Thursday, October 30, 2014

What Listening to a Story Does to Our Brains by Katie Garner

The Missing Piece of the Literacy-Puzzle!  

Our brains become more active when we tell and listen to stories.

If we listen to a PowerPoint presentation with boring bullet points, certain parts in the brain get activated. Scientists call these Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that’s it, nothing else happens.
When we are being told a story, though, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.
If someone tells us about how delicious certain foods were, our sensory cortex lights up. If it’s about motion, our motor cortex gets activated...

A story can put our whole brain to work! 

And it gets better!  When we tell stories that have helped us shape our thinking to others, they will experience the same effect! The brains of the person telling a story AND listening to it, can synchronize.  By simply telling a story, you can plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains. 
A story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that
a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience
Anything you’ve experienced, you can get others to experience the same. Or at least, get the same areas of their brain to be active, too.
Why does the format of a story, where events unfold one after the other have such a profound impact on our learning?
The simple answer is this: We are wired that way.

A story, if broken down into the simplest form is a connection of cause and effect.  

And that is exactly how we think.
Whenever we hear a story, we want to relate it to one of our existing experiences. While we are busy searching for a similar experience in our brains, we activate a part called insula, which helps us relate to that same experience of pain, joy, disgust or else. Everything in our brain is looking for the cause and effect relationship of something we’ve previously experienced.

A story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.

The above excerpt is from an article by Leo Widrich on the Science of Storytelling- "What Listening to a Story Does to Our Brains."
This is powerful information for teachers. While we've always known that telling stories can make  what we teach more interesting and memorable for our students, realizing the science behind WHY this is so, makes this long-used, teaching-tool even more effective!  

Understanding WHY something works is the key to making it work even even BETTER!  

Which leads me to my next great teaching-find...

In the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck, authors Dan and Chip Heath provide a useful list of ways we can make information memorable: 
Together, they make up the acronym SUCCES  (yes, the last 'S' is missing!)

So what does all of this mean?

Well, if the Secret Stories were a cake, the above list of ingredients would make up its creamy center... while the fact that they were "secrets" is the too-good-to-resist frosting on top!

And here's why...

1. Simplicity
The Secret are simple because the "goal of the game" is not in telling them, but in USING them to read and to write... and the brain research shows that the simpler the story, the more likely it will stick!

2. Unexpectedness
The brain loves novelty- in all forms: unusual noises, extreme motions, exaggerated body gestures- all of which are infused in the telling of the Secrets! 

 3. Concreteness 
We remember best what can be seen, touched, heard, and personally experienced. Knowing the Secrets about the letters and their sounds allows learners to experience them as realistic and familiar "entities" with actions, associations, and behaviors (i.e. sounds) that are readily predictable. 

4. Credibility
Because there is a Secret to explain any sound a letter or letters can be found making 'five times or more' in text, what might otherwise appear as "random inconsistencies" are now easily accounted for. (Think of the Secrets as a sort of cheat-sheet for the "Best-Betting Odds" in Las Vegas!)  Knowing the Secrets means knowing how the letters will behave (i.e. what sound they are most likely to make) in various (text) scenarios, and this insider-knowledge is what equips learners to "work-through" their various sound options-  from that which is MOST likely, to NEXT most likely, to the "if all else fails" sound alternative! 

5. Emotions
Emotions and feelings are what motivates the actions and behaviors of characters in all stories, and the SECRET STORIES are no different.  It's the learners' ability to "relate and empathize" with the Secret Stories characters that make their behaviors, and thus their sounds, so predictable.

6. Stories
(This one's obvious :)

Do you use stories to teach trickier concepts in your classroom?  

If so, I would love to hear about it! 

And I hope that by incorporating the "SUCCES" (without the last 'S!') strategies, your stories can become even more powerful teaching tools!

"Mrs. Mac Moments"

I just love receiving these little clips that capture student discoveries of Secret Stories throughout the instructional day! These minute-long video clips are from Mrs. Mac's Class (a.k.a. Renee McAnulty from Cottonwood Elementary in Hesperia, California).

This little girl was so excited to share her "Secretdiscoveries in writing....

And the little guy in these next two clips (which I'd actually received last month but am just now posting!) is using the Secrets to decode unfamiliar words in a beginning Level A reader during guided reading. 

I especially LOVE the questions Ms. Mac asks in this second clip about his thinking-process with regard to the Secret strategies he's using to decode the text! 

And I also received this extra-special "Halloween-treat" from some VERY creative kindergarten teachers in Frederick County, Virginia, who surprised their students this Halloween by dressing up as the SECRET STORIES Superhero Vowels!  
I especially love the idea they'd come up with to "dot the i!" 
Kindergarten Teachers in Fredericks County, VA disguised as the SECRET STORIES Superhero Vowels!

