Saturday, April 22, 2017

How to Teach the "Sounds of Y" so that kids GET IT!

There's an elephant in your classroom.

And it's huge!

Secret Stories Phonics Secrets— There's an Elephant in Your Classroom!

You sweep by it every day in your classroom, several times in fact, and probably without even noticing it. It's most conspicuous during morning calendar time, as that's its favorite time of day.

Can you visualize it?  No??
Then watch this....

Now that you can recognize the elephant, it's time to get some elephant exterminator,  
as having elephants in the classroom isn't good for the brain! 

Think of the Secret Stories® as a "secret" elephant-exterminator! The Secrets provides the 
logical explanations that learners' brains crave when it comes to letters and all of the crazy 
sounds they can make, so as to keep those elephants at bay! Secrets are the reasons WHY 
letters don't always do what they should when they get together with other letters in words!

Backdoor Access to "High-Leverage" Phonics Skills

And nowhere are they more needed than during morning calendar! Especially the Secret
about Sneaky Y®!  It’s in virtually every word on that calendar, and not once is it actually making the sound that it's supposed to (or at least the one that we tell beginning grade
kindergarten learners to expect it to, which is "yuh" like in the word yellow.)

January, February, May, July, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday,
Sunday.... It's literally everywhere, and not one time does it ever say, "yuh!"

Secret Stories Phonics Secrets— Sneaky Y®— sounds of y
We tell kinders that, "Y says Yo-Yo, yuh, yuh, yuh"..... except it almost never does!

Secret Stories Phonics Calendar Secrets

Secret Stories Phonics Calendar Secrets
And then we have other elephant spottings around the "boy's" bathroom and whenever we sit around and read a big book that's "by" so and so author!  Add to that our favorite words to
write in our stories— mommy, daddy, candy, etc... and we literally have elephants running everywhere!

Secret Stories® Phonics Secret— Sneaky Y® — Sounds of Y

Time to reach for that secret elephant spray! Just watch this short clip below to find out the 
Sneaky Y®'s Secret!

Secret Stories® Phonics Secret— Sneaky Y® — Sounds of Y

Secret Stories® Phonics Secret— Sneaky Y® — Sounds of Y
The Sneaky Y® "Cheat-Sheet" from Secrets of the Superhero Vowels®!
(and for a video on teaching the Superhero Vowels® & Sneaky Y®, click here!)
But what about words like: Monday or May?
Secret Stories® Phonics Calendar Secrets
Secret Stories® Phonics Calendar Secrets
The Calendar Secrets
So what about words like Monday and May, you ask?
That's not Sneaky Y®! That's ey and ay, and they are just too cool!
Secret Stories® Phonics Secrets— ey and ay are just too cool!

And now the there's a new and improved elephant spray in the form of a Secret Stories® 
Guided Reader that's all about Sneaky Y® and his sneaky shenanigans! 

It's called Sneaky Y's Secret and it explains how Sneaky Y® got to be so sneaky! (Special 
thanks to Susan Eklove for the adorable text and Poco & Pop for the beautiful illustrations!) 
Secret Stories® Phonics Sneaky Y's Secret Reader and Guided Reading Puppet Pointer
Secret Stories® Guided Reader— Sneaky Y®'s Secret
Secret Stories® Phonics Sneaky Y's Secret Reader and Guided Reading Puppet Pointer

Secret Stories® Phonics Sneaky Y's Secret Reader and Guided Reading Puppet Pointer

Secret Stories® Phonics Sneaky Y's Secret Reader and Guided Reading Puppet Pointer

Secret Stories® Phonics Sneaky Y's Secret Reader and Guided Reading Puppet Pointer

Secret Stories® Phonics Sneaky Y's Secret Reader and Guided Reading Puppet Pointer
Secret Stories® Guided Reader— Sneaky Y®'s Secret

If you are subscribed to the Secret Newsletter, you should have received a free download link 
for the Sneaky Y® Guided Reader in your email. Otherwise, it will be on sale through Monday!

In closing, remember that "cool dude" from the video up above? He happens to be a  kindergarten teacher from Washington State, and he sent me the following email, which I wanted to share with you....

My name is Daniel and I teach kindergarten in Washington State. Last year my school district adopted a new reading curriculum and when my team examined the leveled readers before the start of the school year, we were initially in shock.  We had no idea how our students were expected to read the new complex text introduced so early in the curriculum. After our initial reaction started to subside we got very motivated to create and find innovating and engaging methods for teaching more advanced phonics skills. 

