Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tax Day Sale!

Taxes Got you Down?  Maybe a sale will help!

If you're one of the lucky ones who are getting money back I'd love to see you in
New Orleans or Vegas!  You can use the code DJ10 to save 10% off of your registration when 
you register.  Click the pic for more info.  



Sunday, April 13, 2014

Insect Learning Fun, Freebies and a Sale!


We read lots of Eric Carle books and created our own papers to use in his style.




No patterns, please! 
The kids use rectangles and squared to create their own unique insects.
I LOVE the results.  Much better than if I had given them patterns to trace.



Building insects with pattern blocks.
The unit includes a sheet for them to tally, graph and add the pattern blocks
 they used to build their insect. 



We always start out by charting what we think we already know about our topic.


Then, we add our new learning as we go.


Opinions please?
If you want to get kids writing about their opinions just ask them a question!
They all have an opinion. :)
This was our math survey.  They surveyed their friends to see how they felt about bugs 
and then wrote about the results.



What Bugs YOU?


The picture on this one cracks me up.
Haha!


Looking through a bug viewer to see what a bug sees.




We read lots of great insect books and charted the story elements.



Building an "edible" model of an insect.  YUMMY!




My friend, Tara sent me a picture of the praying mantises her class made while using my unit.
So cute!!!





If you don't already have the insect book and chit chat message you can click on them to download them.



Unit planner for my insect unit.  Everything is all planned out for you.  :)




ON SALE 25% OFF  Now through Wednesday
I will be completely redoing this unit this Summer and the price will be going up!
Get it now while it is on sale and then you will get all of the updates at no additional charge.

Click on the cover to check it out on TPT










Monday, April 7, 2014

Chit Chat Messages, Close Reading Passages & More! Giveaway


I just uploaded my newest resource to TPT!  
Go to my Facebook page and leave a comment for your chance to win the unit.
I will be giving it away tonight at 9 p.m.
This resource is on sale for the first 72 hours.  :)
Click on the cover to view the unit on TPT.




Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"...Now I know my ABC's, next time won't you SING with me!"


Given the late posting date, the March drawing for a FREE SECRET STORIES CLASSROOM KIT will be on 4/7! To be entered, leave a question or comment under this post, or to be automatically entered every month, 
SUBSCRIBE HERE and post a comment or question on either blog!


Okay, so imagine that you are a first-year Morse Code Operator, newly-assigned to a Naval War Ship.  Your job is to "decode" all incoming messages and relay them to the captain, as well as  "encode" outgoing messages, as directed.


But there's a problem.  As you've only just begun the first in a 3-YEAR Morse Code Training Program, you've only learned one third of the code! How can you possibly be expected to accurately send and receive messages knowing just a THIRD of the code?!!  How will you be able to account for all the sounds you haven't learned? 

Should you omit them?  Or perhaps substitute them with the codes you do know?   Maybe you could just change the message entirely using just the parts of the code you already know?  
     Dear Captain, 
     It's a big sub.  I like it.  I like it so much.  It's  really fun.  
     I really really really like the big fun sub!


These are the common strategies employed by beginning and struggling readers and writers when attempting to 'work around' all of the sound skills (i.e. phonics patterns and sounds) they don't know!  And try as we might as their teachers, we simply cannot protect students from text containing letters/ letter patterns they haven't yet learned when reading. Regardless of the fact that  'th' is considered a first grade skill by traditional grade level scope & sequence, kindergartners will encounter this pattern over one hundred times on their very first day!  It's on every page in every book... and practically in every sentence! (And don't even get me started on 'Sneaky Y'!)  

Nor can we, as teachers, predict which letter sounds/ phonics patterns beginning learners will need to know to spell the words they will want to write in the stories they want to tell. A learner could theoretically search the alphabet chart a hundred times over and never find the 'letter' that makes the oy sound in the word toy). 

To compensate for what they "don't know/ haven't learned" when writing, learners will: 

-delete sounds/ letters they don't know in words they want to write
-substitute letters/ sounds they do know for those they don't 
-change/ alter what they want to write to what they already know how to write/ spell correctly  


*The following two Kindergarten samples are from the 1st Day of School


*The following two K samples are from mid-September (approx. '1 month' mark)
Writing Prompt- "In the Fall..."


