Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Secret Stories® Classroom Kits vs. the Supplemental "Digital" Resources on TpT

Hi there!
Secret Stories® Subscribers— Check your inbox for 2 FREE DOWNLOAD WINDOWS just posted!
For those who are not signed up to receive the Secret Stories® Newsletter & Freebies, you can do so by clicking here. You can also find the subscription box to the right of this blog post, or at the bottom of any page on the Secret Stories website.  After signing up, you should receive the newsletter within just a couple of minutes! 

Given the big TpT Sale, now seemed like the perfect time to post this commonly asked question about how the Secret Stories® Classroom Kits are different from the digital Secret Stories® products listed for sale on TpT, as many of you have probably wondered this, as well....

Dear Katie,
I am totally in L-O-V-E with my recently purchased kit of "The Secret Stories!" My K-5 intervention reading groups are absolutely reaping amazing rewards with this resource! I really wish that I had had it years ago. Okay, enough gushing... Here's my question:
Since I do have the classroom kit, which TpT resources would you recommend to supplement it? I am about to purchase the Guided Reader books available here, as well as "Sneaky Y's Secret!" Are there any others supplements that I might like to consider? 
Ideally, I'd love to see all supplements listed in one place—here or on your website/blog—so that I don't replicate parts of the full kit, but can purchase all of the additions to it. 
Thanks so much for any advice you can offer! :-)

So just in case you've been wondering the same thing, here's the scoop—
First and foremost, it's important to know that everything needed to successfully implement the Secret Stories® IS included in the classroom kits— the book, all of the posters and the musical practice CD, and that the complete classroom kits are only sold in hardcopy format on the Secret Stories® website. And if you're wondering what the difference between the three different kits— OriginalFun & Funky and Space Savers— it's simply the look and size of the posters. There are also some hardcopy supplements that teachers who use and love the Secret Stories® often get, which are the Dual-Use Placards (for hands-on manipulative use anywhere in the classroom) and the Porta-Pics (for portable use both at home as well as in the classroom). The only other important point here that I would like to make is that if you are a primary grade teacher (preK-2), go for the larger posters (as opposed to the space-savers) as your kids will be using referencing them constantly, and from everywhere in the classroom! For this reason, easy visual access is a must!
Secret Stories® "Fun & Funky" Classroom Kit
So now let's talk about the Secret Stories® on TpT...
All of the Secret Stories® digital products on TpT are supplemental resources that serve one or more of three purposes:
1. Flexibility of size options of the core Secret Stories® graphics for multi-purpose use and reproducibility, via the digital format.  Whether you already have the classroom kit and want the added flexibility of owning these core pieces in a digital format, or if you've never tried the Secrets, but would like to test out some bits and pieces in your classroom— the following TPT products are ideal:
                                               FREE Secret Stories® Sampling
FREE Secret Stories Mini-Pack 
FYI—The "Headband Packs listed in #3 also offer the smaller size options and are ideal for home-sharing, although they are not listed in this section, as their primary purpose is to provide practice both decoding and encoding by turning the kids into manipulatives! Similarly, the Mini-Mats (in #2) and Sneaky Y's® Secret w/ Reading Puppet (#3) are also ideal for reproducible "home-sharing!")
2. A "ready-to-use" and "sound-accurate" alternative to a traditional classroom alphabet anchors. All too often when I visit classrooms, I see alphabet trains (or whatever you want to call the above-board alphabet display) that contain picture sound cues that are either completely inaccurate or that identify the least most-likely sound option (i.e. an orange or an oyster for the letter o, a xylophone for the letter x, etc...) The following products were created to solve this problem, as well as a couple of others!
Each set has the Secrets for the individual letter sound secrets (i.e. Superhero & Short & Lazy Vowel sounds, Sneaky Y® and QU) already embedded, along with accurate picture prompts for each sound a letter can make by itself (i.e. hard and soft G and C, 3 sounds of Y, etc...)  They also make for ideal references when singing the the Secret Stories® Better Alphabet Song— which teachers kids ALL of the possible sounds that the letters can make by themselves AND in the most likely order! And the vertical-display option is a life-saver when trying to keep up with thefast-paced Letter Runs while pointing to each letter as you sing its sound/sounds! (And the mini-mats are also ideal for home practice and use!)
3. Provide for authentic, targeted practice of the Secret Stories® phonics patterns and sounds. In addition to enhancing learners' visual acuity to more quickly recognize the Secret Stores® patterns in text, the following products help learners to both see and understand how the Secrets can be applied to text to help them read and/or write words. These TpT products include: 
FREE Math Anchor Poster Set
FREE "Write Like They Read" Zoo Keeper Pack
And the Secret Stories® Guided Readers— 
Additionally, all of the Common Core Poster Sets (including the FREE Literacy Posters for PreK-3rd!) also contain Secret Stories® graphic references, where applicable, and the Science Sets are FREE, so be sure to check those out, as well! 

