A Brain Based Approach to Phonics Instruction
The Secrets are the missing “meaning-filled” links that all teachers need to make phonics make sense to kids— whether you are an experienced reading teacher, or have no experience teaching reading.
Secret Stories® provides teachers with a roadmap for cheating the brain by sneaking phonics skills through the brain’s backdoor (the social-emotional learning networks, which develop more quickly) rather trying to force them through the front (the higher level, cognitive processing centers, which develop later).
Through this strategic, instructional delivery, teachers can intentionally trigger the part of students’ brain that is developmentally ready and available for learning; activating one stronger neural network over another.
By aligning letter behavior (why letters do what they do) to kid behavior (why kids do what they do), Secret Stories® makes complex phonics skills familiar, allowing students to quickly gain power over text for reading and writing. Within this readily familiar context, even beginning grade learners can predict the most and next most likely sound behaviors of letters in text as easily as they would the most likely behaviors of their own friends and classmates.
Teaching Reading Smarter, Not Harder
The most effective teachers stuff every minute of every lesson with information. These teachers are expert re-teachers that distinguish themselves in their ability to teach literacy all day long (Torgeson, 2004). This allows multiple learning goals to be incorporated into a daily lesson, providing what researchers refer to as “instructional density”— one of the most striking characteristics of practices in high achievement classes (Wharton-McDonald, Pressley, & Hampston, 1998). This is in stark contrast to core reading and phonics program lessons that tend to focus on a single teaching goal, leaving teachers unable to deviate from the intended plan to seize incidental learning opportunities.
Infusing daily literacy instruction with Secret Stories® helps teachers meet the needs of all learners because it sparks natural curiosity and increases the level of learner engagement. Cloaking phonics skills as “secrets” makes them important to kids—something that they actually want to know. This makes them easy to teach and share as needed, whenever and wherever they are encountered, throughout the entire instructional day.
“The secrets permeate every aspect of our day. We don’t just use them during reading and writing time. We use them ALL DAY LONG, even when we’re outside the classroom! I’ve heard other teachers say that the Secrets are the “most used tools” in their classroom, but I would go a step further and say that the Secret Stories have made me the teacher that I’ve always wanted to be. They don’t just make it easy to teach reading, they make it FUN! And not just for the kids, but for me too! I love telling the secrets to my kids!” —Michelle, First Grade Teacher
Kids who know the Secrets understand that friendships between letters can change how they behave when they get together in words. For example, the vowels behave differently when they’re hanging out on their own, versus when Mommy E® or the Babysitter Vowels® are nearby. Kids as young as pre-K and kindergarten understand that Mommy and the Babysitters are the “triggers” for determining whether or a vowel will be “short and lazy” or use its superpowers to say its name—even in long, multisyllabic words!
Phonics Instruction for Students of All Ages
Secret Stories® is a brain based, cross-grade level, teacher toolkit that works equally well with early and upper-grade learners, as it’s based on what kids need to read and to write, not on what grade they’re in. No matter the text level, there is virtually no word that kids can’t crack when they know the Secrets, which means that instead of memorizing hundreds of sight words, they can just read them!
“Our fourth grade team just shared the “ous” secret for some tricky spelling words and the kids immediately got it. Then BOOM! They were using it everywhere! The kids just soak the Secrets up! Now it seems like there are Secrets looming around every corner, in every lesson, and our kids want to know them all!” —Janis-Tameika, Fourth Grade Teacher
Regardless of what grade level you teach or which reading series (or even phonics program) you use, Secret Stories® fits perfectly in between the teaching of reading and writing, optimizing your instruction to make it work better, stronger and faster. Secret Stories® is the brain-based “gas” that makes learning go warp-speed!
Whether building the foundation for beginning readers or plugging holes in the skill ability of struggling readers in the upper grade levels, Secret Stories® shortens the learning curve by sneaking skills through the brain’s “backdoor” rather than taking them through the traditional front.
The Secrets “live” perfectly in between the reading and writing that you’re already doing each and every day in your classroom and they exist solely for those purposes. Secret Stories® isn’t “one more thing” that you have to do, but the one thing you won’t know how you ever did without!
“I would tell any elementary grade teacher the following – “These are the most useful and interactive posters I have in my classroom. If nothing else goes on your walls, hang these posters!” —Jennifer, Second Grade Teacher
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