Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sharing SECRET STORIES® with Parents!

"Last year, a lot of parents in my class were asking about the SECRET STORIES™ and how they could use them at home to support what their child was learning in school. I want to respect the copyright, but I also love that parents want to know! 

Do you have suggestions on how to share the stories with parents? I noticed you'd suggested in another post that teachers could make a big book to send home using their older posters, but I don't have the old posters.  I only have the smaller, cut-apart set that I use in small group to work with my kids?"

As soon as I received this question, I asked permission to post it on my blog! 

So here are some "TO-DO's" for sharing the SECRETS™ with your parents...
-DO devote a little time during Open House to let parents know about the SECRETS™ (what they are, how they work, etc...) and provide them with a copy of the"Parent-Share"page from the SS book!
We always held our Open House a couple of weeks after school had gotten underway, so by that time, my parents had already been hearing about the SECRETS™ from their kids, and so they were excited to learn more about them. Some parents, however, wouldn't even know that the SECRET STORIES® were about the letters, and they just wanted to understand what it was that Johnny kept talking about!

Sharing information about the SECRET STORIES® at Parent Night
Because time at Open House is always limited, and there are always so many other things to cover, the "Parent-Share" page is key! It's a quick and easy way to provide parents with the tools they need to 'dig-deeper' later. 

In it is the website information (which has leveled writing samples, video clips, sample SECRETS™, etc...) as well as a link to the SECRET STORIES® YouTube Channel and even information on the Home Version (identical to the class set, with the exclusion of the posters) should they wish to accelerate or remediate at home. Oftentimes, schools will even purchase a few copies (ideally, one per grade level) for parent check-out and sharing in-conference, or to house in a Parent Resource Room.

An additional and more comprehensive tool for sharing information is the downloadable and fully editable SECRET STORIES® PowerPoint, from which you can pull what you need and incorporate it into your own PowerPoint presentation, or even make copies to include in parent handouts. This comprehensive resource also contains live, clickable-links for teachers to dig-deeper! (Please note that due to the large file size, you will initially receive a "Whoops" message on GoogleDocs to let you know that the file is too large to preview.  Just click 'YES' and the file will begin to download, although it will take a few minutes, due to the graphics/ file-size.) 

-DO mention new SECRETS™ as they are introduced, in your newsletter!  

It can be as simple as.... 
"Ask Johnny to tell you the SECRET about au/aw!"  
"Ask Johnny if he can tell you some words that contain this SECRET!" 
"Over the weekend, see how many words Johnny can spot with the au/aw SECRET!"

Kids who know the SECRETS™ take great pride in owning them, especially since they had to earn the right to hear them!  It's a mistake when teachers assume that their students won't be able to share the SECRETS™ they know without an accompanying graphic or story text.

Now that's not to say that there won't be times when clarification might be needed. Like the time one of my kinders went home and told his mother...
"Mrs. Garner told us about this guy who's got a girlfriend AND a wife, and he loves them both so much he says 'ahhhhhhhhh' with both of them... she talks about them every day....she's even got their picture up on the wall!"  

Needless to say, that took some explaining.
Even so, what mattered was that the story (and resulting sound) made sense to him!

-DO consider purchasing SECRET STORIES® Porta-Pics for students to use both at home AND during independent reading/writing both in and outside of the regular classroom. 
Porta-Pics are tri-foldable, card-stock placards with all of the SECRET STORIES® graphics, and are designed for 'portable' use both in and outside the classroom. They're available in class sets of 25 for a cost of $65, which comes to $2.60 per student
And as the SECRET STORIES® are used across the grade levels, one Porta-Pic  may be used by multiple siblings at home! They are often purchased by the school or for specific grade levels, although they can also be paid for by the parents, themselves, just like with class book order for Scholastic. At $2.60, per student, the Porta-Pics are simply the best and most cost-effective tool to support student-use of the SECRETS™ at home, or anywhere else outside of the classroom! 

When implementation is school-wide, principals will often use the Porta-Pics as an incentive for parents to attend School Literacy Night, Parent Education Evenings, or even Open House, purchasing several packs and providing one Porta-Pic to every parent who attends. Funding for this is usually accessible through School Improvement, as it helps satisfy the objective for fostering greater parent awareness, education and involvement (i.e. building the 'Home-School' connection).

-DO send home the SECRET™ sheets (provided in the back of the SS book) as students master them in guided group, and alert parents to look for them to come home on a regular basis! 

