents may never leave! 

Surprisingly, those are the parents that rarely, if ever, actually come!
Presumably, because they can, which means that there are no “hidden secrets” for them to find out.

And those who do come, even for just for a few minutes here or there, can actually play a huge role in increasing student-momentum in both reading and writing!

My parents knew they were welcome in our classroom any time to volunteer, which most often involved their working with individual students or small groups on instructional-level text.

My volunteer corner was set up as an extension of our guided reading groups, with each student’s group reading material contained in a folder with their name, and marked by color to indicate the “like-level” student groupings.  As student reading levels continued to advance at varying rates, the groups were flexible and constantly changing.

Volunteers were able to walk in and without direction, pull either single students or groups (depending on who was available and what our class was doing at the time) with which to work.  It was easy to keep track of “with whom and when” each student had last worked with a simple sign-in/ tracking-sheet that volunteers would fill-out each time they came.

Using parent volunteers as an extension of daily guided group reading ensured that student folders were always ready to go and up-to-date, with each student’s most current level reading material already in place!

Secret Stories® Phonics— Volunteers for Reading Group

And speaking of “increasing student-momentum in reading and writing” …

In my last post, I shared some video clips of a first-grade class who’d just begun using the Secrets,  and doing their best impressions of the Superhero Vowels® & Mommy e®, so to wrap up today’s post, I want to share this clip of the same group of first graders, who have now progressed to identifying the Secrets!

Mrs. Mac’s first-graders singing”Where Is” from the SECRET STORIES CD 
(using Secret Stories® Porta-Pics for individual student reference & easy home use!)
 
Secret Stories® Phonics "Porta-Pics" for Individual Student Reference & Home Use
 
The SECRET STORIES® Musical Brainteasers are designed to mimic the decoding and encoding processes, as students must rapidly sing from ‘sound to symbol’  and ‘symbol to sound” via a variety of progressively difficult and constantly-changing song manipulations.

 

….and here’s a group of Kinder-Intervention students singing the ‘short & lazy’ vowel sounds!
CLICK HERE TO WATCH

 

Until Next Time,
Katie :-)

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FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Mini-Poster Sample Anchors
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!

 

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Yes! It IS possible to teach those tricky long and short vowel sounds in just 5 minutes, if you know how to cheat the brain!

Secret Stories Superhero Vowels® and their Short & Lazy Sound Disguises!

Learn all about the “BETTER Alphabet Song” for fast-tracking individual letter sounds, plus the Superhero Vowels® (and their short & lazy sounds!) for easy retrieval of those hard short vowel sounds!

When memories are supported by greater coordination between different parts of the brain, it’s a sign that they are going to last longer. The greater the distribution of signaling, the stronger the memory takes hold in our brain. Secret Stories® triggers multiple areas of the brain to engage simultaneously, sparking what is referred to as “multi-layered” memories for deeper learning and easier skill retrieval.

Brain Based Reading Tricks!

What’s “Used Together Becomes Fused Together” in the Brain!

 

Secret Stories® Phonics "Secrets"— Loopholes for Learning!

This week, I am excited to welcome back Renee McAnulty (a.k.a. “Mrs. Mac”) who’s been kind enough to take time out of her busy “beginning of the year” schedule to do a guest blog post with her new crop of first graders as she starts with the Secrets!  (And in-conjunction with her post, I want to also dive more deeply into some “loopholes for learning” that brain science provides, so keep an eye out for brain-icon (shown on the left) with these red text-blurbs!

“But Mrs. Mac, we don’t have TIME to go home!”

A Guest Post By Renee McAnulty

Secret Stories® Phonics "Secrets"— Loopholes for Learning!
Mrs. Mac’s First Graders Discovering the Secrets!

Happy “New School Year” Folks! 
I hope this post finds you well and enjoying a great start to a brand new year with your own new munchkins! The title of this post is actually a quote from one of my adorable kiddos at the end of the first school day, following my announcement that it was time to go home. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all there was to do in this brand new first grade classroom, one of my sweet little boys said, “….but Mrs. Mac, we don’t have time to go home!” Now while I might feel this way on a regular basis, hearing one of my little guys actually say it out loud just made my whole week… so of course, I wanted to share it here with you!

After a long summer, I was actually excited to come back and to meet my new class! And I was even more excited to start telling them the Secrets that would transform them into successful readers and writers! I was literally having “Secret Stories-withdraw!” I was actually thinking over the summer about what my next guest blog post should be, based on the feedback and questions I’d received from my last one,  and then it hit me! What is the one question I am constantly asked, “Where do I start?!?!” (And if you want to watch Katie talking about this, you can check out her official “How-To” for Starting with the Secrets here, or by clicking on the video, below.)

