Monday, January 2, 2017

"Butter or Buter?" The Best Vowel-Trick EVER!

"Why do I have to write two T's in the word butter when I only hear one sound? And how do I know whether to make the long or short sound for the letter u?" 

As teachers, we know that the trick to figuring this out is based on the syllabic division of a word.
VCV (vowel—consonant—vowel) = "open" syllable = long sound (as in bite)
VCCV (vowel—consonant—consonant—vowel) = "closed" syllable = short sound (as in bitter)

But for early and struggling, upper grade learners,  this "trick" can actually be more confusing than the problem it solves, thus making an already difficult task seem even more complicated, especially for the average "concrete-thinker" (which early learners are).

If you've been following my blog (or are using the SECRET STORIES®) then you know how quickly and easily the Mommy E™ and Babysitter Vowels™ secrets are an easy-fix for this pervasive problem. This is because kids already know that when their mommy (or babysitter) is nearby, they have to behave and do what they're told! And when they are not, all behavior-bets are off!

Framing the abstract VCV/VCCV concepts in this way activates the affective thinking ("feeling") domain— an earlier developing area of the brain that is far more accessible to very young and/or struggling learners, making it a perfect "backdoor-route" for critical skill acquisition!

So let's take a peek at this kinder guided reading session to see just how easy it is...

These "social-emotive" (affective) learning connections to Mommy e™ and the Babysitter Vowels™ are already deeply entrenched within the learner, and it is this inherent understanding that easily and effortlessly drives their decision-making when working with unfamiliar text. 

Excerpt from the NEW Secret Stories® Book—Version 2.0!

Simplified alternatives— like sparkly e or magic e are much less effective for a few reasons:
—Their identity/behavior is arbitrary and not rooted in what kids already know and understand (i.e. one more thing to learn)
—They often will only apply to single syllable, silent e words (bike, rake, use, etc...)

And bossy e, super e, lazy e, etc... don't provide much bang-for-the-buck either, as they work only when the vowel is an e—leaving learners high and dry when attempting to decode all other V—C—V/V—C—C—V words, like motor, making, radar, etc...

All kids need to know is that much like their own mommy, sometimes Mommy E™ just has to get out of the house! And when she does, she'll put another vowel in charge, and that's the Babysitter. The Babysitter Vowel™ just does what Mommy would do if she were there, which is to tell any vowel that's one letter away, "You say your name!" Works like a charm every time!
The Babysitter Vowels™
See for yourself in this video clip...

Knowing about the Mommy E™ and Babysitter Vowels™ instantly equip even the youngest four or five year old learners with the "best-betting-odds for Las Vegas" when it comes to the most-likely sound a vowel will make in a word—even if it's a word they've never seen before!

That's the benefit of storing complex phonics skills in the affective learning domain, rather than the later developing, executive functioning centers. It's also why these brain-based tricks for critical phonemic skill mastery are a 'must-have' for every reading teacher (and their students!)

So back to the original question at the top of this post— 
"Is there an easy way for beginning learners to understand why there are two T's in words like butter?"

YES! But it's a "secret!" ;)
However, you can watch this short video clip from a recent staff inservice PD/workshop to find out!

Staff PD/Workshop
Using Critical Analysis and Diagnostic Thinking
to Circumvent Learners' Lack of Experience with Text

And last, but not least, a FREE GIVEAWAY!!!
I made a promise back in December that I would do another giveaway for the new SECRET STORIES® Book—Version 2.0, so be sure to enter the Rafflecopter Drawing (below) before midnight, January 10th. To win, be sure to comment on this post, and for extra entry chances, you can follow one or more of the following:  Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Linkedin—see details in Rafflecopter, below :) 

**In addition to the new book, the giveaway also includes the SECRET STORIES® posters (of your choice) and the Musical Brainteasers CD for sound-skill automaticity. And if you're looking for ideas on how to make great use of your old set, click here! 

And just in case you haven't already grabbed the SECRET STORIES® Guided Reader Like a Snowball, now's the time, as the free window will be closing with the Rafflecopter on January 10th! 