Each of the SECRET™sheets spotlight a different "secret" sound pattern, providing ideal opportunities for students to share their SECRETS™ when taken home! Similarly, the SECRET STORIES® Guided Readerswith SECRETS™ highlighted throughout the text, prompting learners to share the SECRETS™ they know when reading at home to parents.
SECRET STORIES® Guided Readers
Additionally, the handful of SECRET STORIES®-support items listed on TPT also provide an easy way to familiarize parents with the SECRETS™ and how students use them in the classroom. For example, Spotting SECRETS™ provides reading and writing practice for the most common digraphs, but the best part is that there are thumbnail-sized graphics of the targeted SECRETS™ at the top of each page!  This allows those parents who aren't regular visitors or volunteers in your classroom, to see for themselves what  the SECRETS™ are, and how they are accessed by students for both reading and writing.
Spotting SECRETS™ 
Also available for this purpose are the SECRET STORIES® Alphabet Mini-Mats and SECRETS of the Superhero Vowels™, both which contain digital images of the SECRET™ vowel graphics that may be brought home to share and/or practice.
SECRET STORIES® Alphabet Mini-Mats
The SECRETS™ of the Superhero Vowels™
-DO consider using old poster versions (for those who have them) to create a SECRET STORIES® big book that may be taken home by students on a rotating basis.  
I'd mentioned this in a previous post as an idea for those teachers who had purchased the new, color posters (Fun & Funky or Original Color) to replace their older 'black-on-red' ones.
Now for some DON'Ts...
-DON'T make copies of the cut-apart cards in the back of the teacher book!
Not only is it wrong (i.e. against copyright) but at $2.60, the Porta-Pics are cheaper than making all those color copies! 

I had to mention this because oftentimes, teachers are provided with adopted, reading series material that we ARE allowed to copy and distribute to our students, as per the licensing agreement on the material when it was purchased. With the SECRET STORIES® however, that's not the case. And this is why the Porta-Pics were created.

-DON'T make copies of the Porta-Pics (see above :)
-DON'T re-produce, re-type, or re-write, or re-word the story text or graphics for in handouts, class newsletters, class websites, Weeblys, Google docs, Prezis, Promethean/Smart Board documents, etc...

The strangest way I've ever seen the SECRETS STORIES® shared was in a PDF file that was uploaded to Google Docs. In it was a series of 100+ images (or however many pages were in the SS book at the time) of a hand, holding up the SECRET STORIES® book, one page at a time... from cover to cover! I can't imagine how long the whole process must have taken, or how she was able to find anyone to sit there and take all those pictures!
(But in her defense, the Porta-Pics hadn't been available at that time ;)

In closing, I would like to invite everyone who will be using the SECRET STORIES® in their classroom this school year, to join my new collaborative Pinterest Page, Sharing SECRETS™!  

My goal in creating it was to provide an easy-access, open-forum for teachers sharing the SECRETS™ to upload pictures and video clips of interesting lessons, guided group  'A-ha' moments, student activities and/or writing, and even their own blog posts! Basically anything and everything SECRET STORIES®-related that shows what you do and how you (and your students) do it!

Sharing SECRETS™ Collaborative Pinterest Page
Until Next Time,

PS  For those who might not know, you can download FREE Common Core Literacy Posters w/ the SECRET STORIES® graphic-supports for grades PreK-3rd on the SECRET STORIES® website!
FREE PreK-3rd Common Core Literacy Posters
w/ SECRET STORIES® graphic-supports!
There, you will find links for other other 'made-to-match' sets, including the FREE Common Core Science Posters, also for grades PreK-3rd!
FREE Common Core Science Posters for PreK-3rd!

Friday, August 14, 2015

"Posting Posters!"

Posting Posters!
Back-to-School with the SECRET STORIES® phonics "secrets!"
Download Free SECRET STORIES® Sampling Set!

So you've finally laminated all of your SECRET STORIES® posters and are ready to hang them on your classroom wall...

But which wall? 
In what groupings?? 
Is there any particular order???

Is there a right way to hang the SECRET STORIES® posters?

This is the most frequently asked question I hear during these preschool weeks, especially in my 'back-to-school' in services as teachers are setting up their classrooms. 

And the short answer to all of the above is NO... not really!
But there are some tips and tricks that will ensure that you (and your students!) do get the most "bang-for-the-buck" with regard to easy access and use throughout the instructional day! 

The "Must-Do's" are as follows:
1.  Hang them ALL!  
Do not wait to post SECRETS until they are introduced. Having them all up from day one means that learners will have to visually scan through all those they don't know in order to access the ones that they do!  This continuous scanning process builds up valuable visual acuity in learners, so as to be able to quickly recognize these patterns in text, even if they haven't yet learned their "SECRETS!" It also allows prompts learners to drive their own instruction, as they are able to identify the SECRETS they haven't been told! And most importantly, having everything up and ready to go allows for easy access whenever teachable moments arise throughout the instructional day, so as to take advantage of learners' "need-to-know" and teach with the brain-in-mind!  

