Monday, January 2, 2017

"Butter or Buter?" The Best Vowel-Trick EVER!

"Why do I have to write two T's in the word butter when I only hear one sound? 
And how do I know whether to make the long or short sound for the letter u?" 

As teachers, we know that the trick to figuring this out is based on the syllabic division of a word.
VCV (vowel—consonant—vowel) = "open" syllable = long sound (as in bite)
VCCV (vowel—consonant—consonant—vowel) = "closed" syllable = short sound (as in bitter)

But for early and struggling, upper grade learners,  this "trick" can actually be more confusing than the problem it solves, thus making an already difficult task seem even more complicated, especially for the average "concrete-thinker" (which early learners are).

If you've been following my blog (or are using the SECRET STORIES®) then you know how quickly and easily the Mommy E™ and Babysitter Vowels™ secrets are an easy-fix for this pervasive problem. This is because kids already know that when their Mommy (or Babysitter) is nearby, they have to behave and do what they're told! And when they are not, all behavior-bets are off!

Framing the abstract VCV/VCCV concepts in this way activates the affective thinking ("feeling") domain— an earlier developing area of the brain that is far more accessible to very young and/or struggling learners, making it a perfect "backdoor-route" for critical skill acquisition!

So let's take a peek at this kinder guided reading session to see just how easy it is...

These "social-emotive" (affective) learning connections to Mommy E® and the Babysitter Vowels® are already deeply entrenched within the learner, and it is this inherent understanding that easily and effortlessly drives their decision-making when working with unfamiliar text. 
Excerpt from the NEW Secret Stories® Book—Version 2.0!

Simplified alternatives— like sparkly e or magic e are much less effective for a few reasons:
—Their identity/behavior is arbitrary and not rooted in what kids already know and understand (i.e. one more thing to learn)
—They often will only apply to single syllable, silent e words (bike, rake, use, etc...)

And bossy e, super e, lazy e, etc... don't provide much bang-for-the-buck either, as they work only when the vowel is an e—leaving learners high and dry when attempting to decode all other V—C—V/V—C—C—V words, like motor, making, radar, etc...

All kids need to know is that much like their own mommy, sometimes Mommy E® just has to get out of the house! And when she does, she'll put another vowel in charge, and that's the Babysitter. The Babysitter Vowel™ just does what Mommy would do if she were there, which is to tell any vowel that's one letter away, "You say your name!" Works like a charm every time!
The Babysitter Vowels™
See for yourself in this video clip...

Knowing about the Mommy E® and Babysitter Vowels® instantly equip even the youngest four or five year old learners with the "best-betting-odds for Las Vegas" when it comes to the most-likely sound a vowel will make in a word—even if it's a word they've never seen before!

That's the benefit of storing complex phonics skills in the affective learning domain, rather than the later developing, executive functioning centers. It's also why these brain-based tricks for critical phonemic skill mastery are a 'must-have' for every reading teacher (and their students!)

So back to the original question at the top of this post— 
"Is there an easy way for beginning learners to understand why there are two T's in words like butter?"

YES! But it's a "secret!" ;)
However, you can watch this short video clip from a recent staff inservice PD/workshop to find out!

Until Next Time,
Katie Garner 

Visit my speaker website 
to view my upcoming conference and PD dates!


  1. I loved watching the modeled guided reading video!

  2. We use the secrets all the time and I teach third grade! They have completely changed the course of my lower level readers, all of whom are now ON GRADE LEVEL!!! Our K-2 had been using the Secret Stories for a couple of years and just raved about them, so 3rd decided to give them a try and the results have been outstanding. Our 4th and 5th are now planning to start them next year and we're hoping to have you come out to our school for a PD. If I win, I will be passing my set on up to a 4th grade teacher whose students are really struggling, so fingers crossed!!!

  3. I am so hoping to win this! I read the post about making my current posters into a student "take-home" big book and using my old book for parent check-out and I love both ideas! Now I just need the new one so that I can make it happen :)

  4. We use the Secret Stories every day, ALL day! My kids LOVE them and are constantly looking for them EVERYWHERE! It's so wonderful to see them so excited about reading, especially the ones who had no interest at all before learning the secrets. We are HUUUUGEEEE Secret Stories fans!!!!

    Stephanie Jacobsen
    1st Grade

  5. My friend and fellow teacher highly recommends Secret Stories! I would love to use them with my early readers.

  6. I love to teach my students about Mommy E.

  7. Don't even get me started on the Secret Stories, as I could literally go on for days about what they do and the difference they have made in my classroom. My students' progress has been remarkable every year since I started telling them. One of my students last year moved from kinder level to THIRD GRADE level!! Their progress is just incredible!

    Katrina Hoeffler

  8. I would love to win this giveaway! My son is in 1st grade, so this is perfect timing!

  9. I love the Secret Stories! I am amazed at how quickly my first graders learn them and use them in their reading. I can't imaging teaching without them!
    Shelly Smith
    1st Grade

  10. I am a teacher and I'd love to use this with my students, it looks very intriguing!

  11. What is your story for teaching ck?