Thursday, November 3, 2016

The New SECRET STORIES® Book— Version 2.0!

Sharing phonics secrets just got a whole lot easier! Teachers' favorite secret weapon for teaching all (and I mean ALL!) those tricky letter and phonics sounds just got a face-lift!

Introducing the new SECRET STORIES® book, just released this fall! If you've been waiting for the right time to update your existing SECRET STORIES® set, or if you've always wanted to let your students in on the "secrets" of the letters that explain the crazy sounds they make when they get together, now is the time!

And for those who might be wondering how to still make use of your existing book and/or poster set, here's the best tip ever... and one that may even convince your principal to purchase it for you! Ideally, every classroom using the SECRET STORIES® should have a 'loaner' book available to that parents to check-out to remediate or accelerate at home. Your old book makes the perfect parent resource to share in conference, and is an easy way to satisfy most School Improvement Plan Requirements to foster a strong home-school connection. A similar (but much more fun!) use for your extra set of posters is to make a class 'big book' of SECRET STORIES®! Simply staple or hole-punch/bind posters together. (You can cut them so as to fit on large pieces of construction paper or just leave them as-is, but just be sure to laminate them!) Students will beg to take it home on a rotating basis, and it's the perfect way to let your parents in on the SECRETS® and how they're used to read and spell words in the classroom.
The SECRET STORIES® Phonics "Secrets!"
The new book layout and design makes it even easier to share the SECRETS™! With instructional icons, in-line text box teaching tools and new, jam-packed sections for digging deeper into the affective learning domain for accelerated reading and writing (phonics) skill acquisition!

To celebrate the fall release, I'm doing a special giveaway of the new book, along with choice of poster-styles (Fun & Funky, Space-Saver/Dual-Use Placards or Original) and the CD. For entry details, see the Rafflecopter information, below!

I'm so excited about the new book that I wanted to share a "sneak-peek" inside here on my blog...


But you don't have to win to get started sharing SECRETS™, as you can download your free mini-anchor pack here, or by clicking on the link, below!
Download the FREE mini-anchor posters!
And I have one more freebie-surprise! The SECRET STORIES® Guided Reader "In the Fall" is currently in the Free Download Window, so be sure to grab it now before the window closes!
Finally, I want to share this adorable video just posted on the SECRET STORIES YouTube Channel of some first grade kiddos a couple of weeks into the school year, sharing amazing discoveries that they've made about their own names! (For background on Mrs. Mac's class, read herehere and here!) 

"Spotting SECRETS™ in my name!"  

To enter the Raffelcopter Drawing (which begins at midnight on Thursday, Nov. 3rd) post a comment below...and for extra entries, you can follow on Face book and Twitter (or if you're already following, just let me know :) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And if you don't want to wait, you can order yours now at

Happy Fall!!!
I hope to have the chance to meet many of you during my conference travels this year!

Katie Garner
PS I have lots more to share, but didn't want to overwhelm this post, so look for more super cool teaching tools to come your way (and more Rafflecopters, too!) throughout this month!


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Accessing Social Emotive Centers for Early & Accelerated Literacy Skill Access

"Beware of the stories you'll read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world."   

                                                                                                                                       —Ben Okra     
Can you breathe underwater?
The correct answer is no.

But what if you lived in a world where breathing underwater was possible? 
Then the correct answer would be yes. 

In other words, both answers are right, depending on the context.

Traditionally, the idea of teaching complex, phonemic skills to early grade, beginning learners would be considered developmentally inappropriate—a position with which I would have to agree. 

Giving them however, is a completely different story! 
By wrapping skills up into stories, we can give them what can’t be taught. 

Stories pose no developmental harm, nor are they age or grade-specific, as learners naturally take away only what is personally meaningful and relevant to them, without any expectations. In this way, the reading and writing code is transformed into 'skill-drenched' golden nuggets, buried within familiar and easy-to-remember stories, allowing learners to become their own "gate-keeper" of skills. 