*The following three K samples are from mid-December-
Writing Prompt- "I Love the Holidays!"



*The following sample shows use of familiar words used with repetition

It's ironic that many Kindergartners can persevere through daily reading and writing activities for the better part of the year knowing only a handful of the 26 letters and sounds, and virtually NO phonemic patterns. Lack of skill-ownership makes even the richest literacy experiences a whole LOT harder and a lot less fun!

But it doesn't have to be this way..... "working harder, not smarter!" (and I'm not just talking about kids, but teachers too!) Most would agree that beginning readers and writers (like beginning Morse Code Operators) would benefit from acquiring as much of the "code" as possible, as soon as possible!  

So why DO we spread teaching the "code" across three grade level years, from Kindergarten to second grade? Traditional instruction dictates that students 'learn to read' in K-2 so that they can 'read to learn' in 3-5.  While this seems logical at the surface, if you dig a little deeper, the inherent flaws are obvious! 

For those learners who struggle to acquire these critical skills at each grade level, it's common that they will begin third grade having not yet learned a good portion of the 'code' needed to read and write. They will effectively be stuck on the hump between 'learning to read' and 'reading to learn,' forced to do both simultaneously. Requiring already struggling-learners to draw inferences, make predictions and glean information from text (i.e. read to learn) while they are still struggling to acquire phonics patterns and sounds (i.e. learning to read) often results in what  appears to be problems with comprehension. While comprehension difficulty may be the symptom observed, most often the true problem is skill-automaticity (i.e. forcing the brain to juggle two equally difficult and opposing tasks at the same time).

In addition, by stretching sound skill instruction through the end of second grade, learners are constantly having to work around / compensate for those skills they don't know or haven't yet learned. This void only minimizes the effectiveness and ultimate value of the daily text experiences that we, as teachers, work so hard to provide.  More importantly, these 'holes' in skill-ability lessen  learners' enjoyment of reading and writing, as well as their desire   to engage with text outside of the classroom.  

However, while the idea of teaching everything YESTERDAY might seem ideal, it's also extremely overwhelming to say the least!  Especially since many early learners can't even seem to stay awake through lunch! Teaching abstract skills like letters and sounds to little 'concrete thinkers' can be a lot like herding cats! It can literally take forever and a day for some of the little guys to even be capable to recognizing the letter 'K!'  

So how then could it ever be possible to teach them everything simultaneouslyThe answer is, it's not!  But we can GIVE them!!!

The Brain Develops 'Back-to-Front' 


Because our brains develop back to front, the higher-level processing centers (responsible for acquiring, storing, retrieving and manipulating letter sounds and patterns) are the last to officially come on board. Knowing this, we can use the brain's system for learning against itself, and begin working smarter instead of harder!    


As shown in the diagram above, "singing" (i.e. repetitive pitch, rhythm & intonation) is processed in the rear portion of our brains, which is why even very young and struggling learners are able to easily acquire skill content through song.  As teachers, we use music to teach as much as possible, especially at the early grade levels-  months of the year, days of the week, even the Fifty Nifty States- we sing them all! But what happens when a student is asked to name the month comes before July?  What do they have to do to get the answer?  They have to sing it... the whole entire song!  And if they don't pay attention while they're singing, they'll likely have to repeat the process again and again before being able to provide an answer!

This is because skills that are "stored in song" are processed by the rear portion of our brain, and this area is capable only of storing information in 'whole-form' exactly as it went in, much like a 'read-only' disc.  This more primitive area of our brain can easily replay or regurgitate content, but it cannot manipulate it (i.e. take it apart, twist it around, put it back together).  It is the front portion, or  executive area of the brain that processes information at this higher level- pulling things apart and putting them back together in new and different ways, as is required for reading and writing. 

And this is why the ABC Song is of no help to learners in acquiring letters and sounds.

Cheat the Brain & Change the Game!

The individual letters and sounds can be easily acquired in  as little as 'two weeks to two months' by tapping into learners' motor/ muscle memory (i.e. Body Intelligence/ James Asher).   Using The Better Alphabet Song (track #1 on the Secret Stories CD for those who have it)  these sounds can be given (not taught!) to even the youngest learners, acquiring the skills with their lips, tongue and teeth, and circumventing the cognitive processing channels  all together (or at least for our purposes anyway :) 

Right about now your probably thinking... "Wait a minute! I thought you said that music (i.e. singing) was NOT a good way to teach letters and sounds?"  