So with this in mind, I thought I would invite you to take a peek into our humble little classroom and meet my amazing new bunch of munchkins! They really are ADORABLE, and of my thirty new first graders, I currently have just two that have been identified as “readers.”
That said, my goal for this school year is to take you deeper into the process of using Secret Stories® from the very beginning of the year to the very end, as I share with you my students’ progress. I know that Katie has said this many times (and you will also see it said many times in my posts) that there is no “wrong way” to share the Secrets! They are simply the “tools” kids need to read and to write and are easily tailored to meet the needs of you and your students. Secrets are shared whenever and wherever they are needed—which at the primary grade levels will literally be ALL day long!
You will see what the Secrets look like, as well as how we use them in whole group and small group instruction, during Daily 5 and Cafe, and of course, during guided reading. Throughout our year together, we will be applying the Secrets to crack text in almost everything that we do! We will leave “no stone unturned” when it comes to all of the crazy sounds that letters can make, especially when they get together, as now we know the Secrets that explain their “misbehaviors!”

So sit back, relax…. and we will show you how we get started…..

The “Better Alphabet Song” for Individual Letter Sound Mastery

First up is the Better Alphabet Song, which you can watch my class doing, as well as hear Katie talk more about it in the video at the top of this post, as well as in the short video clip, below. One quick note though, IGNORE (read “Don’t do!) the Zoo Phonics hand motions, as these were a carry-over from earlier in the year before we started Secret Stories. Allowing the kids to do the motions with the Better Alphabet Song actually ended up hurting more than helping, as the key to fast-tracking the letter sounds with the Better Alphabet Song is for kids to have their eyes “glued” to the letters AS they are singing their sounds. It is this visual connection, in addition to the muscle memory retrieval of the sounds that cements skill transfer for reading and writing. The random animal motions/gestures from Zoo Phonics actually distracted their visual focus on the letters as I was pointing to them, which disrupted the “sound to symbol/ symbol to sound” connection that they needed to use the letters to read and write words. Plus, they didn’t need them anyway, as they were no longer having to think about the sounds the letters made, as they were already in their muscle memory! The only exception is with the Superhero Vowels and their short & lazy sound-cues/gestures, as those ARE actually important, as they immediately prompt the otherwise “vague” sounds of the short vowels and make them super easy for kids to get!
With our  Zoo Phonics Song, it could take up to one year for some kids to acquire all of the individual letter sounds, whereas with the Better Alphabet Song, it took LESS THAN ONE MONTH! But, the secret is in the “eye glue” and “muscle mouth!” Kids have to always “SEE what you SING, and SING what they SEE” so that they are ready for use in reading and writing! Katie talks about the importance of this “See It/Say It” connection in the video below, as she describes how the Better Alphabet uses muscle memory to fast-track individual letter sound mastery to 2-weeks to 2-months. 
What’s great about Secret Stories® is that you can use it with literally anything that’s already in place. It just makes whatever you’re already using that much MORE effective….  like times TEN!! (Secret Stories® ultimately eliminated a lot of the “stuff” that was no longer needed, as my kids didn’t have to “practice” what they could already read… which leaves more time for the FUN stuff, like actually using the Secrets to read and to write!) 

Click here for more Superhero Vowels® “Door-Decor!”

Secret Stories Superhero Vowels


 The Superhero Vowels® and their ‘Short & Lazy’ Sound-Disguises 

Stories Act as Strong “Memory-Holding” Templates in the Brain


Superhero A and His ‘Short & Lazy’ Sound-Disguise

Secret Stories® Phonics "Secrets"— The Superhero Vowels®
 Superhero Vowels® “a”
(and his “short & lazy” sound!)
Secret Stories® Guided Reader— My Classmates

Superhero E and His ‘Short & Lazy’ Sound-Disguise


Secret Stories® Phonics "Secrets"— The Superhero Vowels®

Superhero E 
(and her “short & lazy” sound!)
Secret Stories “Fun & Funky” Posters

Superhero I and His ‘Short & Lazy’ Sound-Disguise

Secret Stories® Phonics "Secrets"— The BETTER Alphabet Anchors
Superhero I
(and his “short & lazy” sound!)

Secret Stories® BETTER Alphabet Anchor

Superhero U and His ‘Short & Lazy’ Sound-Disguise

Secret Stories® Phonics "Secrets"— The Superhero Vowels®
Superhero U
(and his “short & lazy” sound!)
Secret Stories Superhero Vowels® & More! 

Superhero O and His ‘Short & Lazy’ Sound-Disguise

Secret Stories Superhero Vowels® Headbands
Superhero O
(and her “short & lazy” sound!)
Secret Stories Superhero Vowels® Headbands

Secret Stories® Phonics "Secrets"— Loopholes for Learning

Secret Stories® targets the earlier-developing and more readily accessible affective (feeling) networks for short vowel sound mastery by engaging learners in dramatic actions/feelings-based cues/gestures that literally “land” them in the sounds! In this way, it becomes possible to bypass areas of inherent early (and struggling, upper-grade/ELL) learner weakness (i.e. auditory processing, articulation, language delays etc…) and tap into alternative areas of strength. 