2. Post the Superhero Vowels™ and Sneaky Y™ above their counterparts in your regular alphabet train/display. 
While it's best to group all of the posters together on just one wall (which I used to call our "Wall of Secrets" in my own classroom), the Superhero Vowel™ and Sneaky Y™ posters should be separated out and hung in-conjunction with their like-letters over your existing alphabet train (or whatever  alphabet display is hung over the main board at the front of your classroom). The purpose is to draw attention to their alternative sounds, as these are the only individual letters that actually have their own secrets!  It also allows for easy, alternative sound references for each when singing The Better Alphabet Song to acquire the individual letters and sounds, via muscle-memory.  And on a side note, be sure that the picture cues on your existing alphabet train are accurate!  This means that the picture cue for the sound of the  letter is NOT an orange or an oyster, as by itself can only make its long or short sound, as in oak or ox. Likewise, for X  should not be depicted with a xylophone or an x-ray, as these are its least likely sounds, as the letter X makes the "ks" sound (as in box) most of the time. All too often, the priority is a "pretty picture" rather than actually depicting a letter's most likely sound!  Additionally, it's also important that for those letters that have alternate sounds, like G and C, to have picture cues for both. For all of these reasons, I created (in digital format) the SECRET STORIES Alphabet Anchor & Alphabet Mini-Mats. These also come in handy for those "lightening-fast" Letter Runs, as the anchors are vertical!

3. Create a visual barrier between the SECRETS™
Unlike the Fun & Funky Posters (which already have a yellow boarder), the letter patterns on the Original SECRET STORIES® Posters (as well as the older 'black on red' sets) can easily appear to 'run together' when hung-up on the wall. For this reason, directions are provided in the book for cutting-around each graphic pattern and mounting on a yellow backing (construction paper) so as to provide the needed visual boarder between each graphic letter pattern (i.e. SECRET). Examples of this can be seen in the classroom pictures, below).

4. Try to provide easy visual-access to the posters from wherever learners are likely to need them!
I can tell you from personal experience that this is much easier said, than done (as my past classroom assistants who were tasked with having to move the posters to different locations throughout the year, can attest ;)  Finding a place in the classroom where my students could easily access the posters, when needed, from guided group, to circle/calendar time, to whole group writing at their seats, was quite the challenge! Thus, I kept moving mine around, as my kids were constantly jumping up to run to another location in the room, so as to find the SECRET sound (when reading) or pattern (when writing) that they were looking for.  It drove me crazy when I taught kindergarten and first, as like most early grade teachers, my room was full of 'nooks & crannies,' making easy visual access to ANYTHING virtually impossible, aside from possibly, the ceiling!  (Although now that the book contains the smaller cut-apart cards in color, these are an easy-to-use solution for guided-group access. The Porta-Pics are also a great way to ensure learners have easy access, not only in the classroom, but in 'pull-out'/ resource settings and at home, as well, and a picture of these can also be found in the class pics, below/)

Now aside from these basic tips.... how, where, and in what order you hang the posters remains completely up to you!  This is most often based upon your overall classroom set-up, and where students are most likely to engage in different types of reading and writing activities within your classroom.

Below are some pictures showing different ways to display both versions of the SECRET STORIES® posters in the classroom. And I would love to add more classroom pictures to this collection, so when yours are up, please take some pictures and send them to me at or you can post them directly to the SECRET STORIES® Facebook Page!

Following are pictures of both the Fun & Funky Posters
(most of which are shown cut-down and mounted on yellow, as described above).
And for those who are still using the 'black-on-red' version of the posters from oh-so long ago...
now you can purchase the color version of the posters by themselves, and in either format 
(here and here) to use with your existing book and CD!  

And just a quick FYI for those with a spare "old" poster set...
Your old SECRET STORIES® posters make a great "big book" for students to take home and share with parents on a rotating basis, or even as a special reward! Just re-mount (if cut-down) on large construction paper, re-laminate the new pages, and then staple together (or ring binders) and Voile! A SECRET STORIES® big-book! Plus, it's a super easy way to educate your parents!!!  
(And speaking of great ways to educate parents about the SECRETS... the Porta-Pics are an ideal home reference tool, and can be used with multi-age/grade level siblings!) 
Black is another good background-color option
(and the hint of yellow around the edges really makes them pop!)

Easy-access anywhere with the Porta-Pics for Individualized/Portable Student Reference

And finally, this cleverly creative door display....


And in case you aren't following me on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter, don't forget to download FREE, the SECRET STORIES® Guided Reader, In the Fall while it's still in the Free Download Window on TpT
SECRET STORIES® Guided Reader- In the Fall 
And don't forget to also download the FREE Science Common Core Science Posters, listed by grade level in this previous post! These were 'made-to-match' the Cutest-Ever Social Studies, Literacy & Math, and Essential Questions poster sets, with SECRET STORIES®-graphic supports!
Free SECRET STORIES® Common Core Posters on TpT!

Now available...the SECRET STORIES® Dual-Use Placards! These are smaller versions of the posters, offering easy access for hands-on use anywhere in the classroom!
SECRET STORIES® Dual-Use Placards

PS  And here's a little something to make you chuckle...

Funny, but oh-so-TRUE!!!

Until Next Time,
Katie Garner
Author of The Secret Stories®