True, but not if we cheat the system!  Knowing what we do about the brain's system for learning, we are able to stay one step ahead and take full advantage of what works (easy-access to skills by singing through muscle/ motor memory)  while working around all of the pitfalls (auto-pilot singing/ inability to take apart and reconfigure song-content).

Information that "stored in song" is instantly accessible by simply starting to sing, but as I explained on my VLOG, unlike traditional skill-based songs, with The Better Alphabet Song, learners do not have to sing through the entire song in order to get the sound they need for the letter they want to read or write!  Why?  Because I cheated by starting the tune over after every letter and effectively overriding the brain's system! By breaking the skill content apart into what are, effectively 26 mini-songs, learners are now able to sing/ retrieve the sound they need without having to start from the beginning. In this way, the letter names and all possible sounds for each (in the 'most-likely' order) literally ROLL off their tongues! 


Click here for Part 1 of my VLOG for teaching individual letters & sounds!

Thumbnail
Click here for Part 2 of my VLOG for the "The Better Alphabet Song"
Pretty cool, huh?!  And by popular request, I've created a vertical Secret Stories Alphabet Chart like the one I use in my VLOGS (as seen below :)

             



Unlike other individual letter sounds, the short vowels sounds cannot be acquired using the muscle memory technique, given their close proximity to one another in both sound and production shape. With so little variation in muscle movement between them, it's not possible to rely on motor memory for retrieval.  This is why we use "Secrets" to prompt their sounds instead. I'll talk more about the vowels (as well as Mommy E & Sneaky Y!) in my next post, but if you can't wait, you can watch my VLOGS...
here 
  and here


(And if you don't have the Secret Stories Classroom Kit 
(with the vowel cues & info)  you can check out the 


By utilizing body intelligence to bypass cognitive readiness and/ or processing ability, all learners can acquire individual letters and sounds quickly and easily, paving the way for simultaneously sharing the "Secrets!" This 'buffet-style' approach to literacy-skills and instruction  accelerates learner momentum in both reading & writing by rapidly building-up an arsenal  of tools that are easily retrieved and applied!

Whew! That was a bit lengthier than I'd intended!  However, I this helps to 'flesh-out' the concepts for teaching reading & writing with the brain-in-mind and provides some fun food for thought when it comes to what we teach, as well as when and why we teach it!








Until next time,

PS For all those who have subscribed to my Secret Stories Blog!!  
Your subscription cannot be activated until you've responded to the verification email sent to your inbox.  Once activated, you will receive notification of new postings and be automatically entered into all free monthly drawings. If you can't locate your original verification email,  just re-submit your email address here and a new one will be sent.
katie garne    spelling chunks spelling chunk cardsr
www.TheSecretStories.com
Visit Katie Garner-'s profile on Pinterest.

Comments:

  1. I can't wait to play The Better Alphabet song with my students tomorrow. Thanks for sharing!
    Reply

    Replies


    1. At this point in the year, you might want to 'go all the way' and try the "Letter Runs" with them! Here's the link to that- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHUwuuXsh-0 ..........and don't forget to try it BACKWARDS!!
      (you can also switch from 'long' to 'short' vowel sounds throughout to keep the challenge high :) as well as change the tune to: Happy Birthday, The Star Spangled Banner, etc...
      Looking forward to hearing how they do!
      Delete
  2. So many great ideas and a great song!!!! Definitely going to try this with my kids! Thanks!!!
    Julie
    Reply
  3. The Morse Code Operator is a great analogy! Thank you for this post. :)
    lorepuckett at gmail dot com
    Reply
  4. I subscribed!! I will be trying this with my kiddos as well!
    Reply
  5. I attended the Illinois Reading Conference last month and couldn't get into either of your sessions! I couldn't even get close to the doorway :(
    Folks were setting chairs out on both ends of the corridor to hear you, but unfortunately my ears are too old to hear from that far away so I gave up! I'm hoping to have better luck seeing you at the Natl Elementary Principals Conference this summer.

