(So then ‘HOW DO I TEACH ALL THE LETTERS AND SOUNDS?’ ) How could a child ever be expected to effectively ‘manipulate’ (WHICH IS, ACTUALLY, THE ONLY REAL PURPOSE ‘LETTERS’ SERVE, BY THE WAY!!) all sounds in the alphabet for the purpose of ‘reading and writing,’ if he must WAIT until the end of the school year before EVEN being introduced to them all?
EVERY LETTER, EVERY SOUND, EVERYDAY!!!
This is the ‘SECRET STORY motto’ and it begins with basic alphabet instruction.
Just think of all of the words that children encounter throughout a typical day’s instruction? Each one provides a potential ‘springboard’ into the study
of letters and sounds, and most importantly, into the world of SECRET STORIES! BUT FIRST, IT ALL STARTS WITH A ‘SONG…’
“THE ‘BETTER’ ALPHABET SONG!”
THIS SONG SHOULD BE SUNG AT LEAST TWICE A DAY, EVERY DAY, TO MOST QUICKLY AND EASILY ACQUIRE THE LETTER NAMES AND SOUNDS OF EACH. ACQUISITION VARIES FROM ‘LEARNER TO LEARNER,’ BUT THE APPROXIMATE TIME FRAME IN PRE-K AND KINDERGARTEN IS BETWEEN ‘2 WEEKS AND 2 MONTHS,’ WITH MOST OBTAINING MASTERY CLOSER TO THE ‘1 MONTH MARK.’ ALTHOUGH MUCH GREATER DETAIL WILL BE PROVIDED IN THE ‘STORY SECTION,’ I DO WANT TO REITERATE HOW EXPEDITIOUSLY INDIVIDUAL LETTER/ SOUND ACQUISITION WILL OCCUR, AS THE ‘LETTERS AND SOUNDS’ ARE NOT ACTUALLY ‘TAUGHT TO’ THE LEARNER, BUT INSTEAD, ARE ‘TAKEN BY ‘ THE LEARNER, BY ENGAGING THEIR MOTOR ‘MUSCLE-MEMORY.’
(the same way one would learn to ‘ride a bike,’ or ‘sing a song’) THE MAIN POINT I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE IN THIS SECTION IS WITH REGARD TO INTEGRATING THE ‘TEACHING OF THE INDIVIDUAL LETTERS/ SOUNDS WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLYSHARING THE ‘SECRETS.’ @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
‘Now I’ll TAKE My ABC’S…’
(and TAKING them is so much easier (and a lot more fun!)
And you can’t ‘NEED TO KNOW’ what the letter ‘m’ says- (at least not for any reason that I can think of) But you can‘NEED-TO-KNOW’ how to write the word-
(Especially on the birthday card you’re making for her!!!!)
THERE ARE TWO VERY IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN WORKING WITH THIS SONG TO TEACH THE INDIVIDUAL LETTERS AND SOUNDS:
LEARNERS MUST BE LOOKING AT THE LETTERS YOU ARE POINTING TO as you sing together, or they will know all of the sounds, but have no idea ‘which’ letters go with them! (which of course, does not do much for them in either reading OR writing!!) One suggestion is to have an ‘award’ for what I refer to as the student with the best ‘EYE-GLUE,’ which basically means you choose the learner that does the ‘best’ job watching your finger/ pointer as it points to each letter sung. An example of a possible reward for the ‘winner,’ could simply be that the student who ‘wins,’ gets to be ‘tomorrow’s letter-pointer,’ or whatever other ‘privileges’ you might currently have in place for ‘recognition.’
LEARNERS MUST STRONGLY ARTICULATE THE LETTER NAMES AND SOUNDS WITH THEIR LIPS, TONGUE AND TEETH! And you’re ‘modeling’ the best and strongest ‘MUSCLE-MOUTH’ is a good way to show them exactly to what degree their lips, tongue and teeth should be ‘working.’ Only through really working the entire mouth in this way, can the ‘muscle-memory’ effectively take-hold. I select a student with the best ‘MUSCLE-MOUTH’ movement to further encourage learners(more about ‘muscle-memory’ under ‘MOVEMENT’ in the ‘SPOTLIGHT’ section.) and you can, as well, offer a special ‘award’ for this criterion - an award I like to call- the ‘MUSCLE-MOUTH’ award (not to be confused with the ‘MOTOR-MOUTH-AWARD, ’as this would not be good for ‘obvious’ reasons!)