Around November I stumbled across a pin on Pinterest with the Secret Story posters for the R-controlled vowels, etc… I had seen it before and I thought it was a neat idea, but I had never clicked on the link. When I clicked on it and found your website and realized the scope of how many secret stories there were, I got really excited and shared it with my teaching partners who shared in my enthusiasm. They were the perfect solution to our problem! We made up a few secret stories on our own before convincing our school to purchase them for our grade level, but by January we had them and made the full commitment to implement them. 

By the end of the year, we had by far the most students reading the Beyond Leveled Readers in the district, and many students needed even more challenging text.  By the summer I started presenting about the Secret Stories to other teachers in my district and adjacent ones, and ever since I have been trying to share this amazing resource with as many teachers as I can.

After last year’s success, we wanted to step it up a notch this year, so we decided to create a video where we acted out every Secret Story.  It took us 2 months to complete, but we are proud of the result. We’ve had our students watch it many times and they are making even more connections to the stories.  Sometimes it is a gesture that one of us did that resonates with them, or remembering who acted out the story that helps the students remember the sound.  It has proven to have been a very useful project and new resource. 

We had a lot of fun doing it, and we would be honored if you had some time in your schedule to watch it. Thank you so much for this amazing resource and inspiring us to want to be the best reading teachers for our students as possible!

Daniel M. 
Kindergarten Teacher
Until Next Time,
Katie Garner :-)

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PS The registration deadline for the week-long South Dakota Kindergarten Academy this summer is fast approaching, and the preK/Kinder days have sold out. For all those who were unable to get into the PK/K workshop, you are encouraged to sign up for the 1st/2nd grade workshop, as the strategies and content covered in both sessions are applicable across the primary grade levels! 

Katie Garner Education Keynote Speaker and Literacy Consultant —Professional Development Workshop
Katie Garner Education Keynote Speaker— Kindergarten Conference
For information on bringing Katie to your school or district for workshops, click here.
For more information on how to register, visit the Kindergarten Academy Facebook Page or email

Katie Garner Secret Stories LinkedIN pageSecret Stories BlogSecret Stories Facebook PageSecret Stories Youtube PageSecret Stories TwitterSecret Stories PinterestSecret Stories Instagram
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Secret Stories® Makes Phonics Make SENSE!
Secret Stories Cracking the Reading Code with the Brain in Mind
Try a "taste" of the Secrets with YOUR class 
and see the difference they make!
Click to Download the FREE Secret Stories® Mini-Sample Poster Pack!

For a list of upcoming conferences, or for information on scheduling a school or district professional development workshop, click here. 

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  1. The teacher's comment about the Secret Stories being the "lifeblood of her classroom" really nailed it, and I couldn't agree more with everything that she said! The secrets really do permeate every aspect of our day, not just when reading and writing, but ALL DAY LONG, and even outside the classroom! I have heard other teachers say that they are the most tool in their classroom, but I would go a step further and say that the Secret Stories have made me the teacher that I've always wanted to be. They don't just make it easy to teach reading, they make it FUN! And not just for the kids, but for me too! I can totally relate to the teachers in those videos, as that's how I feel every day in my classroom when I'm telling the secrets to my kids!

    Thanks so much for posting this, and I can't wait for more! I had also heard through the grapevine in my district that you were going to be the keynote at our state reading conference this year, so now I'm saving up to go, as I would love to meet you!!!

  2. Kellie Jon-MarkensenApril 22, 2017 at 3:23 PM

    Even in kinder, they them so fast and start using them that there's really no reason NOT to teach them, especially since they're seeing the secrets every single day in text! Having a way to explain everything in a way that makes sense (and that kids love!) just changes everything about teaching in kindergarten. Finding out about the Secret Stories was the best thing that ever happened to me as a teacher, and I'm on my 14th year in the classroom!

  3. Hi Katie,
    Thank you!! I was at the SoMirac conference on March 29, 2017 in Hunt Valley, MD. You were an absolute inspiration for me!! I am/try to be a"singer" of songs to reinforce and cement concept attainment as well.. ( even though I can NOT carry a tune in a bucket or anything else :/ .. lol) I find your creative style is almost strikingly similar to mine.. I am not comparing what you do with what I do ..but our approach to learning seems so similar. I was awestruck by your presentation and my reading teacher could NOT WAIT for me to see you present... As a matter of fact, I am presenting some little tidbits of your material at a faculty PD next week. I want to engage and motivate my staff to check out your blogs and also try to implement some of your awesome ideas!! Thank you so much for sharing your creative spirit and inspiring me to try new and innovative ideas!! :)


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