And finally, some "Teacher-Treats!"
Until midnight, October 31st, you can download the newly-formatted and revised Secret Stories Guided Reader "In the Fall" FREE, as well as The Bag Ladies mini-unit "Pocket Books!"  Both items are currently in the FREE DOWNLOAD WINDOW on TpT!
*For notification of Free Download Windows, just follow my RED DIAMOND Pinterest Boards, or you can follow me on TpT!


And don't forget to enter this month's Rafflecopter Giveaway....and earn TWO additional entries just by sharing your comments here before midnight, October 31st!  
(*Must be a current subscriber to the SECRET STORIES Sessions Blog to win)

Until Next Time,

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday: Silly Tilly

"Tilly was a silly goose," starts this adorable book by Eileen Spinelli. This book takes us on an adventure and shares with us the many silly things that Silly Tilly does.  She likes to kiss fish, take baths in apple juice, comb her feathers with a rake, annoying the rest of the barnyard with her wild antics.  When she sits on Rooster's birthday cake it's the last straw. The other animals tell her that she must stop all her nonsense and behave like everyone else. Sadly, she complies with their demands and the group soon realize that her behavior is what made living on the farm so much fun. "Hetta Hen remarked, I haven't laughed since-when? - since Tilly chased the garbageman!"

Realizing they were wrong to make Tilly try and be just like them, all the animals apologize. Tilly resumes her harmless pranks, and once again entertains the entire barnyard with her shenanigans.

This is a great book for helping children understand that it's okay to be different and that you shouldn't try to change just to fit in.  A great story of friendship and accepting each other's differences.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gaining Perspective!

Can you make sense of the first picture, below?
What is it? 
"....Ummm, something sparkly??"

How about now?
"....uh, something sparkly that's in the shape of an O!
But what's that white stuff around it?"

Is this better?
"Oh! The O is actually the ZERO in the number TWENTY!
But what is it sparkly and written on a towel?!!"

"NOW I get it!"

Access to the WHOLE picture gives us perspective.

And with perspective comes context, through which we can "make meaning" and understand. 

Access to the "whole" picture provides the perspective needed to make sense of, and thus understand the otherwise confusing, smaller bits and pieces.

Knowledge of the whole provides a context for making meaning, as well as a "connective-framework" for easy acquisition and retention of new information that's related.

Bits & Pieces of the "Code"

For the same reasons, learners need access to the WHOLE code if they are to "make sense of" reading and writing!

The advantages are obvious. The disadvantages, non-existent! 

And while changing the "way we've always done it" can be scary, not taking advantage of the brain science, as teachers, simply defies common sense!

The Brain's Way!
Neuroscience and its implications on teaching are an invaluable asset in the classroom. Teachers with knowledge about how our brains receive, store, and process information are better equipped to provide optimal learning experiences through which critical literacy skills are most easily acquired.

The research on neuroplasticity shows that as teachers, we have the ability to not only build learners' brain potential, but to help them literally change their brains... and intelligence, so as to bridge the achievement gap and support their highest level of learning!

But as always, the proof is in the pudding.... with REAL kids!

Below is a 'mini-moment' captured by Mrs. Mac of one of her first graders explaining 
(i.e. "making sense of") something she'd noticed on her Math paper. 
(Click video below to watch)
Establishing a "Connective-Framework"  for Making Meaning (and Cracking the Code in Math!)
It's as simple as knowing these SECRETS!

A special thanks to Mrs. Mac and her fabulous first graders for once again letting us peep into their little world!  And I welcome others who are using the Secrets in their classrooms to share, as well!
The October Giveaway .... For those who already have the SECRET STORIES Class Set, you can opt for the alternative prize-option of a class set of SECRET STORIES Porta-Pics, as shown  here.  *Winner must be a current subscriber to the  SECRET STORIES Sessions Blog
Happy Fall! 
And Until Next Time,
PS!!  I wanted to let all who follow on Pinterest know that I pin the famous "Free Best-Teaching Finds" between MULTIPLE boards daily, depending on where they fit best. As a result, those following only one or two boards see only a fraction of them :(  

So rather than having to follow everything, I've identified those boards to which these FINDS are pinned daily with a "RED DIAMOND" .... as shown (and explained) below. 

