Monday, September 15, 2014

Loopholes for Learning — The Secret Stories Superhero Vowels® and their "Short & Lazy" Disguises!


Secret Stories® Phonics "Secrets"— Loopholes for Learning!
"What's used together is fused together in the brain!"

As teachers, it's so important that we understand not only "how" to do something, "why!" 

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 for easier skill retrieval. (For more on this, check out my "Brain Bits" Board on Pinterest.) 

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!"

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 earliest "preK-2nd" grade levels will 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.
First up is The BETTER Alphabet Song, which you can watch my class doing below, and hear Katie talk more about in the second video clip, below.


 

You might notice in this clip that the kids are using Zoo Phonics hand motions, which in retrospect, I would NOT recommend doing when singing this song, as the motions aren't needed and could actually be visually distracting for some of the kids, interring with their ability to focus on "seeing what they sing." Katie talks about the importance of this "SEE it, SING it" connection in the video below as she describes how the "Better Alphabet" uses muscle memory to accelerate individual letter sound mastery to "two weeks to two 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!) 

As this is the first year that kindergarten will be using Secret Stories® too, next year will be a whole different ball game in first grade with regard to where we will be able to begin! But for now, I let the kids use the motions they were used to, and then just added the Superhero Vowels® "short & lazy" sound cues to the mix.... which you can below. 

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


Secret Stories® Phonics "Secrets"— The Superhero Vowels®
My Superhero Vowels® Classroom Door!
Secret Stories Superhero Vowels® and their Short & Lazy Sound Disguises!

(and their "short & lazy" disguises!)

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





Secret Stories® Phonics "Secrets"— The Superhero Vowels®
Superhero E 
(and her "short & lazy" sound!)
Secret Stories "Fun & Funky" Posters



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

Secret Stories® BETTER Alphabet Anchor

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

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®

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® Secret                 

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 

Transferring Secrets into 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!"

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!


"High-Leverage" Secrets!

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 using the link underneath the picture, below.

FREE Secret Stories® Mini-Poster Sample Pack
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 starte 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!

To learn more about how to share the Superhero Vowels® and their "short & lazy" sounds with your class, check out the two-part vlog series, below, and subscribe free to the Secret Stories® "BrainRead" Youtube Channel, here.


A "Post-Script" from Mrs. Mac

Just after finishing this post, I received the following email 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 Garner :-)


Katie Garner — Education Speaker and Literacy Consultant

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12 comments :

  1. This looks like a really good fit with my daily phonics and helpful to my struggling students! I'd LOVE to be a winner! Thanks!
    Caffeinequeenteacher@gmail.com

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    Replies
    1. It will work wonders for daily phonics!!! They will All love this program!!!!

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  2. I am a homeschool mom with two children that have been tested and diagnosed with dyslexia. I BELEIVE these secret stories would work miracles for them, as it uses the back door approach to learning. I would love to win this for them. Seeing as how I do not have a FB or Pinterest account, I'm hoping my one comment will win this for my children and I!

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  3. I'm using the Secret Stories for the first time this year and so far my students LOVE them!

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  4. I will be trying out your mommy e secret stories next week. I can't wait. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. I bought the parent/home version and created a traveling bulletin board with the cards and a science tri-fold board. It would be wonderful to have a class set of posters to put up in one of the rooms I use so I can leave the poster board in the other room. I do reading intervention with Kindergarten through 6th grade. I see how much the stories help and can't recommend them highly enough.

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  6. I just discovered this and think it would be perfect to use with my Title I students!!

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  7. I have recently been hired on as a first year first grade teacher. I am very excited and I really want to implement the secret stories in my class. I also want to share this great resource with my new team. I first learned about the secret stories while I was student teaching and the students really had fun learning them.

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  8. I am an elementary school reading specialist and have been using bits and pieces of the secret stories with my struggling readers for a few years now. I'm not sure if I am doing it 100% the way it is supposed to be implemented (since I do not own the full kit...only bits and pieces.) But, what I have used, I feel has positively impacted my students! I would LOVE to win the kit and see what happens when the program is implemented in full!! Thank you for such a wonderful program!

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  9. Using the secret for the first time, Gr. 1's are getting it!

    ReplyDelete

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