Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Teaching Verb Tenses with Narratives

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Dec 8, 2016 3:27:00 PM

Last week, I featured the Zoozoo Animal World Series to teach different verb tenses in the classroom (read the article here). This week, I’ll be presenting ways to incorporate fictional narratives into discussions about time!

Understanding different verb tenses is not only important for grammatical purposes—recognizing temporal word forms is integral to understanding any narrative. The Common Core Standards also expects first-grade students to “use verbs to convey a sense of past, present, and future (e.g., Yesterday I walked home; Today I walk home; Tomorrow I will walk home)” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.1.1.E).

The Fables and the Real World Series showcases fictional fables that teach universal life lessons. The Milkmaid and Her Pail utilizes all three verb tenses—past, present, and future—in its story. Nevertheless, it remains at Guided Reading Level G and stays accessible to your students! 

Before reading:

  • Introduce the book to your students. Do you think this book is fiction or nonfiction? Why do you think so?
  • Tell them that you’ll be focusing on time and the sequencing of events during today’s reading.

During reading:

Page 2:

  • Discuss the opening phrase “once upon a time.” What is the meaning of this phrase? What does it tell us about when the story takes place?
  • Based on “once upon a time,” do we expect the story to be told in past, present, or future tense? Examine the verb in the sentence to confirm your students’ prediction.

Page 5, 7, and 9:

  • Identify the two different verb tenses on the page. Why does the milkmaid speak in the future tense? (Because she is fantasizing about things that she can buy in the future.)

Page 6 and 8:

  • Identify other words on this page that are related to time. (“Then,” “soon.”)

Page 10:

  • Identify the two different verb tenses on the page. Which word signals that the verb is in future tense? (“Will.”)


After reading:

  • Return to the farmer’s dialogue on page 3, 15, and 16.
  • What tense does the farmer use when he speaks? (Present tense.)
  • Why does he speak in present tense? Explain that when the farmer was speaking, it was a “now” or a present in which the story was taking place. For your students, though, that “now” was “once upon a time,” and the story has already happened. The story is simply recording what the farmer said in that moment, so it is in present tense. [Note: the concept of relative temporal perceptions is quite abstract and related to “acknowledging differences in the points of view of characters” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.6), so don’t worry about stressing this point.]
  • Examine the second sentence of dialogue on page 3. What tense does the farmer use and why? 


Familiarity with different verb tenses serves as a powerful tool for fiction reading. With a keen sensitivity to words that trigger time, students will develop greater comprehension of story timelines and event sequencing. Whether you’ve taught, teach, or will teach verb tenses to your students, The Milkmaid and Her Pail is a great addition to your classroom library!


Click the image below to download an informational sheet about the Fables and the Real World Series, which includes the book featured in this blog post.

Fables and the Real World More Information


Read More

Topics: Common Core, Literature, Narrative Text, First Grade, Fables and the Real World, Verb Tenses

Animals in the Classroom

Posted by Becca Ross on Dec 6, 2016 3:45:00 PM

This is a guest blog post by Becca Ross, who usually writes over at Love, Laughter, and Literacy. To read more from her, come back here for more posts from her or check out her blog!

I have a confession to make. I’m on a mission to add some animals to my classroom. I’m excited about the idea of digging into some new science inquiry projects based on animal exploration. One of the books I received to review from Hameray Publishing Group is called Where Do Animals Live?



This book is going to be my kick-off in animal exploration to prepare the students for adding animals to our classroom. The book has repetitive text, which is great for kindergarten students as they are learning to gain independence in their reading. It may have even encouraged me to jump headfirst into our first animal experience. See that pretty little girl in the background? 

The best part of this book is the back. I love the suggestions for teachers and parents.


The idea of creating animal homes is my favorite. Like most teachers, I collect a variety of materials. I can’t wait to set things out in our art center and let kids start to build their own animals homes.

My dream is to take our study of animals and their homes and move to our courtyard as well. We have a beautiful space inside of our school walls that I would love to make into an exploration space including birds and their needs.

becca4.png      becca5.png

There are so many exciting changes coming and I’m thrilled to let Where Do Animals Live? help kick things off! Are you ready to meet our new guest in kindergarten? Meet Peanut! She’s our 30-year-old Box Turtle who has joined us! I totally blame my new book for this little adventure. We simply HAD to take things to the next level when answering, Where Do Animals Live?


Happy reading!



To learn more about Where Do Animals Live? and the My World series, click on the image below and download an information sheet!

