Saturday, December 27, 2014

Kinder-Writing with Phonics "Secrets!"

"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, a Kindergarten Teacher, along with the following email...
"I teach 2 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 kiddos, 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 in mid-year, knowing zero letters or sounds, was able to read though all the letters mixed up, singing "____ says ______, ___-___-___!" after just a couple weeks of doing "The 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've always risen to them, and often soared far beyond! 

It has been a fight to pull Kindergarten into this century. I boxed up our basal 6 years ago, when I started using Daily 5/Café to teach literacy. My kids took off (amazing when you put the right book in their hands!) The Secret Stories have 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 Secrets!" They amaze me everyday 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 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!"
Just as with Mrs. Mac in First, I'd asked Kjersti if she would be willing to share more about how she uses the Secret Stories in her Kindergarten classroom, and she agreed!  And so, I'm excited to share with you the following post (which I hope will be the first of many) from Mrs. Kjersti Johnson and her Class of Kinders, featuring some of their awesome kindergarten writing.....
Mrs. Johnson's Class of Kinders...
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 kinders (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!
The "eu/ew Secret" in crew 
(also used were: Sneaky Y, Babysitter Vowels, Mommy e, or, oo, th, er/ir/ur, au/aw, & ou/ow)
The er/ir/ur Secret in girl and her
(also used were: Sneaky Y, Babysitter Vowels, Mommy e, or, oo, th, ea, au/aw, sh, & ed

Watch a video of the er/ir/ur Secret!
The au/aw Secret in because
(also used were: Mommy ether/ir/urea, Babysitter Vowels, ey/ay, & sh

Watch a video of the au/aw 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!

The 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 done as Katie suggested, which was to begin telling the Secrets from Day 1, so as to be acquired simultaneously with the individual letters and sounds). 

This is what he wrote..... independently! 
Yes, I was in tears when he showed me!

Spotting the SECRET STORIES in Kindergarten Writing!
I also love how the next little guy (whose writing is shown below) 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 realizing it didn't make sense. He also went back and changed "hed" to "head" because he said it "didn't look right."
I am just so proud of my kindergartners! And with just half of the school year under their belt so far, I can't wait to see where they are by the end of the year! 

We are so thankful to Katie Garner for sharing the Secrets with us!
Kjersti Johnson/ Kindergarten Teacher
(and for "secret" tips on using it, click here and here!)
A special THANK YOU to Kjersti and her amazing kindergartners for sharing their successes! I look forward to hearing more from them, and would love to hear from others willing to share here, as well!

And as promised to all who are following my SECRET Blog and RED DIAMOND Pinterest Boards, I'll be rotating some of the most popular Secret Stories Guided Readers through the "Free Download Window" throughout the remainder of this Holiday Break!  

Also, keep an eye out for another NEW "surprise-freebie" with adorable Melonheadz graphics that I'm so excited to post.... I know you will LOVE it! It too, will be announced and posted here in the coming days before the end of break!  

As these Free Window Downloads will be coming and going very quickly over the next few days, be sure to act fast when you receive the announcement email (if subscribed to my blog) or their postings on one of the RED DIAMOND Pinterest Boards and/ or Secret Stories FaceBook Page, so as not to miss any!

You are also welcome to Teachers Pay Teachers Page for monthly notifications of these Free Download Windows throughout the year.
Click here to download the complete Secret Stories Guided Reader My Class FREE!

And speaking of Kindergarten.... I will be sharing a featured session at the upcoming California Kindergarten Conference in Santa Clara on January 17th and would love to hear from (email me) and meet up (for a cosmo!) with any PreK, K & 1st teachers who might be planning to attend!

Warm Regards, 
Subscribe to the SECRET Sessions Blog!


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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!!