    You should know that your 'Secrets' are an ongoing topic of conversation at our school and have had an incredible impact on our student achievement this year. As a school administrator, it's been truly amazing to witness the progress made at each grade level, especially by our most at-risk. I'm just in awe, as are our parents (which is always a good thing!)

    My teachers were so disappointed that I couldn't get into your session, as they promised the kids that I would take a picture with you to show them. Apparently the teachers that came to your sessions last year tried, but it was too crowded and you had too many people around you afterwards. I told them that this year was even worse, given that I couldn't even get through the door!

    Hopefully I'll have better luck seeing you in July!
    Reply

    Replies


    1. I know... it was CRAZY! The committee tried to avoid the overcrowding problem that happened last year by putting both sessions in the ballroom but I think their overall attendance this year was just too high, which ultimately is a good thing (but understandably frustrating when you can't get into what you want to see).

      I will most definitely be at the Principal's Conference in July and I'll even save a seat for you, just in case ;)

      Thanks for your kind email, and please let your teachers (and students) know how happy I am to hear of their progress (and we'll definitely take that picture, as well!)

      Looking forward to meeting you in July,
      Katie
      Delete
  6. This is incredible. I appreciate the work that has been put into programs like this and the accessibility of them to other educators and parents. Thank you and well done.
    Reply

    Replies


    1. Thank YOU and I'm so glad you found the post here on Mrs. Jump's Blog!!
      Delete
  7. This was an amazing find. Thank you Deanna Jump for sharing this! I am purchasing the alphabet vertically as I write this. I am so inspired by this motor memory approach. Thank you!
    Reply

    Replies


    1. So glad you found the post, and be sure to use the vertical alphabet for the "Letter Runs" too... they're so much fun!! I put the link in the answer to the first comment at the top :)
      Delete
  8. I am so glad I am subscribed to your blog so that I can find and appreciate programs like this. As a first year teacher, this information makes me see things in a new perspective. I would love the opportunity to use this program in my classroom for my students. I would love the opportunity to share this approach with others given the scientific research that has gone into this. Thanks so much to the developer(s) of this program and the difference it is going to make in teaching.
    Reply
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.
    Reply
  10. You're so welcome, and as a new teacher, you would probably get a better perspective/ context if you watch the VLOGS, starting with #1 here....https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziT4bautiGk ......

    I am gearing up to make the next set before I have to leave town again for conference, with the focus being on "What to do when a "Secret" doesn't work?!!" as that's actually where the fun begins for learners with regard to their daily interactions with text becoming a virtual "playground" for critical thinking!!

    In the meantime, don't hesitate to ask, should you have any questions, and thanks again for your comment!
    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm excited to have a song to share with my kiddos. I would love to win your kit as I am always looking for ways to reach my struggling readers.
    Reply
  12. This comment has been removed by the author.
    Reply
  13. I just discovered Secret Stories and the Better Alphabet Song today and I'm in love! I love how engaging it is and how it can meet so many different learning styles! I really like how you put so much thought into the position of the mouth when you did the action for short a on the you tube video. I'm always looking for new ways to make learning meaningful and fun for my kids (why I was on this blog) and feel like I have hit the jackpot with this find! I wish I could go back in time and could have done this with my class since day one. We review letter sounds and phonograms daily- and I'm embarrassed to admit but it b-o-r-i-n-g the way I'm doing it now and definitely something I want to improve on. This is just what I needed and will totally transform how I teach phonics. So excited to make something that was not so fun into something I know my kids will not only love doing but truly benefit from.
    Reply

    Replies


    1. LoL.... I remember feeling the same way when I'd stumble upon something that would completely change the way I teach! I'd always feel SOOO badly for my previous classes, who I sometimes felt, learned 'in spite' of me....especially my very first year - ugh :(

      I remember wanting to buy my whole class t-shirts with- "I survived Mrs. Garner's 1st Year Teaching!!" written across the front!! ;)
      Delete
  14. I think this sounds fabulous and I will be trying this out with my title students. I notice that my title students DO NOT know their alphabet-ever, nor their sounds. This should be the answer!
    Reply

    Replies


    1. It's funny you mention this, as often readiness issues are more pervasive with Title I learners, for a variety of reasons.

