Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Critical Reading and Writing Connection to Phonics Skills— A Kindergarten Post

The Secret Stories are the "life-blood" of our classroom. They are always in use, always in reach!
"I sneakily took this pic at the end of snack the other day....
These 6 kids were engrossed in telling the Secrets (and trying to figure out the ones we haven't learned yet!) The little guy in the stripes has become our unofficial "Word Jail Warden!" He can spot an 'Outlaw Word' a mile away! We will start 'paroling' some of them soon!"
Kjersti Johnson- Kindergarten Teacher

I received this adorable picture and description from 
Kjersti Johnson who teaches Kindergarten, along with the following email.  

I teach two sessions of half-day Kindergarten, with my morning class tied to our Intensive Support Class (4-8 fully inclusive kiddos) and my afternoon class with half ELL (plus a few in the am too).

I knew the Secret Stories was a keeper last year when one of my Intensive Needs kids, who was really struggling with speech and connecting letters and sounds, pointed to his name and said, "Those letters are bad. They always stick out their tongues!" and then proceeded to make their sound! Or, when my little guy, who moved to my class mid-year knowing ZERO letters or sounds, was able to read through ALL the letter sounds mixed up, singing "____ says ______, ___-___-___!" after just a couple weeks of doing "The Secret Stories® Better Alphabet Song!"

With regard to the frustration over the controversy over what our youngest learners can and can't do, I've always had high expectations for my kinders, and they have always risen to meet them, often soaring far beyond!

It has been a fight to pull Kindergarten into this century. I boxed up our basal six years ago when I started using Daily 5/Cafe in my literacy blocks. My students just took off! (It's amazing what they can do when you put the right book in their hands.) But it was Secret Stories that really allowed me to take my kids to the next level!

I love when we sit down to read something and I ask what strategies we should use, as they always yell out, "Look for the Secrets!" They amaze me every day with the new words they can read and write! Oh, and I love how they are starting to revise their own writing! I put a binder clip on their writing notebooks so they can't fill it all in in one sitting. When they want their clip moved, they have to look back and make revisions to show that they're ready. They will tell me, "When I wrote this, I didn't know the Secret about this word, but now I do!"

I loved reading Kjersti email about how she uses Secret Stories® in her kindergarten classroom that I asked her if she would be willing to share more and she agreed! (She has since written another guest post on reading, which you can find here.) 

A Class of Kinders

A Guest Post by Kjersti Johnson

I have always believed that there is a strong tie between reading and writing. It is one of the reasons that we spend so much time doing both in my Kindergarten class. Usually, students are free to choose their writing topic, but once in a while I give them a prompt.

This past month, we began a Gingerbread unit. In it, we have a class Gingerbread Man that decides to travel the world. While he is on his trip, he sends us many different versions of Gingerbread stories to read. At the end of the unit, he returns to our class and asks the kids to write about their favorite story.

In past years, my kindergartners would have to rely on "kid-spelling" or I would have to take a lot of dictation, but not this year! Thanks to the Secret Stories, my kids were able to write like the big kids! The only help I gave was a word bank of words they might need, but I didn't spell them..... they did!

They helped me spell words like: gingerbread, favorite, girl, cowboy, and because, and the rest of the words they spelled themselves! They were even able to write about why they liked the story! I was so proud of my kindergartners (not to mention blow away!) that I wanted to share a couple samples, as well as some Secrets used to spell some of the words they wrote!

Secret Stories Phonics— Kindergarten Writing
Note the eu/ew Secret in the word crew! 
(plus Sneaky Y®, Babysitter Vowels®, Mommy e®, or, oo, th, er/ir/ur, au/aw, & ou/ow!)

Secret Stories® Phonics Secret "EU/EW"

Secret Stories Phonics— Kindergarten Writing
Note the er/ir/ur Secret in the words girl and her
(plus the Sneaky Y®, Babysitter Vowels®, Mommy e®, or, oo, th, ea, au/aw, sh, & ed!)

Secret Stories® Phonics Secret "ER/IR/UR"
"Future Kindergarten Teacher"

Secret Stories Phonics— Kindergarten Writing
Note the au/aw Secret in the word because

(plus the Mommy e®, th, er/ir/ur, ea, Babysitter Vowels®, ey/ay, & sh!) 

Secret Stories® Phonics Secret "AU/AW"
The AU/AW Secret Stories® Phonics Secret 

We also wrote about How I Ate My Gingerbread Man (after eating them of course!) Once again, I was blown away by how they used the Secret Stories they knew to figure spellings for words they wanted to use in their writing... not just "word wall" and "word family" words, but ANY words! I loved watching them stop and look at (or even walk over to) our Secret Wall!

This next paper was written by one of my ELL students. When assessed in September, he knew seven letter names and zero sounds. Thanks to Secret Stories Better Alphabet Song, he was able to identify all of the upper and lower case letters, as well as their sounds by October!