FREE Common Core Posters for Literacy!
FREE Science Posters for PK-3rd! (Click link and search for grade level needed)

I hope this helps to clarify the differences between the actual Secret Stories® Classroom Kits and the digital supplements that are offered on TpT! And now for some freebies!!!
And don't forget while doing your last-minute shopping tonight on TpT to download the free goodies that I've put in the "Free Download Window," as they'll be gone one the sale ends! You will see the links for them in your newsletter (see top of post if you missed this!)
Until Next Time,
Katie Garner :-)

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Friday, May 5, 2017

The "Head-Bop" Trick for Fickle Vowels!

"The Secret Stories are the life-blood of our classroom. They are always in view, always in our whole group and small group conversations. We couldn't read words without them. They are our best friends. They are the tools the students are taking with them to the next grade!"                                                                 — Tara Settle/1st Grade Teacher 
Kids who know the Secret Stories® are able to understand WHY the letters make the sounds that they do. For example, they know that the Superhero Vowels® have a power that no other letter in the alphabet has—they can "SAY THEIR NAMES!" (like "i" in hike or "a" in hate) But when they don't want to be recognized, they will hide in their "short and lazy" sound disguises (like "i" in hit or "a" in hat).  

Secret Stories Superhero Vowel® I 
(and his "short & lazy" sound disguise!)  
They also know the secret "triggers" that determine whether a vowel will most likely be long or short in a word, which are the close presence of  Mommy E® or the Babysitter Vowels®.  (To see how, click here or on the clip below from the Secret Stories® YouTube Channel)

But what about words where vowels just aren't making the sounds that they should? 
Well thanks to Tara Settle and her brilliant "head-bop" trick, we can become even better Word Doctors AND clear out some of the most frequent "sight word" offenders that clog up your Word Jail! 

So here is a brand new word doctor strategy to share with your kiddos....

Sometimes vowels just can't make up their minds what to do— "Should I be long? Should I be short? "Uhhhhhhhhh....?" and BOP! (this is where you bop yourself on the forehead with the palm of your hand, as if to say, "duh?!") And that's the sound you will hear vowels make in these (and more!) otherwise non-decodable sight words: of, was, some, done, want, from, again, nothing, brother, another, etc...

So now our Word Jail is transformed from this....

to this....
(Special thanks to Cathy Delaney for sending me this great pic of her Word Jail and Wardens!) 

So to Tara Settle, you and your kiddos are AWESOME word doctors to have identified this pattern that occurs in so many high frequency (non-decodable) sight words— which is that the vowel sound shifting to a schwa (or short u "uhhhh") sound—  Brilliant!

Good word doctors are prone to  "out-of-the-box" thinking, but in order to think outside the box, you have to first know what's IN it! And that's Secret Stories® do— equip learners with everything that's IN the box when it comes to the letters and all of the crazy sounds they can make so that they can easily think outside it when working their way through text.   (For more on how to get kids to think outside the box when working with unfamiliar text, click here or on the Youtube clip, below.)  

Luckily for us, Tara Settle's first graders (Settle On In) and her wonderful word doctor team could easily think "outside the box" because they knew what was in it, and while doing so, they developed this cutting-edge, diagnostic tool that all Word Doctors can now keep under their belts. It's technical name is the "Head-Bop," so named because prompting learners to use it is as easy as a "bop on the head," as   Mrs. Settle's word doctors can be seen demonstrating, below. 

For more Word Doctor tricks, click here!

Summertime is almost here!