As stated as well in the previous section with regard to ‘motor-memory,’
it is a proven fact that the ‘body remembers as well as the mind,’ and for some learners, EVENBETTER- and this is especially true of the ‘very young,’ as in most cases, their ‘muscle-memory’ provides a much more ‘reliable’ means for ‘skill-acquisition and retrieval.’ This is primarily true due to the inherent inconsistency and extreme variations in their overall ‘developmental-readiness’
and ‘cognitive-processing abilities.’
For this reason, by using ‘muscle-memory’ rather than ‘cognitive-processing-memory’ for individual letter/ sound-skill mastery, the standard time frame for learner skill-acquisition in BOTH pre-K and Kindergarten is almost identical. (given the commonality of their ‘motor-muscle’ reliability) It ranges any where from
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approximately ‘2 weeks to 2 months,’ and can vary from learner-to-learner. Even PRIOR to comprehensive skill mastery, and during this ‘time-frame’ in which the individual letter/ sound skills are still being acquired, the learner’s increasing ability to both effectively both ‘decode and encode’ any
DO NOT WAIT FOR ‘LETTER/ SOUND-ACQUISITION’
TO SHARE A ‘SECRET!’
LEARNERS WILL ENCOUNTER A ‘T’ AS PART OF THE ‘TH’ PATTERN IN TEXT FAR MORE OFTEN THAN A ‘T’ BY ITSELF, MAKING ITS REGULAR ‘T’ SOUND! THEREFORE, BOTH SOUNDS ARE OF EQUAL IMPORTANCE TO A BEGINNING READER. AND THUS WE MUST ‘OFFER’ AND ‘EXPOSE’ LEARNERS TO ‘EVERY LETTER, EVERY SOUND, EVERYDAY!’ (and with regard to ‘developmental-appropriateness’ dictating that the ‘T’ sound be taught BEFORE the ‘TH sound,’ I contend that there is NEVER an ‘inappropriate’ time to ‘share a story!’
A ‘SECRET-STORY’ is most effectively introduced when offered ‘IN-CONTEXT’ of the existing daily curriculum and activities- and NOT as a designated‘phonics-lesson’ to teach isolated skills- as this is not‘how our brains learn best!’ The brain prioritizes information on a ‘NEED-TO-KNOW’basis; in other words, on its own agenda, and for its own ‘DESIGNATED PURPOSE!‘ This is most often during a time in which the information would be of most-effective use to the learner, or, most-likely to serve a SPECIFIC purpose for a given activity.
FOR EXAMPLE, IF YOU HAVE SHARED THE ‘SECRET’ OF THE ‘SUPER-HEROES’ WITH YOUR STUDENTS, AND THEY NOW KNOW THAT ‘ONLY THE VOWELS CAN SAY THEIR NAMES,’ THEY SHOULD ‘TAKE-ISSUE’ WITH YOU THE NEXT TIME THEY SEE THE WORD ‘ART’ ON THE DAILY-ACTIVITY CALENDAR!
“Hey, how come the “R” gets to ‘say his name????’ He’s not a super-hero?! You said that ‘ONLY the super-hero-vowels could ‘say their names!’”
THE MORE ‘SECRETS’ A LEARNER KNOWS, THE MORE ‘DISCREPENCIES’ HE WILL NOTICE, AND, THUS, THE MORE ‘TEACHABLE-MOMENTS’ WILL OCCUR- BOTH ‘NATURALLY’ AND ‘IN-CONTEXT! (not a bad ‘cycle,’ though, huh!!) IF LEARNERS ARE NOT, YET, ‘PICKING-UP’ ON THESE LITTLE
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‘CONTRADICTIONS’ IN THEIR DAILY EXPERIENCES WITH TEXT, YOU CAN FURTHER ENCOURAGE THIS BEHAVIOR BY ‘MODELING’ IT YOURSELF! (as further-described below)
Motivating the learner to ‘look for the holes’ in the logic of our language, and ‘CALL-US-ON-THE-CARPET’ when they’re discovered!
(given the nature of our language,this will be almost CONSTANTLY!) not only personally engages and highly motivates the learner, but also, further ensures their ‘attentiveness.’(In this way, a ‘natural’ motivation is established within learners, as their ‘newly-acquired’ skills are immediately applied, thus providing us with double the BRAIN-BANG for the buck!)