This “backdoor-to-the-brain” approach to skill mastery is a hallmark of Secret Stories® and is just one of the ways that it accelerates early learner-access to the code, starting in PreK!



One of the great things about encouraging the kids to tell and retell the Secrets is that doing so provides continuous opportunities for everyone—high, medium and low-level learners— to pick them up and start using them at their own pace. While my more experienced students immediately
“get” the short vowel sounds by simply retelling the story (some of which are literal 
dissertations!) my slower (and non-native English speakers) are actually accessing the short vowel sounds from a different place, relying more strongly on the visuals (posters) and dramatic action cues/gestures to retrieve the sounds.

The bottom line?  
ALL of my babies get the sounds!
The Secrets are like little “bridges” that all of my little ones can easily and effortlessly find their way across— regardless of developmental readiness issues, academic level, language background or past experience… and that’s why they’re so AMAZING!!! The kids never tire of telling the Secrets and literally talk about them all day long…. which is actually one of the reasons I love Secret Stories® so much, as like most first grade classes at the beginning of the school year, my kids are academically “all over the map!” I am also in a very transient area where students are moving in and out throughout the school year, making it extremely difficult to catch them up on all of the reading/phonics skills they don’t have/missed. Using the Secrets have made this a non-issue, as any skills (i.e. Secrets)they missed will continue to be shared and re-shared throughout the year, as we use them to crack text every day!

Secret Stories® Phonics "Secrets"— Loopholes for Learning
“What’s used together is fused together in the brain!” Secret Stories® multi-sensory approach to phonics skill instruction activates auditory (story), visual (graphics),  physical/kinesthetic (cues/gestures) and affective (feeling-based) learning channels to forge deeper connections between otherwise meaningless skill concepts. 
 
Secret Stories® activates multiple areas of the brain simultaneously,  triggering the formation of multi-layered memories, which are supported in different parts of the brains and naturally easier to retrieve. Research shows the “greater the distribution of signaling between different parts of the brain, the stronger the memory takes hold,” which is why each time they tell a Secret,  it becomes more deeply embedded within them!
Prompting Formation of Multi-Layered Memories with Multi-Sensory Instruction 

Mommy E® (a.k.a. Silent E)

For me, the Mommy E® Secret has been gift from God, as my biggest challenge as a first grade teacher has always been trying to teach the kids to differentiate between long and short vowels in their writing—  a challenge that I am sure many of you can relate to, as well!
After teaching them the long vowel sounds with silent e, my kids would add a silent e to everything, ALL THE TIME, which drove me absolutely crazy! But now that they know the Mommy E® Secret, this is no longer a problem, as now it just makes SENSE!
Secret Stories® Mommy E® Secret— Loopholes for Learning!
Secret Stories Mommy E® Digital Pack on TpT

 

Secret Stories® Phonics Book Version 2.0!
Secret Stories® Book Version 2.0!
Kids can relate to the idea that “When the cats away, the mice will play”….. or in Secret Stories terms, “when Mommy E® is away, the vowels will play,” which means that they will be “short and lazy,” rather than stand up tall and say their name! (You can watch Katie explain the Mommy E® Secret here, and then watch my little ones share their version, just below!)

FREE Secret Stories® Common Core Literacy Posters for PreK-3rd!
Secret Stories Mommy E®-support in the FREE Common Core Literacy 
Poster Sets for Grades PreK-3rd 

Phonics Transfer to Writing

Using Writing as a “Window” into the Mind of a Reader

One trick that we use all the time that I want to share is how we transfer the Secrets into our writingApplying the Secrets in writing from the very beginning really helps the kids grasp the inherent connection between reading and writing— one that beginning readers don’t naturally perceive.

My little trick is called “Chin-In” and the kids love it! The process is simple…
I ask students to draw three lines (on individual white boards, paper, etc…) and then I give them a three-letter word, like cut.  I then ask them to segment-out and write each of the letter sounds they hear on a different line, reminding“there are three letters in the word and that is why we made three lines.” After the kids have finished writing the sounds they hear on the lines, they cover their word so no one else sees it. Then, when I say “Chin it!” they all hold up their words so that I can see them. This allows me to see right away who understands how to apply the Secret and who doesn’t.

Quick, easy, and to the point! All I have to do is make some quick notes, and BAM!  I know with whom and on what I can work in small groups!

Secret Stories Phonics Mommy E® "Secret!"
“Chinning-It!”

When I teach the Mommy E® Secret, I have the kids draw FOUR lines, telling them, “The last line is for Mommy!” They know when Mommy E® is at the end of a word (or one letter away from another vowel, where she can easily reach it!) she will always make the vowel do what it should and say its name!

