Saturday, March 12, 2016

Not Just Simple Sight Word-Readers... but "Crack-Those-Words-Wide-Open" Readers!!!

When kids learn the Secret Stories®, there's a brief period of time during which they are almost in shock that they can suddenly read and write. I use the word suddenly because having acquired so many skills so quickly, it's as if they were literally 'transformed' overnight into readers and writers! 

Once they figure out that they hold the keys (a.k.a. Secrets) to unlock any door (a.k.a. word) they are in shock! It usually takes about a week or two for them to fully convince themselves that they actually are readers! Not just simple sight word readers, but the "crack-that-word-wide-open" kind of readers!
They view all those tricky words in text as if they were mountains that they can barely wait to climb! And as their teacher, my job is to keep those keys coming... while simultaneously providing them with lots of rich, text experiences upon which they can practice wielding their newly attained, SECRET™ powers! 
Transforming Phonics Skill Instruction 
Into a Virtual "Playground" for Critical Thinking!
I ran across this study done by Stanford University a few days ago and thought that it belonged in this post! The excerpt below was taken directly from the SECRET STORIES® Facebook Page, and you can access the article in its entirety using the link at the bottom.

Sight Words....Friend or Foe? 
And the research says???
  • "Don't MEMORIZE what you can actually READ!" 

    Research shows that teaching kids to sound out words sparks more optimal brain circuitry than instructing them to memorize them. In other words, don't MEMORIZE what you can READ!

    And for kids who know the phonics "secrets" (a.k.a. the Secret Stories) almost ALL of the most common "Dolch" sight words can be easily read... even by kindergartners! (see "Sight Words Go to Jail" on YouTube)
  • But for kids who don't know the Secrets™, memorization is the only option, as they won't know all of the phonics patterns until second grade. Plus, many believe that kids will be able to recognize the sight words faster than they could read them.

    So here's what the research says...
    "Beginning readers who focus on letter-sound relationships, or phonics, instead of trying to learn whole words, increase activity in the area of their brains best wired for reading, according to new Stanford research investigating how the brain responds to different types of reading instruction. This is the first evidence that a specific teaching strategy for reading has direct neural impact. In other words, to develop reading skills, teaching students to sound out "C-A-T" sparks more optimal brain circuitry than instructing them to memorize the word "cat." And, the study found, these teaching-induced differences show up even on future encounters with the word. As the field of educational neuroscience grows, however, both brain researchers and educational researchers can improve their understanding of how instructional strategies can best be harnessed to support the brain changes that underlie the development of learning, he added...."

    You can access the entire study here.
    • This is such important information for all teachers, so please SHARE with your teacher-friends on FaceBook by clicking the 'CLOSE' button below, and then sharing it on your page :)smile emoticon

    I'm Renee McAnulty (aka "Mrs. Mac") and if you've read my very first guest post on Katie's blog, you may remember that I teach first grade at a Title I school in California with a very high ESL population. 

    That year I literally felt as if I were drowning.
    I had...
    -33 first graders, 24 of which were BOYS!
    -18 of my 33 were FAR below grade level (as per DRA Testing)
    -6 of the 18 knew NO letter sounds or sight words
    I had exactly 11 students functioning on grade level!!!!!
    (And I hadn't yet discovered Secret Stories®)

    But now, more than two years later, boy have things have changed!
    I still teach at the same school and our population is the same, but the level at which the kids are now coming into first grade is through the roof, as our kindergarten teachers have started using the SECRET STORIES® too... and what a difference it makes! 
    (You imagine where my firsties start now! :)

    So with that in mind, here are my little firsties, totally rocking this THIRD grade book!
    (The best part is little Landon (around the middle of the clip) who refuses to give up trying to decode the word "necessities" and applies all of his Secret powers to decode it... his proud little face says it all!)

    My Firsties Rocking this 3rd Grade Book!

    Now, to re-wind a bit, here's a clip from way back showing one way we honed our Secret powers that wasn't with text, but with music! 

    Watching it, you can see how easy it is for all of the kids to remember even the trickiest phonics patterns and sounds. And take note that there is NO 'auto-pilot' singing going on here! The kids are actually mimicking the same processes they go through when decoding and encoding, but faster, and without the effort!

    As Katie likes to say, "music is the glue for building skill-automaticity!"

    Singing Sneaky Y™ Sounds with our Porta-Pics

    Writing's just like Reading....only BACKWARDS! 

    And because reading and writing are inextricably linked, I wanted to also share the reflection of our reading ability, which is our writing! Now for those who've read last year's guest post about Sparkle the Elf, she returned this year up to her old tricks, and the kids loved her just as much!

    For unfamiliar with last year's shenanigans, the Gingerbread Kids continued their bullying of poor Sparkle, and she finally had enough and ended up biting their heads off (literally!) Of course, the biting of others' heads is against the school rules, and so our principal had to give Sparkle a referral, which 'sparked' the following desperately written (aka "persuasive writing") pleas from our firsties.

    Here are just a few of the requests to our principal for leniency...
    "I'm making an inference of what Sparkle might say..."
    "The gingerbread men have been tying her up for years..."

    "I will never eat your friends again..."
    "Do you KNOW what the Gingerbread Kids did to her?"
    "Please don't send her to the North Pole and please don't torture her!"
    "She is in my family. Please give her one more chance!"
    "She watches us to see if we're doing our work"

    "She was like, 'Thank you for saving me!'"
    "I infer that Sparkle tried to warn us..."
    "I know Sparkle made a bad choice, but I hope you will let her go..."
    "She brought us books to make us better writers."

    Special Thanks to Mrs. Mac & her 1st Grade Munchkins!
    And to see what KINDERS can do when THEY know the Secrets, check out these PRE and POST Kindergarten writing samples! (For more on the progression, click here.)

    Note— The "middle" samples (In the Fall...) are to show how quickly kinders are able to easily acquire individual letters and sounds when they are "given" (not taught) via the Better Alphabet Song, using muscle memory as a bypass to cognitive processing.  The point of this writing was to show how much of the reading and writing code the kids had already picked up at exactly the 2 week mark (around mid September) singing the Better Alphabet Song, plus a handful of Secrets tossed out along the way!  

    Download the FREE "Write Like they Read" pack wth Secret Stories® mini-anchors,
    "Zoo Keeper" strategies, and MORE, here. 
    For more Secrets in Kindergarten, check out this post! 


    Just remember, it's our "SECRET!" 
    To learn more about the brain science behind the Secret Stories® use,  you can check out the video below with highlights from my featured presentation at the 2017 National Title I Conference. You can also view the full presentation and the complete VLOG series FREE on the YouTube SO much more! 

    SECRET STORIES® Dual-Use Placards

    And for those who don't already have the SECRET STORIES®, you download this Secret Sampling for free so that you can start sharing some Secrets with your class!

    Free SECRET STORIES® Sampling Pack