  My World Series Info Sheet

Read More

Topics: Animals, My World, Becca Ross

Teaching Verb Tenses with Informational Texts

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Dec 1, 2016 3:25:00 PM

The end of the calendar year provides a perfect opportunity to have a discussion about time and how to indicate time with language. The Common Core Standards for first grade require that students “use verbs to convey a sense of past, present, and future (e.g., Yesterday I walked home; Today I walk home; Tomorrow I will walk home)” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.1.1.E).

Both narrative and informational books allow students to identify various temporal signals in the text. This week, I will focus on using informational texts to familiarize students with time-related words and different tenses.

Arctic Fox, part of the Zoozoo Animal World Arctic Habitat set, describes the different changes that arctic foxes undergo from season to season. Your students will be intrigued to learn facts about this wintry and majestic animal!



Before reading:

  • As a class, rainstorm a list of words and phrases that indicate time. The words can be specific (one minute, December, two o’clock) or relative (next, yesterday, now). Encourage students to consider different scales of time, from seconds and minutes to months and years.

During reading:

  • While reading, emphasize the verb “is” and its present tense. For example, page 3 states that the arctic fox, in the moment captured by the picture, is cold.

After reading:

  • Scan the book and add any other time-related words to your list (summer, winter).
  • Discuss the passage of time in this book. When is the arctic fox white? When is it gray?
  • What season are we in right now? What color is the arctic fox? (It is winter in the Northern Hemisphere, so the arctic fox is white.)

Writing activity:

  • Have students complete the following sentences to demonstrate their understanding of different verb tenses.
    • Last summer, the arctic fox _______ (conjugated “to be” verb) _______ (adjective).
    • Now, it is winter. The arctic fox _______ (v) ________ (adj.).
    • Next summer, the arctic fox ___ ___ (v) _______ (adj.) again!
  • Using the book as guidance, students can either write about the different colors of the arctic fox or seasonal temperature differences.

As an extended reading activity, read Brown Bear from the Mountain Habitat Set. Challenge your students to identify the verb tense used in this book. Is the verb tense different from the one used in Arctic Fox?


With Zoozoo Animal World, your students can learn about different animals and achieve Common Core Language Standards! Next Thursday, I'll take a look at using fictional narratives to learn about different verb tenses and the concept of time in books.



Click the image below to download the FREE Zoozoo Animal World Teacher's Guide!



Read More

Topics: Common Core, Informational Text, Zoozoo Animal World, First Grade, Verb Tenses

Zoozoo Storytellers Activities!

Posted by Cindy Price on Nov 29, 2016 2:58:00 PM

This is a guest blog post by Cindy Price, a first-grade teacher from Delaware. If you like what you read here, take a look at her blog at Mrs. Price's Kindergators, and be sure to check back here for more of her guest blog posts!

I love the Zoozoo Storytellers series! In first grade we are comparing fiction and nonfiction books as well as learning about retelling a fiction story and the importance of making sure the text and photographs match in a nonfiction text. This series is perfect for this.

The books we read were Frogs and Frog’s Play. As usual, we began by reviewing the vocabulary. These books have such an awesome vocabulary bank.The text was perfect for my small group and my low readers, but all of my kids gravitate towards these books! The one thing I love about these books is the fact that they increase my students’ self-esteem. The easy-to-read yet informative text was a hit with my kids!

We can use these books for many Common Core Standards. We can use them for point of view, opinion writing, compare and contrast stories, text to self connections, listening and speaking standards, as well as reading fluency and writing activities! 

The nonfiction book, Frogs, had awesome photos that closely match the text. This is an important feature for the books to have, especially at this reading level.

Here is the cover and some pages from the nonfiction book!


Here are some of the things my kids did with the nonfiction text!


We read the book and discussed the parts of a frog. Then they labeled the frog with the word bank at the bottom of the page. We also compared ourselves to the frog. What body parts do we share with frogs?


We also talked about what frogs "can" do, what they "have," and what they "are." We made a large class chart as well as the children making their own individual chart to share with their families.

Then we read the fiction book Frog’s Play. My kids loved the bright pictures and the easy-to-read text. We read it once as a class and then they read it individually. All of my readers loved this book despite their reading level. I also put it in our class library and it has been a constant hit!

Check out the cute pictures and easy print as well as some of the activities we did using this book!



After reading, we retold the story. First we retold it with a friend, then as a class. Then, depending on their abilities, the kids either wrote what happened or drew pictures for what happened in the story!

Then we did this fill-in activity.