Secret Stories Phonics Mommy E® "Secret!"

The four lines for Mommy E® words serve as a visual reminder that there can be letters in words that you don’t hear. This is a tremendous help, especially with  ELL and non-readers, as they all LOVE to draw the arrow from the Mommy E® to the vowel that she’s telling to say its name!

As a super bonus, Katie includes a list of words in the back of the Secret Stories book for each Secret sound/letter pattern. These lists are great! Not only for measuring student proficiency with specific Secrets in guided group, but also as a sort of Secret Word Bank from which you can quickly pull words for targeted activities or instruction, like the Mommy E one with my class, above.

Secret Stories Phonics Book Version 2.0— Mommy E® Secret Words!
Secret Stories® Book Version 2.0! 
Although I always try to use examples from the words around our classroom and in text that we read, the lists in the back of Secret Stories® book do come in super-handy when my mind draws a blank and I’m unable to think of words to reinforce a specific Secret!  

Secret Stories Phonics Mommy E® "Secret!"

Babysitter Vowels® (a.k.a. “Open Syllable vs. Closed Syllable”)

The most beautiful thing about this logical learning process is that I get to see these babies grow so quickly from writing and spelling simple three and four-letter words, to writing multi-syllabic words with “10 letters-plus” in a matter of only a few months!

And I waste no time in extending the Secret they know about Mommy E® with the one about the Babysitter Vowels®, which catapults their reading and writing to a whole new level! Kids in kindergarten understand the Babysitter Vowels® just as easily as they do Mommy E® because they are both based on the same “Do what mommy (or the babysitter) says!” …..even if they aren’t yet ready to understand it in “V-C-V / V-C-C-V” terms!

The Superhero Vowels®, Mommy E®, Babysitter Vowels® (and Sneaky Y®, which I didn’t talk about, but you can read about here!) are what Katie refers to in her sessions as “high-leverage” Secrets, as they provide beginning readers and writers with SO much bang for the instructional-buck! You can watch her speak about these in the video clip below and then start playing around with these in your classroom, too!

And thanks to Katie’s ongoing invitation to post here throughout this school year, I’ll have the chance  to share our amazing transformation into “grown-up” readers, writers and spellers with all of you!

Thanks so much for reading, and I look forward to answering your questions, so please post them!!!
Sincerely,
Mrs. Mac

The Secret Stories® "BETTER" Alphabet Mini-Mats
This is me with my “BETTER Alphabet” Mini-Mat! LoL!
 
I want to thank Mrs. Mac SO MUCH for sharing so many of the wonderful things that she does in her classroom, and I can’t wait to watch how her class grows as readers and writers over the course of the year! 
 
And for all those who don’t have the Secret Stories® but would like to try them, you can download the mini-poster sample pack free by clicking on the picture below.
Free Phonics Posters by Secret Stories
FREE Secret Stories® Mini-Poster Sample Pack
You can also check out the Secrets of the Superhero Vowels® & MORE! Bundle on TpT, which includes all of the Superhero Vowels® graphics in multiple size options, as well as Mommy E®,  Sneaky Y® and the Babysitter Vowels®—all of which impact the sounds that the vowels make in words.
Secret Stories® "SECRETS of the Superhero Vowels® & More!" Bundle
The Secret Stories “Superhero Vowels® & MORE!” Digital Bundle
The “bundled-pack” even includes all of the anchors that are contained in the Beethoven Blends “Blender Pack” so as to provide additional practice by incorporating the blends with the changing vowel sounds. 
The Superhero Vowels® & MORE Bundle is the best way to get started with the Secrets, and it’s also a great way to supplement the Secret Stories® Classroom Kit for those already using them! Like all of the digital Secret Stories® pieces on TpT, the graphics can be reproduced in various size options for use as needed, both in and outside of the classroom—from centers to home use/practice!
Secret Stories® Phonics "Fun & Funky" Classroom Kit
Secret Stories Phonics Classroom Kit (“Funk & Funky” style)

Once you start telling Secrets, there will be no turning back— for you OR your students! They will start questioning EVERYTHING about letters and the sounds that they make…. because they know that you have  ALL their Secrets! Whenever and wherever your students spot letters not doing what they should, they will demand to know its “secret”..so be prepared!

Just after finishing this post, I received the following from Mrs. Mac….