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ IMAGINE IT IS ‘MORNING CALENDAR TIME,’ AND A STUDENT IS DILIGENTLY ATTEMPTING TO ‘SOUND-OUT’ THE WORD-
BECAUSE HE DOES NOT, YET, KNOW THE ‘AU/AW’ SECRET, HE CANNOT ‘GET’ THE WORD, EVEN THOUGH HE MAKES EACH INDIVIDUAL LETTER-SOUND CORRECTLY. THIS WOULD BE AN IDEAL MOMENT TO STOP-EVERYTHING AND SHARE WITH THE CLASS, THE REASON THAT THIS WORD IS SO VERY TRICKY- IT’S BECAUSE THERE’S A ‘GROWN-UP’ ‘READING AND WRITING SECRET’ IN IT THAT ‘THEY DON’T KNOW,’ BECAUSE ‘THEY’RE NOT GROWN-UP YET!’ AFTER PRETENDING TO SPEND A FEW SECONDS ‘SILENTLY-DEBATING’ ABOUT ‘WHETHER OR NOT TO LET THEM IN ON THE SECRET,’
YOU TELL THEM!!
(‘au’ and ‘aw’ are in love, and quite embarrassed when together- “ahhhh”)
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ The SECRETS should be viewed by the learners as almost a sort of ‘reading-treat!’ It is something that the learner must ‘earn the right to hear’ as a result of ‘super-thinking, effort, behavior, etc…’ Quite quickly, they begin to realize that-
ANYTIME A LETTER IN A WORD IS NOT ‘DOING WHAT IT SHOULD,’ OR, ANYTIME A LEARNER ‘CANNOTREAD OR SPELL A WORD’ USING THE ‘SECRETS’ THAT THEY KNOW- that is their ‘cue’ that there is a SECRET in it that THEY HAVE NOT, YET, LEARNED! Copyright 2008 www.TheSecretStories.com
For a fun ‘twist’ that the kids really love, you can play the ‘role of the learner, feigning shock and ‘mock’ frustration Upon discovering a ‘contradiction in text,’
(or on the calendar, hallway sign, milk carton, WHEREVER!)SimplySay aloud,
(so as to effectively-model the process for the learner)
‘knowledge’ of a specific secret-story, or, that the word is already ‘known,’ yet does not appear to be ‘spelled-correctly’ based what sounds the letters are supposed to make.’
(i.e. yellow, candy, July, Monday--)
All of these words are ‘common’ to an elementary classroom, and any could easily come up in conversation at some point during the instructional day. If YOU know that the ‘only sound for ‘y’ that you’ve shared thus far with the learners, is the one it makes in the word‘yo-yo,’ ‘ then you now have the perfect ‘teachable-moment’ in which to share the ‘SNEAKY-Y’ story! If you’ve ALREADY shared the story of ‘SNEAKY-Y,’ or perhaps even the ‘ey/ay,’ then you may wish to model the learner’s role, as they ‘come-across’ one of these words in text, as this, too, would provide a wonderful opportunity to most effectively demonstrate the strategies a learner will utilize when attempting to decode words containing letters that do NOTmake the sounds they would expect!
THE RESEARCH It has been proven that ‘the greater a learner’s experience with text,’ the more their natural spelling ability isenhanced. Thus, a sort of ‘textual-framework’ is established- providing learners with an invaluable ‘template’ upon which to build. This ‘textual-framework’ is also what will, ultimately ‘fine-tune’ their spelling, rather than their having to ‘memorize’ words in entirety. It is this basic ‘functional-level’ of skill-mastery that enables even beginning readers to successfully ‘read their own writing,’ and thus, be capable of ‘further building upon it!’ ’Most importantly, learners possessing the ability to manipulate textual- patterns in language will NOT be limited to writing only ‘that which is familiar,’(i.e. ‘controlled’ vocabulary, ‘word-wall’ words, sight-words, etc…) but rather, they will be empowered to effectively express their ideas in writing, using whatever words they choose!Keep in mind, however, that the research also showsthat ‘reading and writing are virtually ‘identical processes in the brain, up to the approximate age of seven’ (or until the time that the learner is no longer ‘solely focusing on the decoding/ encoding process while reading or writing.)
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SO, IN KEEPING WITH OUR GOAL OF PROMPTING STUDENTS TO
‘WRITE LIKE THEY READ,’
HERE ARE SOME ‘TRICKS’ TO GET THAT ‘WRITING-BALL’ ROLLING!!!!!!
In order to motivate especially the earliest learners to most accurately and carefully ‘encode’ (spell) words they want to write, and NOT just ‘jot down a couple of letters-’ Tell them that they are like ‘zoo-keepers!’