      These 'work-around' strategies (i.e. motor/ muscle memory for individual letters and sounds; social/ emotive connections/ cues for complex pattern sound retrieval) are crucial for learners struggling with cognitive readiness.

      For these learners, in particular, the ability to GIVE these core reading and writing skills, rather than having to wait on 'developmental readiness' in order to TEACH them, truly makes all the difference!!

      So many of the problems that Title I learners face stem from the fact that in the first few years of school, they are 'slaves' to their own developmental readiness, resulting in their having to continually play on an uneven playing field!

      By using brain research findings to circumvent these pitfalls, we can actually avoid these deficit areas in the brain entirely, targeting the stronger, more capable areas instead!

      (Hope this makes sense.... have had glass of wine!!! :)
      Delete
  15. I think this sounds fabulous and I will be trying this out with my title students. I notice that my title students DO NOT know their alphabet-ever, nor their sounds. This should be the answer!
    Reply
  16. I am a HUGE Secret Stories fan....I use your very first Secret Stories set! Every year, my students amaze me with their writing and reading and they looove their "stories".
    I am so glad to view your videos and your updates here. I learn something new everytime. Thanks so much !
    Denise
    Reply

    Replies


    1. Oh my! You HAVE been using them for a while then!!

      I'm so glad you found the videos and updated info on the Secret Stories website, as I've really been working hard to 'flesh-out' the basic strategy-base.

      I'm curious if you've been in the same grade level since you started using them or if you've moved around a bit?
      Delete
    2. I have only taught Kindergarten...30 years total. I can't remember exactly how long I have had my set of Secret Stories...maybe since 2000/2001?? .they are just part of my routine. Like I said....my kids constantly amaze me with their progress.
      My best teacher friend went to your workshop ...she was so impressed, she came back and told me all about this great new program. I was so excited I purchased the set with my own money and have been using it ever since.
  17. I will be sharing this with my new teammates of next year's Kindergarten. Soooo excited!
    Reply
  18. Hello. I have a question. Why don't you do all three A sounds-- A as in apple, A as in gate, and A as in about? I have a chant that I made up years ago with the sounds, but it has all three common A sounds that beginning readers come across in their reading. Just wondered why three Y sounds, but not three As. Thanks for letting me know. Kathleen
    Reply

    Replies


    1. Great question! And the answer actually lies in the 'rule-of-thumb' I used when creating the "Secrets" in the first place, which was to "avoid having too many cooks in the kitchen" when it came to identifying the most useful phonics rules!!
      (and by useful, I mean 'only what's necessary to be able to read and write,' given that the goal is to give learners at the earliest grade level EVERYTHING they need to jump into working with text.... both reading and writing!!

      Because the brain will require an explanation for anything encountered on a fairly frequent basis in text- there could be 'no stone left unturned' when it comes to accounting for the various letter patter sound possibilities. This, however, is different from teaching "rules for rules' sake" (i.e. the less useful and/ or less frequently occurring phonics rules/ sound patterns).

      My rule of thumb was to account for only those patterns/ sounds that occurred '5 times or more' in text, given their likelihood to be encountered often enough by learners to require an explanation.

      Patterns/ sounds occurring LESS than five times would are either put in "Word Jail" OR 'rehabilitated' .... so as to avoid having an 'overcrowded prison system' / overcrowded word wall, both of which are equally ineffective ;)

      As for your specific question regarding the letter a and providing the 'uh' or 'schwa sound' being taught/ included in the "Better Alphabet Song" as an additional sound option.... this would be an example having 'too many cooks in the kitchen,' in that there is too little value/ purpose in teaching it.

      What I mean by this is, if a beginning learner knows the SECRETS, he will attack a word like 'about' or 'around' with a 'short a' sound, as he knows that Mommy e isn't 'one letter away' and thus can't make a 'say its name.' Attacking these words with the short a sound will STILL result in learners (even lower level Kindergartners!!) still being able to 'get the word.' In other words, they will still recognize that the word is 'about' or 'around,' regardless of the fact that they attacked it with the short a sound ...... The presumption is that learners can and will apply at least a "grain of common sense" in recognizing the word, and my experience with the 'lowest of the low' kindergartners proves this out!!