When we were finished reading both books, we also compared the two texts. The kids loved this entire mini-unit.


Click on the image below to learn more about the Zoozoo Storytellers Series that is featured in this post. New Call-to-Action

Read More

Topics: Leveled Readers, Zoozoo Storytellers, Nonfiction, First Grade, Cindy Price

Classic Post: A Thanksgiving Lesson on Where Food Comes From—with FREE download

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Nov 22, 2016 3:34:00 PM

Thanksgiving, our biggest food holiday of the year, provides the perfect opportunity to do a short unit on food and how it gets to the table. As a harvest celebration, Thanksgiving naturally lends itself to discussions about farms and what a harvest is, as well as the various other steps in the food production process from farm to table.

thanksgiving dinner 250The foods traditionally eaten on Thanksgiving are generally minimally processed foods that are easily traced back to their farm origins. Try introducing your class to some food-related fictional literature, such as Thanksgiving Dinner (which lists traditional Thanksgiving foods in a playful rhyme), The Little Red Hen (which traces the bread-making process from seed to table), or your favorite Thanksgiving story or food/farm story.

Then bolster the ideas from those fictional stories with informational texts that teach children about farms, harvests, and where food comes from. In the Story World Real World series, the Little Red Hen theme set comes with the storybook and three food-related informational texts: Different Kinds of Bread (which explores different breads from around the world), Who Made Our Breakfast? (which uses real photography and facts to explain the seed-to-table process of breadmaking introduced in the story book), and Great Grains (which discusses how grains are used for food).

Other books that introduce children to farming include the following:

1) General: Where Does It Come From?; On the Farm

2) Animals: the books in the Farm habitat in the Zoozoo Animal World series

3) Plants: the books in the Growing Things theme of the My World series

Pretty much any books that help children make the connection between their food and its source will be helpful for this lesson.

One way to really tie the concept to the holiday is to ask your students to bring a Thanksgiving recipe from home, then trace each of the ingredients in the recipe back to its source. You can let the children or parents choose the recipe, or you can brainstorm a list of foods as a class, then divide the class into groups of assigned recipes. This also allows children who might not have traditionally American customs to suggest a special holiday dish from their own culture and share the information with the class.

You can download a free worksheet at the bottom of this page to use in this lesson! It spaces for recipe ingredients, whether the ingredient source is a plant or an animal, and a space for children to try to draw the ingredient (either in natural or processed form) or cut and past an image of it.


To download your free reproducible worksheet, click the worksheet image below. To learn more about the series mentioned in this article, visit our website by clicking the book and series links embedded in the text.

Thanksgiving Recipe Worksheet

Read More

Topics: Story World, Real World, Holiday, Lesson Plan, Kaleidoscope Collection, Zoozoo Animal World, My World

Presenting the NEW Zoozoo Animal World Teacher's Guide!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Nov 17, 2016 3:16:00 PM


Every student loves learning about animals! Not only do they boost science knowledge and understanding of natural habitats, animal books also help students expand their vocabulary and develop literacy skills. From the friendly sheep to the not-so-friendly crocodile, the Zoozoo Animal World features animals from all over the world. Each book contains talking points specific to each animal, helping educators and teachers (like you) further class discussion.

 Are you looking for new ways to include Zoozoo Animal World in your classroom? Want to know how to use them in your literacy lessons? At long last, we are happy to present the all-new Zoozoo Animal World Teacher’s Guide!

The Zoozoo Animal World Teacher’s Guide, available to download at the bottom of this post, focuses on six essential literacy skills—Comprehension, Fluency, Vocabulary: Content Words, Writing, Phonics, and Word Skills. For each animal book, the Teacher’s Guide also includes a bonus fact that you can share with your students.

ZZAW Teachers Guide-300.jpg

Now, you can easily discover which animals are best for teaching digraphs or conjunctions without flipping through each title!

Here’s a sneak preview of the Teacher’s Guide, which offers five exercises to improve your students’ reading fluency: 

  1. “Use the text in a shared reading. Encourage children to follow the text with their fingers as you read the book aloud.
  2. Instruct children to echo read with expression and phrasing.
  3. Have children reread the text, using context to confirm or self-correct word recognition and understanding.
  4. Have pairs take turns reading the text to each other and give feedback about automaticity, rate, accuracy, intonation, expression, and phrasing.
  5. Have children independently engage in repeated readings.” 


Download the Zoozoo Animal World Teacher’s Guide below for FREE—and let us know what you think in the comments below!