Here’s how it works:
“IF YOU WERE A ZOO-KEEPER AND ONE DAY, ALLOFYOURANIMALSESCAPED, YOU WOULDN’T JUST GO OUT AND TRY TO CATCH THE ‘MONKEY AND THE TIGER ONLY’ AND THEN CALL IT A DAY!I MEAN, WHAT KIND OF ZOO WOULD MY YOU HAVE WITH ‘ONLY A MONKEY AND A TIGER?’ NOT A VERY GOOD ONE, FOR SURE! A GOOD ZOO-KEEPER MUST DO HIS BEST TO ‘CAPTURE’AS MANY ANIMALS AS POSSIBLE-‘ AS THAT IS THE ONLY WAY TO ‘HAVE THE KIND OF ZOO THATOTHERS WILL WANT TO VISIT!’
THE SAME GOES FOR WRITING A WORD- AS JUST LIKE A GOOD ZOO-KEEPER MUSTWORK TO ‘CAPTURE ASMANY ANMIALSASHEPOSSIBLYCAN,’ A GOOD-WRITER MUST WORK TO ‘CAPTURE AS MANY LETTERS AS HE POSSIBLY CAN,’ SO AS TO ‘HAVE A WORD THAT OTHERS WILL BE ABLE TO READ!’ JUST ‘JOTTINGDOWN A COUPLE OF LETTERS’ AND ‘CALLING IT A WORD’ IS NOT WHAT ‘GOOD-WRITERS’ DO- THEY LISTENFOR ‘AS MANYSOUNDS AND ‘SECRETS’ AS THEY CAN HEAR IN A WORD,’ SO AS TO ‘CAPTURE AS MANY LETTERS IN THAT WORD AS POSSIBLE!’ FURTHER ‘DRIVE THIS POINT HOME’ WITH………….
SIMPLY PUT, KIDS CAN EARN ‘1 M&M’ FOR EACHLETTER THEY ‘CAPTURE’ (WRITE) FOR A WORD!’ (KIND OF LIKE A ‘MOCK’ SPELLINGTEST!’) IDEALLY, 3-5 WORDS ARE GIVEN AT TIME, JUST AS WITH A REAL SPELLING QUIZ, THE EXCEPTION BEING THAT WITH M&M QUIZZES, THERE IS ONLY ‘POSITIVE’ REINFORCEMENT- NO ‘NEGATIVE!’ SO EVEN STRUGGLING-LEARNERS WHO MAY STILL BE UNABLE TO SPELL ‘ENTIRE’ WORDS CORRECTLY, MAY STILL BE REWARDED WITH A FEW M&M’S BY SIMPLY IDENTIFYING ‘INITIAL’ OR ‘ENDING’ LETTER SOUNDS, OR ANYOTHER SOUNDS THEY ARE ABLE TO IDENTIFY IN A GIVEN WORD. THIS ACTIVITY PROVIDES AN INFOMRAL ASSESSMENT OF ‘LETTER/ SOUND/ SECRET-STORY’ SKILL AWARENESS AND APPLICATION, AS WELL AS FURTHER ENCOURAGING MORE CONSISTENT ‘STUDENT-PERFORMANCE’ IN WRITING-LEVEL.
As you begin to introduce the first few SECRETSTORIES, you may notice that the learners’ skill-acquisition is almost immediate, as is their ability to utilize these ‘newly-introduced’ skills, or SECRETS. This is due to the inherent design of the SECRET STORIES, themselves, in which the comprehensive-application of ‘musical, motor, and sensory-memory’ activities is inextricably-linked to seemingly ‘unrelated and random’ phonemic-patterns through the process of systematically ‘rooting’ them ’into meaningful contexts for the learner.In addition, the integration of a dramatic-action within a ‘contextualized’ story compels the learner to take on a more ‘active’ and participatory role, rather than be ‘relegated’ to the traditional, more passiveone, whereby the learner remains in a ‘perpetual state of stillness.’ Each and every SECRET STORY that is presented supports a variety of opportunities for learner-movement (mobility)whether it be a simple gesture that occurs naturally when sharing a SECRETS, or a deliberate ‘cueing-motion’ that directs the learner to a specific sound referred to as an ‘ACTION-CUE,’ and noted as such throughout this book in various ‘stories.’ Encouraging learners to become ‘mobile’ in a meaningful and ‘content-related’ way, provides a ‘means through which new information may be directly ‘woven’ into the learner.’
‘THE BODY’S INTELLIGENCE’
James Asher (‘father’ of TPR- ‘Total Physical Response’ )
states that “99% of what we learn in life, we learn through ‘mobile’ experience, and not in front of a classroom chalkboard.”
