Thursday, March 12, 2015

There's an Elephant in Your Classroom and His Name is "Y!"

There's an elephant in your classroom.

And it's huge!

The Elephant in Your Classroom— Secret Stories Sneaky Y®

You sweep by it every day in your classroom, several times in fact, and probably without even noticing it. It's most conspicuous during morning calendar time, as that's its favorite time of day.

Can you visualize it?  No??
Then watch this....

Now that you can recognize the elephant, it's time to get some elephant exterminator,  
as having elephants in the classroom isn't good for the brain! 

Think of the Secret Stories® as a "secret" elephant-exterminator! The Secrets provides the 
logical explanations that learners' brains crave when it comes to letters and all of the crazy 
sounds they can make, so as to keep those elephants at bay! Secrets are the reasons WHY 
letters don't always do what they should when they get together with other letters in words!

And nowhere are they more needed than during morning calendar! Especially the Secret
about Sneaky Y®!  It’s in virtually every word on that calendar, and not once is it actually making the sound that it's supposed to (or at least the one that we tell beginning grade
kindergarten learners to expect it to, which is "yuh" like in the word yellow.)

January, February, May, July, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday,
Sunday.... It's literally everywhere, and not one time does it ever say, "yuh!"

Secret Stories Sneaky Y® Phonics Secret!
When You Don't Make Sense, It's Time to Tell a "Secret!

Secret Stories® Phonics Calendar Secrets
Secret Stories® Phonics Calendar Secrets
The Calendar Secrets
And then we have other elephant spottings around the "boy's" bathroom and whenever we sit around and read a big book that's "by" so and so author!  Add to that our favorite words to
write in our stories— mommy, daddy, candy, etc... and we literally have elephants running everywhere!

Secret Stories Phonics Sneaky Y®— Make Reading Make SENSE!

Time to reach for that secret elephant spray! Just watch this short clip below to find out the 
Sneaky Y®'s Secret!

Secret Stories Phonics Sneaky Y®— Make Reading Make SENSE!

Secret Stories® Phonics "SECRETS of the Superhero Vowels® & More!" Bundle
The Sneaky Y® "Cheat-Sheet" from Secrets of the Superhero Vowels®!
(and for a video on teaching the Superhero Vowels® & Sneaky Y®, click here!)
But what about words like: Monday or May?
Secret Stories® Phonics Calendar Secrets
Secret Stories® Phonics Calendar Secrets
The Calendar Secrets
So what about words like Monday and May, you ask?
That's not Sneaky Y®! That's ey and ay, and they are just too cool!
Secret Stories® Phonics— AY/EY Secret!

And now the there's a new and improved elephant spray in the form of a Secret Stories® 
Guided Reader that's all about Sneaky Y® and his sneaky shenanigans! 

It's called Sneaky Y's Secret and it explains how Sneaky Y® got to be so sneaky! (Special 
thank to Susan Eklove for the adorable text and Poco & Pop for the beautiful illustrations!) 
Secret Stories Sneaky Y®'s Secret Guided Reader
Secret Stories® Guided Reader— Sneaky Y®'s Secret
Secret Stories Sneaky Y®'s Secret Guided Reader

Secret Stories Sneaky Y®'s Secret Guided Reader

Secret Stories Sneaky Y®'s Secret Guided Reader

Secret Stories Sneaky Y®'s Secret Guided Reader

Secret Stories Sneaky Y®'s Secret Guided Reader
Secret Stories® Guided Reader— Sneaky Y®'s Secret

If you are subscribed to the Secret Newsletter, you should have received a free download link 
for the Sneaky Y® Guided Reader in your email. Otherwise, it will be on sale through Monday!

In closing, remember the "cool dude" from the video up above?  He happens to be a kindergarten teacher from Washington State, and below is an email he'd sent me that I wanted to share.

My name is Daniel and I teach kindergarten in Washington State. Last year my school district adopted a new reading curriculum and when my team examined the leveled readers before the start of the school year, we were initially in shock.  We had no idea how our students were expected to read the new complex text introduced so early in the curriculum. After our initial reaction started to subside we got very motivated to create and find innovating and engaging methods for teaching more advanced phonics skills. 