A “Post-Script” from Mrs. Mac

Katie,

I had to share!
Today was the first day that the Secret Stories showed up in their writing INDEPENDENTLY!!!! 
I had three different students raise their hand as if it were an emergency— one had discovered a Sneaky Y while writing the word tricky, and the other two heard and identified the “er” and “ir” Secrets when writing the words dirty and number ……. And sooooo it begins….(insert evil laugh here) ;) 

And this is exactly why I love Mrs. Mac…. she gets AS excited as her kiddos! She is truly their biggest cheerleader and her enthusiasm for reading and writing is contagious!!!!
Until Next Time,
Katie :-)
Katie Garner — Education Speaker and Literacy Consultant

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Katie Garner Education Author and Keynote Speaker/ Literacy Consultant
For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 

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First Graders Offended By School News Article!

"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"

Last month, I shared a post (here) written by first grade teacher, Renee McAnulty from Hesperia, California. Her candid description of the challenges she faced with her class at the beginning of the school year generated TONS of questions, comments, and emails from teachers with similar classroom situations and experiences.

I’m excited to share this second post by Mrs. McAnulty about the “unexpected consequences” of having taught the Secrets to her first grade class!

“First Graders Offended By School News Article!” 
An Exercise in Persuasive Writing
 
By Renee McAnulty & Her 1st Grade Munchkins

The day started just as any day would. My happy, joyful, busy, and near-the-end-of-the-school-year kids were getting ready for Daily 5. They grabbed their Daily 5 folders, bookmarks, and went to pull out their book bags… but wait…they had no books!!! Being the end of the year, we had to return them back to the library. Great.

Well, if there is one thing I have learned in my years of teaching, it’s that great teachers improvise. So I calmed my panicked babies and told them I had something incredibly special for them to read during “Read to Self” and “Read to Someone” and that they were going to flip out.

So they began high-fiving each other and shouting cheers of joy and celebration while I frantically searched around the classroom for something, anything, that they could read… they didn’t know that I was winging it… there had to be something they could read that was still in the classroom.

Then I spotted it, shining down from the heavens above… a stack of hot-off-the-press school newspapers. “The Howler! It’s perfect,” I thought. “They can read this. They will love it!” So I gasped loudly so my students sensed my excitement. I told them I had the most wonderful thing in the entire world that they would be able to read… their very own, big kid SCHOOL NEWSPAPER!

“Boys and girls, because of Secret Stories, you now know how to read big kid things. This is a perfect opportunity for you to use your newly found superpowers and read this paper.” One would have thought that I passed out ice cream at that moment. The kids started screaming and yelling with excitement, anxious to read this mysterious, and previously ‘intimidating’, big-kid newspaper.

I started passing them out and the kids got even more excited because pictured on the front of the newspaper was a picture of our beloved school mascot, Rocky the Coyote. “I can’t wait to read about Rocky,” some of my students shrieked. And I’m thinking to myself, “I’m amazing! I can’t believe I thought of this on such a whim. And I can’t believe my first graders can read an actual newspaper! What could possibly go wrong?” At this point. I am so high on my cloud and nothing could bring me down… or at least I thought.

I turned my kids loose for Daily 5 and they knew exactly what to do. I watched in awe as my sweet babies were traveling to “Word Working” centers, “Work on Writing” centers and “Listening Centers”. I watched with tears of happiness as my “Read to Selves” are grabbing their Nooks and pulling up their texts INDEPENDENTLY and reading right away.

When I glanced over to the “Read to Someone” group, the had their newspapers clenched tightly in their sweet, little fingers. The excitement is radiating through their faces as they read their newspaper. I can hear the others say, ”Oh, I can’t wait until “Read to Someone” so I can read my newspaper”.

This is a teacher’s dream. We had come so far this year, and it’s always good to enjoy the fruits of our labor. As the kids worked feverishly, it was time for me to get down to business. I was a ‘free’ teacher right then, and I was all set to finish up my end of the year DRA’s in peace as the kids were happy. Life was perfect.

So I sat down at my reading table and called over the first child. Now, my kids know my Golden Rule during Guided Reading and/or DRA’s, and that is, “Unless you are bleeding, or your head has suddenly popped off your body, you do not interrupt me… at all!!”

So there I sat, testing away happily thinking how amazing these kids were when I started to hear a small ruckus developing from the “Read to Someone” kids. I thought nothing of it at first, but noticed that group had started to recruit other kids over to their group. I noticed that “Word Workers” and “Read to Selfers” were sneaking back to their desks to retrieve their newspapers, too.

I quickly called for order, “Boys and girls! My goodness, this is so sad. Get back to your stations until you hear the chimes. Then you can switch to your next station.” Disappointed, the kids get back to work. They know to not argue when Mrs. Mac is testing.

Well, the chimes rang and it was time to rotate. I got a bit suspicious when I noticed how fast the kids were switching to the next rotation. Especially, the “Read to Someone” group. They zoomed to their desks and grabbed their articles and immediately found their partners, which was becoming more of a mini-mob instead of partners, but you pick and choose your battles. They were reading and on task, and I had DRA’s to do.