Click the image below to download the FREE Zoozoo Animal World Teacher's Guide!



Read More

Topics: Zoozoo Animal World, Teacher's Guides

Driving Into Word Study

Posted by Marcy Godesa on Nov 15, 2016 3:51:00 PM



This is a guest blog post by Marcy Godesa, a first-grade teacher from Oregon who blogs over at Searching for Teacher Balance. If you like what you read here, be sure to check back here for more of her guest blog posts! 


Word Study is one of my favorite times of the day. It is that beautiful point in the day when I get to watch my students learn new words right in front of my eyes. My kiddos are excellent at using their good reading habits to work through new words, but explicit teaching of new vocabulary, on my part, is still extremely important.

I love taking my kiddos' leveled readers and pulling specific vocabulary to not only support that current book, but to support their development of background knowledge. Hameray Publishing came to the rescue yet again with their amazing books. Big Wheels at Work has been the perfect addition to my readers' book bags. 


During our sneak peek of the book, we explored the tricky words. Throughout our small group, kiddos matched the "stretched out sounds" (word attack strategy) of each word to the correct spelling of the word. They placed the cards in the different parking spots as they matched them up. This activity allowed my students to use the visual representation of the sounds to practice each word.


Students then drove their monster trucks into the parking spots of each tricky word found throughout the book. They loved being able to "drive" into each word, thus practicing each word again.  

You can grab this parking lot and sound matching cards here.  

As you can see, I love working on words with my kiddos. Do you love working on words with your students? What is your favorite time of day teaching your students?


Click the image below to read about the Kaleidoscope Collection, which includes Big Wheels At Work.

Kaleidoscope Collection Info Sheet

Read More

Topics: Leveled Readers, Kaleidoscope Collection, Vocabulary, Marcy Godesa

Make Your Own Letter Buddies!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Nov 10, 2016 4:02:00 PM

 Have you met the Letter Buddies? The Letter Buddies Series offers children an engaging way to familiarize themselves with the alphabet and build a strong foundation for literacy skills. From Blends Books the feature common consonant blends to LetterMats for snacktime exploration, Letter Buddies encourages learning in a variety of settings.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the series, though, is the line up of Letter Buddy characters. Each letter in the alphabet is personified into a fun, eye-catching creature with a unique personality. Meet them all below!

Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 12.14.20 AM.png

You can find a Letter Buddy in every book in the Letter Buddies series. The block-printed letter buddy characters will ensure that your student can recognize alphabet letters in various fonts, an important aspect of letter-shape knowledge.

As an oral language activity, have your student choose their favorite letter buddy. You can find each letter on the covers of the Letter Buddies Letter Books. Discuss that letter’s personality traits (jumpy, loud, kind), and then ask your student to make up a story about the letter.

Ex. What does Happy H like to do? Why do you think Happy H is happy? Who is Happy H’s best friendhameray-early-childhood-letter-learning-resources-teachers.jpg

The Letter Buddy characters only feature the 26 uppercase letters in the alphabet—why not make your own class set of lowercase letter buddies? Assign a letter to each student. Brainstorm together to think of a “describing word” (adjective) that starts with their letter but is different from the uppercase letter buddy’s adjective! For example, Chatty C’s lowercase friend might be “cute c.” This exercise will help the students identify different words that begin with a certain letter.

Once the describing word has been decided, have the students write their lowercase letter and illustrate it with hands, eyes, feet, etc. Assist the students in labeling their letter buddy. Compile everyone’s drawings into a class set of Letter Buddies! 

Who is your favorite Letter Buddy? Let us know in the comments below!


Click the image below to learn more about the Letter Buddies Letter Books series. Visit our website to see all of our Letter Buddies products!

New Call-to-Action

Read More

Topics: Letter Buddies, Beginning Letter Sounds, Letter Learning

The Role of Big Books and Shared Reading

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on Nov 8, 2016 3:49:00 PM


This is a guest blog post by Dr. Geraldine Haggard, who is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. 

As the first article in a new series, this blog post is designed to share the history and purpose of big books. In subsequent posts, I will share suggestions for the use of three Hameray big books.


Don Holdaway refers to big books as “shared-book experiences” in his book The Foundations of Literacy (1979). He discussed students who are not fortunate enough to experience bedtime stories. These children neither possess the early oral language skills of their peers before entering school nor the warm personal experience with an adult who shared the excitement of reading. Holdaway found that when all the students could see the text in a shared reading book, they understand the role of print in reading.