He now also knows all of the Secrets and is using them to read and write! (On a side note, I had taken a leap of faith and done as Katie suggested, which was to begin telling the Secrets from Day 1, so as to acquire them simultaneously with the individual letters and sounds and though I'd never done that before with kinders, I am now a BELIEVER!!!
Kindergartners can't write ANYTHING if all they know are the individual letters sounds and  10 sight words!
Kindergartners need access to the "WHOLE" code to write the stories they want to tell!

Here is what he wrote..... independently! (And yes, I was in tears when he showed me!)

Secret Stories Phonics— Kindergarten Writing

I also love how this next little guy added a "crunch, crunch, crunch" at the end! 

If you look carefully, you can see where he had erased and added more sounds after re-reading it, and then realized that it didn't make sense. He also went back and changed "hed" to "head" because he said it "didn't look right." 

As Katie often says, "experience is the best teacher," and because this little guy knew lots of Secrets, he was reading up a storm, which is how he knew that the word didn't "look right."

Secret Stories Phonics— Kindergarten Writing

I am just so proud of my kindergartners, I could burst, which is why I wrote to Katie! And with only HALF of the school year under our belt so far, I can't wait to see where we by the end of this year!

We are so thankful to Katie Garner for sharing the Secrets with us!
Kjersti Johnson/ Kindergarten Teacher
 "Kindergarten Writing on STEROIDS!" 
Check out this video clip!

Thank you to Kjersti and her amazing kindergartners for sharing their successes! And be sure to read Kjersti's second guest post highlighting the Secrets in reading, here!

If you would like to start sharing the Secrets with your class, you can download this free mini-poster sample set, along with the "Write Like They Read" Zoo Keeper Strategies, which is like a magic trick for helping beginning learners understand that they need to "capture" as many sounds as they can in words they want to write. (Watch two short clips about the ZooKeeper Strategies for beginning writers here and here.) 

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Mini-Poster Sample Pack

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Mini-Poster Sample Pack

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Mini-Poster Sample Pack

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Mini-Poster Sample Pack

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Mini-Poster Sample Pack
Download the FREE Mini-Poster Sample Pack and Start Sharing Secrets Tomorrow!

FREE Secret Stories® Phonics Writing Strategy Pack—"Zoo Keeper and M&M Quizzes"
Download the FREE ZooKeeper Beginning Writing Strategy Pack!

And to all subscribers, you should have received a free download link in your email for the Secret Stories® Guided Reader, My Class, so be sure to grab it fast before it expires!  

Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader— My Class
Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader "My Class"

Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader— My Class
Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader— My Class
Secret Stories® Phonics Guided Reader— My Class
For more on how you can use writing as a "window" into the mind of a reader, click here!

Until Next Time,
Katie Garner
Katie Garner Literacy Consultant— Secret Stories® Author

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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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For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 

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  1. Thanks for the peek into another classroom, Katie! I started using the Secret Stories this year. We do performance grouping and I have the above level readers. They love the stories and have been flying with their reading and writing! I'm always reminded to share a new one each day. Thank you for the wonderful resource. It is so freeing to me, and the children, not to be stuck to the sound of the week.

  2. Dear Kim,
    Thanks so much for your comment and kind words, and YES, it is so much easier and the kids are so much more POWERFUL as readers and writers when they aren't having to capture individual letters, one at a time, over the course of a year. Developmentally speaking, it's actually much more appropriate to infuse these abstract skills into stories, and then modeling their value through constant use and application throughout the day, than it is to subject them to regular flash-card sessions, that even when mastered, are not enough to use for genuine reading and writing!

    Thanks so much again for taking the time to comment :)

  3. Today was our first day back after winter break. Can I just say........I'm so tired!!!!! I showed my kids the blog post about them. Even though the names weren't shown on the writing samples, they were so excited when they saw "theirs"! (and believe me, they knew which one belonged to them!) The best was when Abel, my little ELL guy who has made so much progress, saw his. He literally beamed when he saw it......especially after you had pointed out how many secrets he used! It made my teacher heart so happy to see how proud they were and listen to them talk about how hard they were going to all work on their reading and writing so they could have their work posted too!

    One happy and very tired teacher (who is now heading to bed!),

    Kjersti Johnson :)

  4. Katie,
    Thank you.!
    I'm presently a Pre-K teacher. We just started a sample K-readiness class... the first sight word we used, was MY.
    I remembered watching your videos out the super powers of the vowels, and how Y takes E or I's super power.. Gave my kids a quick story... wow.. My little 4yo, ran around the room finding words that end in Y to see which power he used.
    I loved how excited they were. I just bought the parent version, as I don't have much room for the posters.. Can't wait to give them some more secrets!
    Thank you again!!


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