      By taking into account the differences between how words can sound, depending upon how they are sounded out, I was able to determine which required SECRETS and which were, for lack of a better term...."figure-out-able!!" LoL!

      With the Sneaky Y, all THREE sounds had to be accounted for, as they are all vastly different (y as in yellow, y as in July, and y as in mommy) ..... Each are entirely different sounds and thus, each must be accounted for with logical explanations as to what / why causes each to occur.

      Again, with the ultimate goal being to GIVE learners EVERYTHING they need to read and write at the EARLIEST grade level, so as to allow EXPERIENCE to be the best teacher..... it was necessary to think in terms of training "ER Doctors" ..... preparing them for what's 'most likely' to roll through the door, while spending less time preparing them to handle the "plague" ;)

      I hope this helps to clarify the basis for the SECRETS, and I promise to get into more detail about exactly this in upcoming posts.... you're just one step ahead with your great question!!!!
      Delete
    2. Thanks for this. I get the frequency point. We could never teach beginning readers all the sounds that letters CAN make in this isolated way-- look at the VERY many sounds that 'o' can make when paired with 'h' when 'ho' comes at the beginning of a word! :) The only reason I added the 'a' sound heard at the beginning of words like around and about as a third sound in my chant, was because my guys weren't getting that kind of word by knowing just the first two possible 'a' sounds... but maybe it was not the isolated sound that 'a' makes in that case that was the issue, but the fact that they were saying "ar..." as the beginning 'sound', instead of the necessary two syllable "a-r..." When they kept saying 'ar, ar, ar" instead of 'a' when starting words like around, they got stuck. They seemed to get it better when they had that third 'a' sound to try. Thanks for sharing why you do it this way-- always more food for thought-- I can teach 100 years and I'll still be growing my own brain :)
  19. This sounds awesome! I've been looking for a way to help my kinder. Can't wait to try it!
    Jada
    jadawtolbert@gmail.com
    Reply
  20. What a great idea! LOVE this and can't wait to use it with my kinders! Thanks for sharing!
    Reply
  21. This article really intrigued me! As I was reading the "why" of certain discrepancies, I was picturing specific students I've had along the way. thanks for sharing
    Reply

    Replies


    1. Getting learners to ask "why" is actually our goal,
      as the "WHY" equals "CRITICAL-THINKING!"
      :)
      Delete
  22. I LOVE secret Stories! My students Love hearing the stories behind each letter or letter pair.
    Reply

    Replies


    1. It's so funny how even the high kids love to know WHY..... it goes to show that our brains really do crave "a place for everything, and everything it its place"
      ;)
      Delete
  23. I LOVE secret Stories! My students Love hearing the stories behind each letter or letter pair.
    Reply
  24. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise on learning the letter sounds. This is my first exposure to the Secret Stories. Our school is looking for something to use in grades K - 2 to do a better job of teaching phonics. I will definitely pass this informative blog entry on to the curriculum committee.
    Reply

    Replies


    1. Thanks for commenting, and so glad to be able to share them here on Mrs. Jump's Blog!
      Delete
  25. This was a first introduction to Secret Stories and will immediately begin implementing the practice with my 3 littles who haven't yet become proficient with ABC sounds.
    Reply
  26. I really enjoyed reading this article. I avoided the ABC song, and instead taught my students sign language for each letter. That, combined with writer's workshop, the students could recognize, write, and sound out each letter in one month. Success!
    Reply
  27. I am so happy to know there is someone else who knows that singing the ABC song is NOT the answer! I have taught K for 20 years and have used lots of other ways to teach letters and sounds to my students. Motions and movement is great and so is teaching "facial recognition"! How the face looks when you create a sound. My students learn to recognize, write, and sound letters fairly quickly. I can't wait to get your materials! Thanks!
    Reply
  28. I just found your blog and it seems like perfect timing. I have been looking for a better way to teach phonemic awareness and phonics to my students.
    Reply
  29. The Secret Stories are great! I can't wait to try them out with my kindergarteners.
    Reply
  30. I love your vlog and all that you share! I have sent your website link to all my colleagues. Thanks so much!
    Reply
  31. Katie you are a joy to listen to and learn from. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the Secret stories. I'd love to win a classroom kit!
    Reply









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