Did you know that the summer is jam-packed with some of the most awesome teacher conferences?  It's true! And one of the best one of all is the International Literacy Association Conference in Orlando on July 15-17! 

For those who have never been, it's an incredible experience.  And for those who have, well you know how hard it can sometimes be to squeeze into the sessions that you reeeeeeallllly want to see— even just to sit on the floor, which teachers are usually more than happy to do! 

Unfortunately, those pesky fire marshals don't like floor-sitters too much, and will often ask them to leave, which is why I personally prefer to take cover underneath a nearby table cloth (and out of fire marshal view) if it's a session that I really want to hear and it's full.  Otherwise, I'll just hang outside of the session room door and strain to listen, which is a lot less fun! 

But for those planning to attend my session at ILA, I have great news! It's going to be in a BIG session room!!!  So, unlike last year, it's highly unlikely that you'll have to resort to hiding under a table cloth to get in!  If you would like session details or information on registering, click here.

Another great one is the National Charter School Conference on June 11-14 in  Washington, D.C., but don't let the name fool you, as this conference is great for ALL educators, not just those who work with charter schools. It's a big as ILA, but includes all subject areas, not just reading. And the best part (for me, anyway) is that my sessions are two and a half hours long instead of one...and there is a repeat for those unable to get into the first one, which means that once again, the chances of having your view obstructed by a table cloth is minimal! For more information on this conference, you can click here.

And while this one isn't a national conference, I want to mention it for all of my PK-2 teaching friends out there in South Dakota, as I'll be in Beresford for the South Dakota Kindergarten Academy June 19-22 for two 2-day workshops! (The first 2-day session is already full and the other is almost capped, so register now if you want to go!) You can obtain more information here, including how to get college credit for attending through the University of South Dakota.

And for those who just can't get away this summer, no worries! The National Title I Association brings the speakers to you with their Video On Demand series! There are so many amazing sessions, most all of which are FREE to watch!
You can view the highlights from my featured presentation at this year's 2017 National Title I here, or by clicking directly on the video, below.  The full-length presentation is available as part of Title I's subscription series, but you can view it free in its entirety here, along withlots of other video clips from conferences, school and district PD Workshopsvideo blogs and more on the Secret Stories® Youtube Channel.

That's all for now! 
So until next time... HAPPY "ALMOST" SUMMER!
Katie :-)

PS View the original "Head-Bop" post on the Secret Stories® Facebook and join the conversation!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

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

The "Prequel" to the SECRET STORY about Sneaky Y®!
Yes, it really can be THAT easy! 

"The Secret Stories® are the lifeblood of our classroom.  They are always in view, always in our whole group and small group conversations.  We can't read words without them.  They are our best friends.  They are the tools the students are taking with them to second grade!"              
Tara S./ 1st Grade Teacher
I want to apologize for the long delay between blog posts, as I definitely overdid it this year with my conference and PD schedule, and now I have so many exciting things to share that I don't even know where to start!

So, I've decided to break up all that I want to share into bits and pieces over the next couple of weeks in a series of blog posts, so if you're subscribed to my blog, you won't miss a trick— beginning with a sale on the latest digital Secret Stories® product—
"Sneaky Y®'s Secret!" w/Guided Reading Puppet Craft for 3 Sounds of  Y!

This "prequel-like" story tells Sneaky Y®'s Secret, and explains how he actually got so sneaky!  I want to thank Susan Eklove and the "other" Susan of Poco & Pop for their brilliantly creative story and illustration adaptations.  (Keep an eye out for similar Secret Story "prequels" about the Superhero Vowels®, Mommy E® and the Babysitter Vowels®, which are currently in the works!)

"Sneaky Y®'s Secret" will be on sale through Monday!

And for those who are reading this that 
don't know the "SECRETS" and are wondering about the sound that makes in words like they, play and day, that's not Sneaky Y®, that's the ey/ay Secret, as shown, below and discussed here this previous post.

And if you're following me on Twitter, or if you' "like" Secret Stories® on Facebook, then you may have have also seen these cute renditions by both students AND teachers....

Now this teacher really IS just "too cool!"  Ayyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeee!  
(And if you're reading this blog post as an email and can't view this video, it's definitely worth clicking onto the actual blog post to watch!) 