Free Download Window—
SECRET STORIES® Guided Reader Like a Snowball

a Rafflecopter giveaway


In addition to finding me the social media above, I'm just starting to "play" with Instagram, so if you're on there, look for me :)  And if you would like to connect professionally, I welcome you to join me on Linkedin!  And while I love being tagged directly on social media for anything SECRET STORIES-related that you're doing with your class, you are also welcome to share any pics or vids with me directly, at 

Visit Katie Garner- Educational Author/ Speaker's profile on Pinterest.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

"Go-To" Student-Made Holiday Gifts for Parents!

Now you can cross at one more thing off of your December "to-do" list... finding the perfect holiday gifts for students to make for their parents (or class volunteers, secretaries, custodians, etc...!)

Those who follow my my RED DIAMOND Pinterest Boards know that I LOVE (a.k.a. "am addicted to") searching for the best free teaching finds online. But as time is short this holiday season, I thought I would save you a trip to Pinterest and compile the cutest (and easiest!) student-made gift ideas right here, along with a FREE download for the SECRET STORIES® Guided Reader—Like a Snowball, to help keep those guided groups on-track over the next week! (And don't forget to download all of the other freebies listed in the product description!)
SECRET STORIES® Guided Reader— Download it FREE!!
Spotting SECRETS— ER, MOMMY E™, TH, OW, AY, and ING 
SECRET STORIES® Outlaw Words— there, to, do

Okay, first up...
Photo Ornaments from I've never seen anything like this before, but it looks so simple that I'm definitely making these with my girls for their grandparents this year!
Sliced-Photo Ornaments by Joyzz
These next two ideas for easy and adorable Holiday Angels I'd actually found on a teaching site that is not in English, but it had lots of great pictures. I've only included a few of them here, but if you click on the links below the pictures, the 'angel-creation' process is shown step-by-step!
Hand Print Angels
Glittered Angel Rolls

This Hanging-Around Ornament is from Mrs. Goff's PreK Tales, and if you visit her site, she has posted lots more pictures showing different (but equally adorable!) variations on this theme! 
Hanging-Around Ornaments from Mrs. Goff's PreK Tales  
These next two are both tied for my favorites! I saw the first one on Pinterest, and then upon going to the website, Art Projects for Kids, I found the second one. I especially like these because they both allow for easy incorporation of simple math concepts, which the directions mention, as well!
Abstract Winter Trees by Art Projects for Kids

I love this next one—Watercolor Pine Ornamentsmainly because I adore watercolors! The addition of real pine branches in contrast to the watercolor ornaments on black makes it the perfect piece of "kid-art" to frame and keep forever!!  

There was no link to this one, but the directions included with the pin were as follows:
-Have kids paint on thick paper with watercolor paint in desired colors and cut out in circle shapes. Glue circles on black paper. 
-Use a bit of gold glitter to make the ornament clasp.
-Place ornament hook around a thin pine branch and glue as shown (Kids can also make water colored frames for this, or you can purchase cheap plastic ones in black from the Dollar Store :)
Watercolor Pine Ornaments

And my personal favorite.... this beautiful Christmas Tree Window, from Kathy's Angelnik Blogspot.
It's just so gorgeous, and Kathy provides easy-to-follow directions for kids to make it on her blog—Thank you, Kathy!

And these cute little Helping Hands Holiday Mitts are super easy.... no directions required! 
Helping Hands Holiday Mitts
I also wanted to share these beautiful Pine Cone Paper Flowers from That Artist Woman as a nice alternative to the traditional wintertime gift! Believe it or not, they are easy to make by just stuffing colored tissue paper into pine cone groves! Step-by-step directions for the whole thing, including the pots, are shown with pictures on the website!

And last but not least, add some extra "sparkle and shine" to your holiday gift ideas with this easy recipe for Glossy Sparkle by Pixie Pumps! This glittery-glaze provides the finishing touch for student gifts! 

Glossy Sparkle by Pixie Pumps

I hope that these "go-to" gift ideas make your holiday just a little bit easier, and that you and your students enjoy reading (and finding SECRETS!) in Like a Snowball!

Warm Wishes for a Happy Holiday!

PS Be on the lookout for another post coming soon over holiday break....and another chance to win the new SECRET STORIES® Book (and posters!) for your classroom! For notification of new posts, just follow using the "Follow" button in the upper right corner.

SECRET STORIES® Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain-in-Mind!


Visit Katie Garner- Educational Author/ Speaker's profile on Pinterest.

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!