About 7 minutes into this rotation, I started to hear a commotion coming from the “Read to Someone” s again. This time I looked up and saw kids in complete chaos. Kids from all rotations were literally crying and pointing to an article in the newspaper. Kids were consoling and embracing each other. “Don’t worry,” said one of my munchkins, “Mrs. Mac is almost done with this DRA, we’ll get to the bottom of this.” Needless to say, they officially had my attention now.

I jumped from my seat and raced over to the hysterical kiddos. “Oh, babies, what’s wrong?!” With tears streaming from down their cheek, and anger in their voices, they proceeded to tell me that they were “offended” by this “horrible article”. (Exact words) “How can they say such lies about our Rocky?!” another child yelled. “They are nothing but fibbers!” said another. What on earth were they talking about?

At that moment, my students grabbed me by the hand and led me to a spot on the carpet. “You better sit down, Mrs Mac, this is awful news.” They started reading, in unison, this article to me. They were crying and emphasizing the parts that were upsetting them. It was the cutest, yet saddest, yet most exciting moment of my career. THEY WERE READING… and reading well, with inflection in their voices.

The article was about our school mascot Rocky. He is a lovable coyote who shows up at all of our school’s events. The kids love him and he is a huge part of our school. The school news team had written an article, “Who is the REAL Rocky?” insinuating that our mascot was not really a coyote, but a person in a costume!

Now, one might think, “Hey, what’s the big deal about that?” But when you are 6 and 7 years-old, and have magical elves, gingerbread men, and leprechauns visit your classroom on a regular basis, you see Rocky as Rocky… He’s a coyote— our coyote. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Sure, Rocky can be anywhere from 5’4” to 6’2″, but my babies never noticed those details. They just cared that he showed up when they needed him.

The article made accusations that maybe Rocky was our former Assistant Principal, or even Batman, or a ghost. “We need to bring this to Mr. Mauger (our principal) immediately!” yelled several students. So, we sent over a few representatives to bring this to his attention.

Meanwhile, I ended Daily 5 and called the kids back to their seats to have a discussion. They expressed their concerns and how “offended” they were. We then talked about how they could appropriately address this situation, being the highly educated first graders that they were now. One of the student’s raised their hand, “We can write letters to the editor!” ….. “YES!!! Let’s do that right now!” the kids shouted.

I’m sorry, did my six-year-olds just ask to write letters to the editor, or was I dreaming? At this point, they had taken over completely. My paper passers took the liberty to pass out papers to each of the students. Team leaders started giving directions to underline offending sentences in the article. And I’m just standing there in utter amazement, watching this unfold before my eyes.

These same kids could not read the word “the” at the beginning of the year, let alone a sentence. Now they were analyzing a newspaper article and responding to the editor… ON THEIR OWN!! Was this the Twilight Zone? No, I was witnessing the power of Secret StoriesWith the Secrets, they could figure out almost any word, not just the basic sight words—which meant that they actually enjoyed reading. They could sit back and focus on what the words actually meant, rather than on what sounds the letters make. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. 

Then, in walked my principal. He had just finished up his emergency meeting with our upset first graders in his office and wanted to address the class. The students immediately read their responses that they had just finished writing. They proudly showed him the underlined sentences that were “offensive.”

Mr. Mauger and I were fighting to hold back smiles, since this was a very serious matter to them. He calmed them down and explained that the article was an “opinion piece” and that, of course, we all believe that Rocky is Rocky. As their little faces slowly started to smile again and the tears started to dry, faith was once again regained in our society. Then Mr. Mauger looked at me said, “This is amazing.” My response? “I wish I could take credit, but this was all them.”

This amazingly perfect lesson was never planned. It was not in my teacher’s manual, and it will probably never happen again. It was driven solely by the kids’ passion to read. I had done nothing but give them the tools they needed to be successful. They, in turn, used those tools to create something amazing that never in a million years would I have ever thought possible from a class of 6 and 7-year-olds. And that is why Secret Stories will forever be the lifeblood of our classroom.

A Principal’s Perspective

Our first graders were very upset by the implication in our school newspaper that our mascot Rocky is anything other than an actual coyote.

The sixth graders who wrote the article about our mascot theorized that perhaps Rocky was a former school employee in a costume, or maybe a ghost?  Naturally, the first graders were appalled and felt the need to express their displeasure by writing letters to the editor.

The simple fact that six-year-olds would WANT to write in the first place is impressive, let alone view it as an authentic, everyday strategy to make your opinions heard. And did they ever! A Principal's Perspective on Secret Stories® Phonics

Because of the Secret Stories® and our first grade teachers’ emphasis on applying the Secrets to writing (as well as reading) the kids’ letters were not limited to simple statements like “We are mad!” On the contrary, our first graders were tossing around words like “unacceptable, offended, and apologize,” and even if the spelling wasn’t perfect, their message rang out loud and clear.