I hope this is helpful, and thanks so much for following!!! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway Visit Katie Garner- Educational Author/ Speaker's profile on Pinterest.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday: The Book with No Pictures

 B.J. Novak from The Office fame has branched out as an author of a children’s books. And his first book is a book with no pictures. A book with NO PICTURES?  YES!  And it is hilarious!  Your kids will want you to read it again and again.  Novak is trying to teach your children what reading is really about. It’s about words on the page, and your students are  forced to rely on you (the reading-aloud adult) for entertainment. True to its title Novak’s book features no illustrations, just words in large typeface floating on the pages. “It might seem like no fun to have someone read you a book with no pictures,” the book states, before explaining how picture books work: “Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say. No matter what.” Pretty quickly you will be pronouncing silly words, making fun of yourself (“I am a robot monkey”) and praising the child as “the best kid ever in the history of the entire world.” 

You can watch him read the book by clicking on the video below.  

If you have a book you'd like to share, you can link up below or leave a comment.
Happy Tuesday, y'all!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Halloween unit completely revised! and FREE downloads

If you already own my Halloween unit you will want to head on over to TPT because I just revised the WHOLE thing and it almost doubled in size.  :)
Click HERE to download the revised unit.
If you don't already own it... it's on sale until Friday!

Click on Frankie to download a free labeling sheet.

click on the image below to download four fun Halloween songs to the tune of "Bingo"

Happy Monday, Y'all!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How to make a Rekenrek

Last week at my conference I shared the rekenrek my husband made me and I promised to post directions.  I gave the ones he made me away as door prizes and I forgot to take a picture.  
Thankfully someone else took a picture at the conference.
There are many different versions of rekenreks that you can make.
My friend, Kim Adsit has this version that I really like but I wanted something a little taller with wider legs, so I had my husband change things up a little bit.

These are really easy to make and inexpensive!  It cost about $12.00 to make.

List of materials:
Two different colored pool noodles
2-  10" pieces of  1/2"" pvc pipe 
2 elbows
4 T joints
4 end covers

To assemble:
Cut your pipe in the sizes listed above.
Measure and cut your pool noodles.
I made mine using 1 1/2" cuts
you will need 10 of each color
NOTE: 2 pool noodles will make 3 rekenreks

If you're wondering what in the heck a rekenrek is you can download this great resource for FREE HERE!  It has tons of activities that you can use with your rekenrek.  

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Phoneme Segmentation! Make and Take Freebie and Book Talk Tuesday

Segmenting words is an important skill that we work on throughout the year.
Kids need a variety of hands on ways to work on this skill in order to make it more concrete.

We use a variety of manipulatives to work on phoneme segmentation.
Building words with unifix cubes as we say each sound,  stretching the words with a slinky,
sliding a pony bead for each sound and using our stretchy the word stretcher (as seen above).
To make the word stretchers you need the template (below) a pipe cleaner and four Perler Biggie beads.  These Biggie Beads are on sale at Amazon (the link is below) and there are enough beads to make 300 of these!  So grab your teammates and share a bucket of beads.  :)

To use these you would have your students start with all of the beads by the tail end of the snake.
Then say the word, cat and ask how many sounds do you hear?
So how many beads do we need to push?
Let's push a bead as we say each sound.
/c/  /a/  /t/   
Then as you blend the word together and say, cat you push all the beads back to the right.
I use these in the beginning of the year to develop phonemic awareness and then I use them throughout the year for those little ones who have a difficult time stretching words in their head and writing the letters that represent the sounds.  This gives them a concrete model for stretching words because I can say,  which sound did you say when you pushed the first bead?
Write it on your paper.

They also love working with the Stretchy the Word Snake mat.
To use this mat you will need three cars (or three chips) so that they can push a car up each time they say a sound.  Make sure you have them blend the word together at the end.
The video below shows another way to use the mat.
In the video, Madison is using a magnetic wand and magnetic chips.
They LOVE this one!


another great strategy that I learned when I used Fundations was finger tapping where they touch their fingers to their thumb for each sound.  For example, cat would be pointer finger to thumb for /c/ middle finger to thumb for /a/ and ring finger to thumb for /t/.
They could also tap out the word on a table.
I gave them little plastic Dollar Tree hammers and they could pound out the word on the table.

Click on the picture below to download the Stretchy the Snake word mats.

My Book Talk Tuesday selection this week is a Professional Development book that is so helpful when we have those struggling readers and writers.  

When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works is a comprehensive resource on struggling readers. It's filled with specific teaching ideas for helping children in kindergarten through Grade 3 who are having difficulty in reading and writing.
We want these young students to think and behave like effective readers who not only solve words skillfully but comprehend deeply and read fluently. To achieve our goal, we need to place them in situations in which they can succeed and then provide powerful teaching. Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas offer numerous examples and descriptions of instruction that can help initially struggling readers become strategic readers. When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works focuses on small-group intervention and individual interactions during reading and writing. Pinnell and Fountas also illustrate how to closely observe readers to make the best possible teaching decisions for them as well as how to support struggling readers in whole-class settings.


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