Around November I stumbled across a pin on Pinterest with the Secret Story posters for the R-controlled vowels, etc… I had seen it before and I thought it was a neat idea, but I had never clicked on the link. When I clicked on it and found your website and realized the scope of how many secret stories there were, I got really excited and shared it with my teaching partners who shared in my enthusiasm. They were the perfect solution to our problem! We made up a few secret stories on our own before convincing our school to purchase them for our grade level, but by January we had them and made the full commitment to implement them. 

By the end of the year, we had by far the most students reading the Beyond Leveled Readers in the district, and many students needed even more challenging text.  By the summer I started presenting about the Secret Stories to other teachers in my district and adjacent ones, and ever since I have been trying to share this amazing resource with as many teachers as I can.

After last year’s success, we wanted to step it up a notch this year, so we decided to create a video where we acted out every Secret Story.  It took us 2 months to complete, but we are proud of the result. We’ve had our students watch it many times and they are making even more connections to the stories.  Sometimes it is a gesture that one of us did that resonates with them, or remembering who acted out the story that helps the students remember the sound.  It has proven to have been a very useful project and new resource. 

We had a lot of fun doing it, and we would be honored if you had some time in your schedule to watch it. Thank you so much for this amazing resource and inspiring us to want to be the best reading teachers for our students as possible!

Daniel M. 
Kindergarten Teacher
Until Next Time,
Katie Garner :-)

Never Miss a Secret! Subscribe to the Newsletter! 

PS The registration deadline for the week-long South Dakota Kindergarten Academy this summer is fast approaching, and the preK/Kinder days have sold out. For all those who were unable to get into the PK/K workshop, you are encouraged to sign up for the 1st/2nd grade workshop, as the strategies and content covered in both sessions are applicable across the primary grade levels! 

Two Day PD with Katie Garner at the South Dakota Kindergarten Conference
A two-day PD with Katie Garner for 1st and 2nd Grade Teachers
For more information on how to register, visit the Kindergarten Academy Facebook Page or email

Katie Garner Secret Stories LinkedIN pageSecret Stories BlogSecret Stories Facebook PageSecret Stories Youtube PageSecret Stories TwitterSecret Stories PinterestSecret Stories Instagram
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Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
Secret Stories® Phonics — Making Phonics Make SENSE!
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!

Katie Garner Education Keynote Speaker and Literacy Consultant
For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 

Katie Garner Secret Stories Linkedin pageSecret Stories BlogSecret Stories Facebook PageSecret Stories Youtube PageSecret Stories TwitterSecret Stories PinterestSecret Stories Instagram

Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets— Making Phonics Make SENSE!
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  1. These are great! How do you explain the ar sounding like air? Thanks.

  2. great question... once learners know the SECRETS, they own all that's 'in the box,' which means that their ability to 'think outside it' when it comes to letters and all of their most-likely behaviors and next-most likely behaviors (i.e. sounds) becomes easy!

    With 'air' however, it's really not that hard, as the 'ai' is actually doing just what it should, given that whenever '2 vowels go a walking, the first will do the talking'..... and as for the 'r', it's just making it's normal sound as well. Take the word 'hair' for example... you've got the 'h' sound, then the 'long a' sound, then the 'r' sound.... all of which are making their most likely sounds in that word.

    One little trick that will help to bypass any regional accents that might interfere with these sounds is to role play "speaking like a Brit" with learners..... in other words, foster your best English accent and read a story together! This can really help to fine-tune the authentic sounds in the English language so as not to fall for what might appear to be exceptions, but are actually just words that have become "Americanized" in their pronunciation. I talk more about this in a vlog here-

    As for how to work with words in which letters actually DO make, what appear to be a 'complete departure' from their traditional or most-likely sounds, you can check out this blog post-

    Thanks so much for your question, and keep'em coming :)

  3. Thank you for such wonderful and interesting article.

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