Knowing the Secrets gave them access to phonics skills that our reading series did not, allowing them to write what they genuinely wanted to say, and prove that they were well on their way to becoming highly proficient writers down the road.

Most impressive to me however, was the charm and compassion that was reflected in their writing, as evidenced by one little girl, who after writing five sentences of complete disgust and disdain for the slanderous journalists, still closed her letter with a simple, “Love, Kaylee.” (Because it’s possible to be really, really mad and someone and still love them!)

Kind of makes you want to say “aw” …. or is it “au?”Secret Stories® Phonics Poster au/aw

My little first graders with the “offending” article…

"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"
Posing with the upsetting article.  Just look at that passion on their faces.

 
"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"
Students underlining and writing their responses to the article.


And just look at these faces…..

"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"

 

"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"

 

"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"
 
Some “letters to the editor” written by some of my babies…. 
"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"

 

"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"

 

"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"

 

"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"

 

"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"

 

"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"

 

"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"

 

"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"

 

"First Graders Offended By School News Article!"
I hope you enjoyed this little peek into our crazy classroom!
Love,
Katie Garner Secret Stories Reading Professional Development

So you know that moment when you get to meet that person who changed everything for you? Well, it happened to me! My name is Reneé McAnulty and I’m a proud first grade teacher at Cottonwood Elementary in Hesperia, California and this is my story…

It all started with me nearly pulling every single hair out of my head! First, let me start by saying that I am by no means a “new” teacher. Folks, I have taught in a classroom since I was 16 years old. I had my own classroom at the age of 18, teaching at a private school, and was hired as a kindergarten teacher at Cottonwood in 2001. I love my job! I love kids. I love teaching kids to read.

In all my years of teaching, I’ve never had a class like this year’s class. I was in shock. I have 24 boys and 9 girls. Of my 33 kids, 18 of them entered 1st grade far below grade level. From that group of 18 kids, 6 of them did not know any letter sounds or sight words. So, I had only 11 kids who could function as first graders… 11! 

I didn’t know where to start. What could I do to help these babies learn everything that they needed to know last year and keep the on-grade level kids moving in the right direction, too? The behavior was out of control in this class. It took two and a half months to train these kids in Daily 5 and Daily Cafe due to their behavior.

When we finally started to get things under control, I was able to start reading groups, but I was at a loss. I needed to do something different. My usual bag of tricks wasn’t working and we were all getting frustrated. I had parents telling me, “Well, in kindergarten my child made it to List 3 and knows how to read 75 sight words.” 

I would try to explain that regurgitating words from sight cards and seeing them in text were two different things. When they saw these exact same words in books, they couldn’t read them. I made it to mid-September and realized that I had to change it up… big time. I needed to find something that would challenge my high kids, make my grade level kids higher, and push my below-level kids.

One September day while at a district science meeting, I was on Pinterest searching for student-friendly science standards when I came across Katie’s free ‘Cutest-Ever’ Science Standard posters. As I scrolled down, I noticed her link to check out something called Secret Stories. She included writing samples and video clips from her classroom. I was blown away! I couldn’t believe her writing samples! I pinned the link, and as soon as I walked in my front door I sat down and started to explore.

I honestly could not believe that kindergarten kids could do that! I watched Katie’s YouTube vlogs and was speechless. With tears in my eyes, I ran to my hubby. I told him my prayers had been answered and that I had found the holy grail of reading/phonics!

Now, my hubby, being the supportive husband that he is, was used to me coming home in tears over this class. I had spent night after night crying myself to sleep, not knowing what I should do to help these kids.
I had spent hundreds of dollars on units, games, centers and activities, but they were of no use because my class simply wasn’t ready for them. Seeing my desperation, yet reluctant to spend $90 on yet another thing for my classroom, he finally agreed to let me get it. That was the best decision we ever made.
Let me put it this way, if my classroom were on fire, after safely removing all the children from the room, I would grab my “Secret Stories” book and posters! Of everything I have EVER bought for my classroom, this program has beyond proven its worth. It changed everything for me.
So after ordering it, I couldn’t wait for the package to arrive. In the meantime, I watched every one of her vlogs on YouTube, read the website from top to bottom, and stalked Katie on Pinterest.
Finally, my package arrived and I was one happy camper! I read it from cover to cover and told myself that I would try everything. Whether if it was new, different, or I something that I was unsure of, I was going to do it!
If my classroom were on fire, after safely removing all the children from the room, I would grab my Secret Stories book and posters!
I carried my book around with me everywhere ever I went. I was determined to learn these stories so I could teach them to my babies. And I quickly enlisted the help of my amazing hubby to put up my posters.
My kids are beyond engaged.... they are OBSESSED with the Secret Stories!
If my classroom were on fire, after safely removing all the children from the room, I would grab my Secret Stories book and posters!