Once, I attended a trip led by Don Holdaway and visited New Zealand schools. I watched Don and teachers in New Zealand use of published big books and class-made big books. I saw children excitedly reading big books together after the books had been used with the entire class. The classes in New Zealand had children of different ages grouped together, so guided reading was a part of the many collective reading activities in the classroom. 

child reading books_14715389_Otnaydur.jpgATTRIBUTES OF SHARED READING

A teacher must choose a big book that the students will want to read and reread. The book should contain repeated phrases and sentences, rhyming words, and pictures that support the text. Such a book will strengthen the oral language skills of the students in a non-threatening way. 

In Different Paths to Common Outcomes (1998), Marie Clay recommends that the teacher move from whole to parts of words, emphasizing the semantic and syntactic cues.

The first reading is done by the teacher after an introduction to the book. The children are not invited to read along but may use any prior knowledge to talk about the book’s content. Thirty minutes is sufficient for the teacher to model, discuss, and guide students.

     Later readings allow students to read along with the teacher in big groups, small groups, and independently.






  • Shared reading provides an opportunity for the entire class to participate, allowing everyone to feel successful and be a part of a happy experience with a book.
  • Children who fear that reading is difficult can have a sense of individual achievement.
  • The teacher can introduce new strategies, provide opportunities for practice, and help students truly understand the importance of the strategies.
  • Discussion allows students to use prior knowledge that will provide a foundation for strong reading comprehension skills.
  • The details of letters and words can be discussed and used later in writing.
  • Students become familiar with essential sight words.
  • The teacher can model the cross-checking strategy that is essential to good reading, teaching students the semantics and syntax behind questions: "Did that make sense? Did that sound right?" Clay believes that meaning and syntax came before print details.
  • Fluent reading by the teacher and emphasis of punctuation can help students use punctuation marks as they read text with emotion and meaning.
  • Research shares that multiple readings of a text are important. Shared reading big books can be a part of the class library, while smaller copies of the book can become home reading.

In New Zealand, I saw small groups of children revisiting and reading texts from shared reading. One student even assumed the role of the teacher!

In my next post, I will present example lessons from the Hameray Big Book Collection. Subscribe in the right-hand sidebar to receive my next post in your mailbox.


Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from Hameray's Kaleidoscope Collection. She spent 37 years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, teaches in her church, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. 


Click the image below to download a brochure featuring Hameray's Big Books Collection!

Leveled Big Books

Read More

Topics: Big Books, Shared Reading, Geraldine Haggard, Guided Reading

Election Vocabulary with the Biography Series

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Nov 3, 2016 3:01:00 PM


In just five days, American voters will elect the 45th President of the United States. Everywhere we turn, the media bombards us with the latest campaign news, polls, and political advertisements. Our students also want to take part in the fervent discussions taking over our country, but they are still too young to actually cast a ballot.

Especially in this year’s controversial election, discussing politics in the classroom is complicated by the need to respect the different beliefs of all students and their families. How can you, as an educator, healthily and productively teach students the knowledge needed to become responsible citizens?

A great way to address the current campaign in the classroom is to turn back into history. The Hameray Biography Series features the stories of three American presidents: George Washington, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. Reading past and current presidents’ stories will circumvent heated debates about the 2016 candidates while still providing students the opportunity to learn about the U.S. Presidential election. 

Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan’s biographies devote multiple chapters to their presidential campaign. Each book also includes a glossary that allows students to familiarize themselves with this informational text feature.


Using the glossary and relevant chapters in the book, ask students to create a list of election vocabulary and their definitions. Underneath each word, have them write examples about how the vocabulary word relates to Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan.

Example: Campaign- the competition between political candidates.

Ronald Reagan talked about the danger of the Soviet Union during his campaign.

Barack Obama began his campaign in February 2007.


obama-glossary (dragged).jpg

This exercise will help students draw connections between two historical figures through specific information in the text (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.3). The two biographies also include the following election vocabulary words:



Concession speech









Vice President



In a follow-up class discussion, ask your students about the current election using their newly learned vocabulary: Who are the candidates? When is Election Day this year?

Encourage your students to watch the news with their family on November 8th. They’ll appreciate how classroom literacy directly relates to important current events happening in the country! 


Click the image below to download the Teacher's Guide for Ronald Reagan and for Barack Obama.

Bio TG       Bio TG

Read More

Topics: Leveled Readers, Biography Series, Social Studies, Election

Subscribe to Email Updates

Posts by Topic

see all

Follow Me