It has been proven that the body ‘remembers’ as well as the mind, and for some learners, EVENBETTER! Thus, for many ‘struggling’ learners, and most especially, for a very young learner, the inherent ‘motor/ muscle-memory’ is often a ‘more reliable means for skill-acquisition’ than is their actual ‘cognitive-processing’ ability.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR ‘OPTIMAL-LEARNING’ EXPERIENCE
In order to truly ‘OWN’ information, a learner must be able to both easily and effectively ‘manipulate’ it. The auditory manipulations on the SECRET STORIES CD serve this function well, as they provide a ‘support for instruction,’ by allowing the learner to meet‘difficult challenges’with ‘minimal stress-‘ even when the challenge presented EXCEEDS the learner’s ability-level. Research shows that the integration of music with skill-manipulation (NOT ‘musical-regurgitation’) minimizes learner-stress, thereby providing opportunities for best matching‘learner-ability’ with respective ‘skill-level’ for most effective practice. In this way, learners are able to manipulate skills to their ‘highestlevel of ability with minimal stress,’ thus remaining in what is referred to as ‘optimal-learning mode.’
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Using music as a means for ‘manipulating’ skills, makes it possible to effectively ‘challenge’ learners, while maintaining both ‘learner-comfort’ and ‘flexibility.’ Thus, learner can work easily and effectively with ‘newly-acquired’ skills, while remaining in their ‘optimal-learning mode.’ It is in this context that the auditory exercises on the accompanying CD are best utilized as musical ‘brain-teasers,’ specifically designed to ‘bolster’ student automaticity of ‘newly-acquired’ letter/ sound/ SECRET-STORY skills. The goal of this type of practice is to ‘increase immediate and ‘non-conscious’ (i.e. automatic’) learner-response’ in the learner’s ability to both recall, as well as manipulate, the most commonphonemic letter-sound patterns with ease.
True ownership and awareness of these critical ‘phonemic concepts and skills’ is what allows for ‘shifting’ of learner-focus from the simple ‘mechanics’ of reading and writing, to actually ‘reading for meaning’ and ‘writing for a purpose,’, and this SHIFT that is vital to overall reading and writing success.
ALMOST IMMEDIATELY WITHIN YOUR CLASSROOM, YOU HEAR A STUDENT SAY-‘THERE MUST BE A ‘SECRET’ IN THAT WORD!”
AS I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT THIS SOON WILL BECOME A COMMON PHRASE WITHIN YOUR CLASSROOM, AND WILL MOST ALWAYS BE FOLLOWED BY THE ‘MUCH-ANTICIPATED-‘
“PLEASE TELL US WHAT IT IS, PLEEEEEASE!!!!!”
This results in a ‘push-and-pull’ effect of THEM wanting what YOU’VE got, and your deciding ‘whether or not to give it to them’ which,by far, the most significant motivational factor of all! As now THEY are begging YOU for the skills! (rather than YOUR having to ‘chase THEM down and pay attention long-enough’ to… “Complete all the problems in the workbook on the ‘ou/ow’ page,
in preparation for tomorrow’s work, when we begin the ‘eu/ew’ page, and be ready for the test the following day to properly ‘fill-in-all-the-blanks’ with the correct phonics-pattern and………BLAH-BLAH-BLAH”YUCK!
OH YEAH!! THE BRAIN AS A ‘MULTI-PROCESSOR’ AND THEREFORE ‘LAYERING’ INSTRUCTIONAL CONTENT IS ALWAYSTHE IDEAL! The goal is ‘simultaneous-skill instruction,’ So as to best ‘equip’ learners with all the skills necessary to begin
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developing a ‘functional’ working knowledge of letters, sounds and common phonemic-patterns, so as to foster an ability to work independently and effectively with text, and thus further reinforce skills through authentic experience with text.’ The sounds that letters make individually, are no ‘more’ or ‘less’ common in our language, than ‘those sounds they make within combined phonemic-patterns,’ and therefore, merely providing a learner with ‘all of one’ and yet ‘none of the other’ makes them capable to accomplish ‘little-to-nothing’ in text! In addition, you will soon see that learners ‘absorb’ the stories so effortlessly, that you may not actually ‘believe your own eyes!’ To a child, it is no different than knowing ‘which students in their class are not allowed to sit together because ‘they talk too much,’ or ‘who cannot play together on the playground, lest they end up in a fight!’ (or, maybe they will just ‘stick their tongues’ out at each other instead, saying “thhh!”) IT’SREALLYTHATEASY! You will soon see that many learners, especially the very young, will actually OWN the skills BEFORE they even know how to use them! And this is a good thing, as for many learners, it is ‘acquiring the skill’s that presents the greatest challenge- but not anymore- not when we’re ‘teaching with the brain in mind!!’