And herein lies the power of the SECRET STORIES® as a backdoor delivery method for the totality of skills that all readers and writers need, but traditionally cannot have—not until they are “ready.”

So hold your breath and prepare to dive into a new way of thinking about what we do and why we do it, and in no time, you and your students will be breathing underwater! 
To kick off the new school year, I've posted a free 36 page SECRET STORIES® Reward/Incentive Bucks pack, which even includes a student purse and wallet for safe-keeping of students "secret" earnings! Inside the pack, you will find information on how it may be used with the SECRET STORIES® in the classroom. You can grab it by clicking here or on the link, below.
Free SECRET STORIES® Reward/Incentive Bucks
For more on the SECRET STORIES® as a backdoor delivery method, via the brain's affective learning domain, you can check out these previous posts, here and here. I will also be posting a new video vlog on this topic in the next couple of weeks on the YouTube Channel, so stay tuned!

And should you need a bit of inspiration, or just some new ideas for hanging your SECRET STORIES® posters in your classroom this year, check out this popular post on Posting Posters!
If you've never tried the SECRETS, you can download a free preview pack here.
Thanks so much for reading, and I hope to meet many more of you at conferences and school/district in-services throughout this coming school year–one of which I am the most excited about, being the Vulnerable Readers Summits (below promo from 2015) in cities across the US and Canada through 2017!
The Vulnerable Readers Summit Series through 2017
Until Next Time,
Katie Garner


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Not Just Simple Sight Word-Readers... but "Crack-Those-Words-Wide-Open" Readers!!!

When kids learn the Secret Stories®, there's a brief period of time during which they are almost in shock that they can suddenly read and write. I use the word suddenly because having acquired so many skills so quickly, it's as if they were literally 'transformed' overnight into readers and writers! 

Once they figure out that they hold the keys (a.k.a. Secrets™) to unlock any door (a.k.a. word) they are in shock! It usually takes about a week or two for them to fully convince themselves that they actually are readers! Not just simple sight word readers, but the "crack-that-word-wide-open" kind of readers!

They view all those tricky words in text as if they were mountains that they can barely wait to climb! And as their teacher, my job is to keep those keys coming... while simultaneously providing them with lots of rich, text experiences upon which they can practice wielding their newly attained, SECRET™ powers! 
Transforming Phonics Skill Instruction 
Into a Virtual "Playground" for Critical Thinking!
I ran across this study done by Stanford University a few days ago and thought that it belonged in this post! The excerpt below was taken directly from the SECRET STORIES® Facebook Page, and you can access the article in its entirety using the link at the bottom.

Sight Words....Friend or Foe? 
And the research says???
  • "Don't MEMORIZE what you can actually READ!" 

    Research shows that teaching kids to sound out words sparks more optimal brain circuitry than instructing them to memorize them. In other words, don't MEMORIZE what you can READ!

    And for kids who know the phonics "secrets" (a.k.a. the Secret Stories) almost ALL of the most common "Dolch" sight words can be easily read... even by kindergartners! (see "Sight Words Go to Jail" on YouTube)
  • But for kids who don't know the Secrets™, memorization is the only option, as they won't know all of the phonics patterns until second grade. Plus, many believe that kids will be able to recognize the sight words faster than they could read them.

    So here's what the research says...
    "Beginning readers who focus on letter-sound relationships, or phonics, instead of trying to learn whole words, increase activity in the area of their brains best wired for reading, according to new Stanford research investigating how the brain responds to different types of reading instruction. This is the first evidence that a specific teaching strategy for reading has direct neural impact. In other words, to develop reading skills, teaching students to sound out "C-A-T" sparks more optimal brain circuitry than instructing them to memorize the word "cat." And, the study found, these teaching-induced differences show up even on future encounters with the word. As the field of educational neuroscience grows, however, both brain researchers and educational researchers can improve their understanding of how instructional strategies can best be harnessed to support the brain changes that underlie the development of learning, he added...."