 

My kids are beyond engaged.... they are OBSESSED with the Secret Stories!

My students instantly became excited about these posters. They were dying to know what these stories were all about and how they could teach them to read!

And I carried my little book around like it was the Bible. I would refer to it at least 5 times a day. I would explain to my kids and parents and anybody who entered our room, that we were trying something new…. that Mrs. Mac was learning right along with the kids.

If my classroom were on fire, after safely removing all the children from the room, I would grab my Secret Stories book and posters!
And to prove how “well-read” my Secret Stories® Book was,
here’s what it looked like after just TWO MONTHS!

Within two weeks, ALL my kids knew all their letter sounds, AND long and short vowels! My kids started to CRAVE Secret Storytime. You could hear a pin drop when I was sharing a secret with them. They were finding Secret Stories everywhere!!! We couldn’t walk into a room without them finding a Secret Story “hiding” in words that they saw.

By December, my kid’s DRA reading scores had doubled. I actually had kids reading above grade level and all of my 0 DRA reading scores disappeared!

One day during Secret Story hour, my AP was doing a walk-through and my students immediately ‘shushed’ me, begging me to stop telling the Secret Story of oi/oy. The AP was not allowed to to hear our ‘secret’ ….. that was privileged information. We finally came to an agreement that if she promised not to tell anyone, she could hear the “Secret Story.” And the rest is history. She was blown away by how engaged they ALL were during the lesson, and how every student knew the sound for oi /oy and could easily tell its ‘secret!’

She told my principal, who then came into my classroom wanting to hear more about this “Secret Story” program. He was equally blown away by what my kids were able to do! They were beyond engaged…. they were OBSESSED with these stories.

If we had a ‘rough’ day, and had to miss out on a Secret Story, they cried. If students had to leave the carpet area because of bad choices and missed out on Secret Storytime, they were devastated. They would beg the other kids (behind my back) to tell them the ‘secret’ they’d missed. I couldn’t believe it.

By this time, Secret Stories had spread like wildfire. My principal had asked me to do a mini-presentation for our staff and even offered to buy it for all the teachers who were interested. I’m proud to say that ALL of our teachers from 1st through 5th grade wanted it!

I asked my principal if I could go to one of Katie’s conferences, but instead, he brought her to us! He was able to schedule Katie to come and work with the entire staff for a FULL DAY in-service! So five weeks ago, I got to meet the person who changed my entire reading philosophy forever, and it was one of the greatest moments of my life!

My students were just as excited to meet her as I was. They couldn’t wait to meet the lady who taught their teacher how to teach them to read! They decided to create a handmade Secret Storybook for her. They each chose a Secret Story, wrote about it, and drew a picture to match their writing.

Secret Stories Sneaky Y® Phonics Secret! Do YOUR Kindergartners Know It?
Secret Stories® Sneaky Y®
Secret Stories Sneaky Y® Phonics Secret! Do YOUR Kindergartners Know It?
Secret Stories Sneaky Y® Phonics Secret! Do YOUR Kindergartners Know It?
Secret Stories Mommy E® Phonics Secret! Do YOUR Kindergartners Know It?
Secret Stories® Mommy E®
Secret Stories Mommy E® Phonics Secret! Do YOUR Kindergartners Know It?
Secret Stories Mommy E® Phonics Secret! Do YOUR Kindergartners Know It?
Secret Stories® "ous" Phonics Secret! Do YOUR Kindergartners Know It?

When she walked into our room, my kids literally jumped out of their seats and yelled, “KATIE GARNER!!!!”  which was immediately followed by ALL 33 of them talking simultaneously, trying to tell her their favorite secrets, as well as all of the other things they were learning about. She was essentially ‘mini-mobbed!’

I am proud to say that I now have a classroom full of readers…. REAL readers!  

Readers that can spend their time enjoying what they read, not struggling with how to read it. To put this in concrete form for my little ones, I had each of my students create their own personal growth charts, so that they could see for themselves how far they had come into the world of reading and writing! 

Just look at how MUCH progress they made!
 
How I DOUBLED My First Grade DRA Scores by December!
How I DOUBLED My First Grade DRA Scores by December!
How I DOUBLED My First Grade DRA Scores by December!
How I DOUBLED My First Grade DRA Scores by December!

I am just so proud of these students and can’t wait to share more about our amazing journey!  
                                                         

Sincerely, Reneé McAnulty
A special THANK YOU to Renee McAnulty for taking the time to write this post and share all of the wonderful things she is doing in her classroom! It was such a pleasure getting to visit it in person, and while I LOVE seeing her student gains on the graphs, nothing beats seeing what her kiddos can actually do in real life!
If you would like to read another post by Ms. Mac (which will honestly have you rolling on the floor laughing!) click here.
Until Next Time,
Katie Garner :-)

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