And there's lots more where that came from! 
Some incredible teachers from Washington State spent two months creating these wonderful videos to bring the Secret Stories® to life for their students!  

They sent me the following email—

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

Can you imagine how excited I was?!!  
What FUN their students must have in their classrooms!

I'll be sharing some more of these awesome clips in subsequent posts, but since r-controlled vowels I mentioned, I thought I'd go ahead and post this one about the er/ir/ur Secret now— LOVE the props!

ER/IR/UR Secret Stories® Fun & Funky Poster
And this is just a small taste of all that I've been saving up to share!  I promise that my next post will come quickly and be packed with even more big surprises that you definitely won't want to miss! 

There's just one more thing that I need to share now, as the deadline is fast approaching and one session is already sold-out!  It's the registration for the South Dakota Kindergarten Academy, where I'll be presenting TWO 2-day workshops June 19th-22nd for PK-2. Any PreK/Kinder teachers who were unable to get into the first session, you should definitely sign up for the second one, as the strategies and content covered in both sessions are applicable across all primary grade levels.  For more information on how to register, visit the Kindergarten Academy Facebook Page or email

That's all for now, but keep an eye out for the next installment, as it will be coming shortly!

 Until Next Time,
Katie Garner

FREEBIE-ALERT!! While you're checking out Sneaky Y®'s Secret on TpT, be sure to also snag the FREE Secret Stories® Guided Reader, Dean's Treehouse before it reverts back to a "for-sale" product early next week!
SECRET STORIES® Guided Reader— Dean's Treehouse

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Aha! Moment of Teaching

Another professional development day....
Oh joy, another 8 hours of sitting while thinking of all the productive things I could be accomplishing in my classroom!  

That’s what many teachers think when we hear the dreaded “training days” agenda.

That all changed in October 2016 when I heard Katie Garner speak about the Secret Stories® at my school.  It was the best 8 hours of any training I had ever attended.  I walked away with a renewed motivation.  I could not wait to share this tool with my students!   

Upon arriving at school the day after Katie's workshop, the students immediately noticed and questioned the “secret” posters hanging in our room.  I informed them that I had attended a top secret training and I was allowed to share the secrets with them as I felt they were ready.  Instant engagement!  And from that moment on, their curiosity has guided the introduction and instruction of the Secret Stories®.

Later that morning, I shared the first secret with my students.  We just happened to be introducing the sight word “the” and one of my littles noticed that it had a /th/ in it just like the secret poster on the wall.  So because they had noticed, I very dramatically told them the time had come.  I shut the door, gathered them together, and told them their first secret.  From then on, you could say the rest is history.  

Each time I introduced a new secret, it was because of their interest and recognition of the letters in the secrets to words they found in their names... while we were reading, doing calendar activities, completing morning work, during math instruction, or even just walking down the hallway!  

This is my ninth year of teaching, and my fourth year teaching Kindergarten, and I can honestly say this has been the most exciting year of my career.  I have seen so much growth in my students since introducing the Secret Stories® into our room, and the best part about it is... the kids LOVE it!  They are able to read, blend, manipulate word inflections, and write words with fluency, understanding, and confidence! 

Here is some of our writing from October— 
BEFORE Secret Stories®

Now check out our January "ocean-themed" writing— 
just two months AFTER the Secret Stories®

Students finding "Secrets" in their names— 
Er, ir ur love to go driving in cars......"ERRRRR!"

Mommy E® tells 'o' to SAY HIS NAME!

Au & aw have huge crushes on each other...."Ahhhhhh!"
Sneaky Y® will always be sneaky when he's at the end and thinks no one can see him!

The Secret Stories® posters— my favorite classroom visuals!
Here are some of our Secrets!
The Superhero Vowels® in our alphabet train—
and their 'short & lazy' sound-disguises!

Guest Post by— 

Chastity Sharp/ Kindergarten Teacher

George Ward Elementary in Elkins, West Virginia 

Thanks so much to Chastity for this peek into her classroom and incredible kiddos!  I'm excited to hear more as her kinders continue to progress this school year!

Check out the live Facebook Videos from my sessions this year at CCIRA in Denver on the Secret Stories® Facebook Page! (Just scroll down a couple posts down the page to find all 3 clips :)

Live Facebook Video of Sessions at 2017 CCIRA

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