    You can access the entire study here.
    • This is such important information for all teachers, so please SHARE with your teacher-friends on FaceBook by clicking the 'CLOSE' button below, and then sharing it on your page :)smile emoticon

    I'm Renee McAnulty (aka "Mrs. Mac") and if you've read my very first guest post on Katie's blog, you may remember that I teach first grade at a Title I school in California with a very high ESL population. 

    That year I literally felt as if I were drowning.
    I had...
    -33 first graders, 24 of which were BOYS!
    -18 of my 33 were FAR below grade level (as per DRA Testing)
    -6 of the 18 knew NO letter sounds or sight words
    I had exactly 11 students functioning on grade level!!!!!
    (And I hadn't yet discovered Secret Stories®)

    But now, more than two years later, boy have things have changed!
    I still teach at the same school and our population is the same, but the level at which the kids are now coming into first grade is through the roof, as our kindergarten teachers have started using the SECRET STORIES® too... and what a difference it makes! 
    (You imagine where my firsties start now! :)

    So with that in mind, here are my little firsties, totally rocking this THIRD grade book!
    (The best part is little Landon (around the middle of the clip) who refuses to give up trying to decode the word "necessities" and applies all of his SECRET™powers to decode it... his proud little face says it all!)

    My Firsties Rocking this 3rd Grade Book!

    Now, to re-wind a bit, here's a clip from way back showing one way we honed our SECRET powers that wasn't with text, but with music! 

    Watching it, you can see how easy it is for all of the kids to remember even the trickiest phonics patterns and sounds. And take note that there is NO 'auto-pilot' singing going on here! The kids are actually mimicking the same processes they go through when decoding and encoding, but faster, and without the effort!

    As Katie likes to say, "music is the glue for building skill-automaticity!"

    Singing Sneaky Y™ Sounds with our Porta-Pics

    Writing's just like Reading....only BACKWARDS! 

    And because reading and writing are inextricably linked, I wanted to also share the reflection of our reading ability, which is our writing! Now for those who've read last year's guest post about Sparkle the Elf, she returned this year up to her old tricks, and the kids loved her just as much!

    For unfamiliar with last year's shenanigans, the Gingerbread Kids continued their bullying of poor Sparkle, and she finally had enough and ended up biting their heads off (literally!) Of course, the biting of others' heads is against the school rules, and so our principal had to give Sparkle a referral, which 'sparked' the following desperately written (aka "persuasive writing") pleas from our firsties.

    Here are just a few of the requests to our principal for leniency...
    "I'm making an inference of what Sparkle might say..."
    "The gingerbread men have been tying her up for years..."

    "I will never eat your friends again..."
    "Do you KNOW what the Gingerbread Kids did to her?"
    "Please don't send her to the North Pole and please don't torture her!"
    "She is in my family. Please give her one more change!"
    "She watches us to see if we're doing our work"

    "She was like, 'Thank you for saving me!'"
    "I infer that Sparkle tried to warn us..."
    "I know Sparkle made a bad choice, but I hope you will let her go..."
    "She brought us books to make us better writers."

    Just remember, it's our "SECRET™!"

    A Guest Post by Mrs. Mac 

    A special thanks to Mrs. Mac and all of YOU wonderful teachers (and 

    parents!) who are currently reading about how to help your KIDS read, right now on this blog! I hope that you will enter this extra special giveaway for a free SECRET STORIES® Porta-Pics Pack OR Dual-Use Placard Set through the Rafflecopter, below.
    SECRET STORIES® Porta-Pics (Set of 25)
    SECRET STORIES® Dual-Use Placards
    Aside from following the blog, all other entries are optional, with each one increasing the odds of winning. The highest-point value entry (worth 5 points!) is to post a picture on FacebookTwitter  or Instagram from your classroom (or home, if you're a parent) showing, sharing, telling, reading, writing, or acting-out the Secrets™!  

    And for those who don't already have the SECRET STORIES®, you download this Secret™ Sampling for free so that you can start posing with your kids for those pictures!

    Free SECRET STORIES® Sampling Pack
    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    For  Special "Secrets" & Free Download Offerings, Follow Below!