Friday, January 16, 2015

A "Backdoor-Route" to Tricky Phonics Sounds!

Kindergartners obsessed with SECRETS!
A Guest Post by Kindergarten Teacher Kjersti Johnson....

As teachers I think we have all had that moment when we sit down with one of our students and they completely knock our socks off!

This post is coming out of one of those moments. 

Yesterday, I had just gotten my afternoon class of kinders settled into our Dailies….they were spread around the room, some reading, some writing, some listening to books on iPod shuffles, and a few shopping for new books. 

I looked around to see who I would confer with (one of my favorite times of the day, by the way!) I started with Abel. 

Now let me tell you about a little kindergartner named Abel.
He is one of the sweetest little guys I know, and he has an amazing smile. He is also VERY excited about learning! 

He is an English Language Learner and entered kindergarten knowing 7 letters and 0 sounds. He worked SO hard the first weeks of school to learn his ABC's and by October, he knew ALL 52 upper and lowercase letters! (Using Katie's Better Alphabet Song was a huge success!)

So back to yesterday……
I sat down next to him and asked him to read to me. 

That’s when he pulled out Arthur’s Halloween. 
I looked at him and said, “Oh, this looks like a great picture read. Can you tell me a story to go with the pictures?” 
This is kindergarten after all, and it's a tough book! 

He gave me a strange look, and then…….He was READING it!

Later in the day, I had him read it again so that I could video it, and here he is, reading Marc Brown's Arthur's Halloween.
"Was" .....? 
No problem.

"Night"....with its tricky gh
Got it!

"Before" ....? 
Didn't stump him. He saw that Babysitter Vowel o telling the e to "say its name" and or who can "never make up their minds" ......and read it like a pro!

"Family" ....? 
That Sneaky y didn't trick him!

Then we got to "making".... 
He knew it wasn't right when he first read it, but then he remembered the Secret! (and please excuse me telling another student, TWICE, to go color their work :)

I was BLOWN away! Of course I had to e-mail Katie to tell her, which is what led to this blog! (Thanks Katie, for asking me to share!)

And so I made poor Abel read that page to everyone I could find! I was so proud of him! (and by the way, he is determined to read the whole book and I have no doubt that he will!)

This morning, I shared the video with my principal, our Dean of Students, and our LAP teacher! The question of how and when I use the Secret Stories in class came up, and I realized when don't I use them?

We do not limit the Secrets to just "reading" time. We use them all day long (which for us is about 2 hours and 40 minutes---not long, but as you can see, it works!)

We look for Secrets in our poems.....

We use yellow and blue for "popcorn" words and we "butter" the new ones and put blue dots under ones we already know. Then we use a green highlighter to find Secrets.  

And honestly, I have to say that I'm finding that with the Secrets, I'm spending almost no time on memorizing sight words, except for the few that really break the rules and must be "incarcerated" in our Word Jail, as most words the kids can just read with the Secrets.

We look for Secrets in Science....

Look how many variations of the word hibernate we found! 

And the kids were able to read them all!

My favorite was the next day, when all of a sudden I heard ....

"Mrs. Johnson! Mrs. Johnson! I found the word 'hibernate!'" 

And sure enough, he had.

We use Secrets when we write.....
See the ow and ing in "snowing" and the ou in "mountains!"

We look for the Secrets when we walk to and from recess. 

We look for Secrets when we read the directions on our math papers....

words like draw and count don't fool us!  

I almost never have to read story problems to my kids any more because they can do it all by themselves using our Secrets! 

The Secret Stories has opened up so many possibilities.....

There seems to be no limit to what my kindergartners can do!

Oh, and I should say that, yes, I do still have kids that are just chugging along at their own pace, but like Katie says, I am "giving them the keys," and when they are ready to use them, they'll have them in their pocket! 

So that's it for now from the land of Kindergarten, and thanks again Katie, for letting me guest blog (and brag about my kids!)

Thanks so much to Kjersti and her class for offering this incredible peek inside their classroom! 

PS Be sure to grab these newly posted freebies, below! vowels
Shape & SECRETS Anchors/ Poster Set
'Mommy e' & 'Superhero o' highlighted
SECRET STORIES Guided Reader- Dean's Treehouse 
....with SECRET STORIES highlighted in text



  1. I love this post! Thank you so much for sharing it!!!
    I teach first and first heard Katie at our state reading conference. From that moment on, I've been in love with the Secrets!!!!! They've not only had a dramatic effect my high kids (who, now that they know the secrets are literally unstoppable!) but they've completely captured my ELL group as well, and their progress has been like 'night and day!'

    Please keep the learning coming, and thank you for this wonderful post!

  2. I teach kinder as well and we LOVE our SECRETS! I'd shown the earlier 'Elf on the Shelf' post with my class, which they loved, and decided to share this one with them as well. They were so excited to watch your videos and hear about other kindergartners who know the "secrets!"

    Katie, it would be really neat if you could somehow open up a sort of "Secret Pen-Pal" group through your blog that would allow similar grade level classes to write to one another using the secrets.

    I know my kids would love that, plus, it would be a great motivator for writing, as they would want to use all of the secrets they know, as well as in reading as they try to read the other class' letters!