Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Tara Rodriquez

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Joy Cowley Contest Winner!

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Mar 1, 2017 3:15:00 PM


We have our contest winner! Is it you? Click here to find out who won the grand prize!


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Topics: Contests

Introducing NEW Activity Videos!

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jan 4, 2017 4:34:41 PM

We have something brand new for you here at the Hameray Literacy Blog! We've made follow-along videos for the classroom activities in some of our most popular blog posts. We're posting just a taste-testing today so you can see what they are like, but there will be more to come.

Gingerbread Kids Writing Activity

 See the whole blog post by Laureen and get the free download featured in the post by clicking the link below:

Using Gingerbread Cookies to Teach Writing—with FREE Download!


Color Words Worksheet Activity

See the whole blog post by Laureen and get the free download featured in the post by clicking the link below:

A Color Words Activity—with FREE Download!

Do you have a favorite activity from our blog that you'd like turned into a classroom-friendly video? Weigh in below and let us know! Want to see the newest videos as soon as they come out? Subscribe to this blog in the sidebar, or subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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Topics: Videos

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

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

Teaching the Alphabet through Connections

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jul 1, 2016 10:01:16 AM

Teaching the Alphabet through Connections - Kathy Crane

One of our frequent guest bloggers, Kathy Crane over at Kindergarten Kiosk, wrote this neat post on teaching the alphabet through connections. She uses lots of strategies: animal buddies, letter books, anchor charts, and an object tub, among other things. Here is an excerpt from her post:

One of the most important skills that young children need to conquer quickly, is to crack the code of the alphabetic principle! This is not an easy task for most children. In fact, the skill is most easily acquired if it is taught in a strategic manner that is purposeful, and makes sense. 

This group of animal friends allows for such strategic teaching! As I introduce a letter a day for the first 26 or so days of school using multisensory cues, I have found that most students learn the majority of letters and sounds in a very short time.

Click here to read the rest of her post, and if you're interested in the Letter Buddies Letter Books she uses in her approach, there are a few ways you can get a better look at them:

New Call-to-Action

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Letter Learning, Kathy Crane

Helping Striving Readers in the Upper Grades: Q & A with Dr. Adria Klein (Part 1 of 2) [Classic Post]

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jun 21, 2016 3:30:00 PM

This video series first appeared in 2013 and has helped many striving readers since then! To get literacy posts delivered into your inbox, make sure to follow this blog by subscribing in the right sidebar. 

Welcome to our first installation of videos in which professor emerita and literacy expert Dr. Adria Klein answers questions about struggling and striving readers in the upper grades and how to best help them take an interest in and achieve proficiency in reading. You can see the second post here.

Click on the videos to watch. Transcripts, if preferred, are available below each of the videos.

Q: What kinds of difficulties do struggling readers have in the upper grades?

A: Struggling readers in the upper grades have most of the difficulties around areas of comprehension and vocabulary. They often have trouble with fluency tied to their decoding needs.

Often times they struggle with concepts like word phrases and at times they are working through strategies and tend to rely on only one or two as they read, rather than multiple uses of strategies to support their reading and understanding.


Q: How can a teacher help striving older readers?

A: Lots of independent reading is one of the research bases for understanding a struggling older reader. Dick Allington talks about the fact that kids have to read, read, read, and read some more. That involves them being interested in reading, willing to read, wanting to read, and having the right books to support them.

Materials like the Download series from Hameray are critical to providing topics of interest to kids,a layout and a book that looks sophisticated, but provides the right level of support and entry for the reading that they are going to do in those texts.

We’ve got to find books that look sophisticated, are on topics that they are interested in, deal with characters they care about, and have some kind of support for their reading needs. But not by providing books that are too low-level.


Q: What kinds of material would be useful to support teachers and striving readers?

A: As we talked about the idea of older readers needing books appropriate for them, one good idea is to consider having recurring characters. The Extraordinary Files are a series of mysteries that have two characters that reoccur, but the kids they interact with in the story are the age of the reader that we intend to reach.

So thinking about the older reader, thinking about the recurring characters, they identify like they would with a series, in another book or in television or in movies and kids tend to like to follow a character.

Something else that hooks the reluctant reader at the upper grade-level is to see pictures in the book that look like the characters they would envision they would like to be if they put themselves in the book.

And so both the Download series and Extraordinary Files have an appropriate amount of picture support as well as high-interest characters and the age range appropriate to reach our students.


The book series mentioned in this interview, Download series and The Extraordinary Files, are part of Hameray's High Interest / Low Vocabulary genre, intended to encourage struggling readers to read through presenting compelling topics that they want to read about. Download offers facts about the exciting world of extreme sports and hot contemporary subjects such as technology and natural disasters. The Extraordinary Files is a mystery-fiction series that follows the adventures of two sleuths as they work to solve cases, often of a supernatural bent.

Flip through a couple of samples of books from these series to see how they appeal to readers who have trouble taking an interest in reading.


To see a wider variety of titles from these series, take a look at our catalog. We have a large selection of books from these two series and other series that will appeal to the same age-group and reading level. To see the second post in this series, click here! To access our catalog or download series highlight sheets with key features, click the images below!

Hameray 2016 Catalog Request New Call-to-Action Download Series Highlights

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Teaching Fairy Tales: A Cinderella Lesson Plan for Common Core

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jun 9, 2016 5:19:03 PM



The Common Core places a lot of emphasis on text types, with traditional tales being one of the main types of literature mentioned in the ELA standards. We created the Story World Real World series to meet a need for paired texts and traditional tales, and coming soon is a Common Core-correlated teacher's guide to assist you with making these lessons easy! Here's a sample of a lesson based on Cinderella!

Features of the Text:

  • Traditional story.
  • Aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). See CCSS Reading Standards for Literature, Grade 1: #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10.
  • Punctuation: speech punctuation, exclamation marks, questions marks.
  • Opportunities to develop reading for inference skills.
  • Dialogue between characters.
  • Vocabulary development (e.g., mean, work, ugly, magic, sparkling, slipper, midnight, charmed, hurts).
  • Words and phrases that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses (CCSS Reading Standards for Literature, Grade 1: #3).
  • The characters’ actions and feelings (CCSS Reading Standards for Literature, Grade 1: #4).

Before Reading:

  • Tell the children you are going to read a story that people have loved so much they have been telling it for hundreds of years.
  • Examine the cover and the title.
    • What do you think this story is going to be about?
    • Why does it say “retold by”?
  • Make a connection with the children’s experience:
    • Do you know the story of Cinderella? It is probably one of the most well-known fairy tales. Let’s find out why.

During Reading:

  • Read the text with the children, encouraging them to join in with the reading when they think they know the words.
  • Before turning the page, encourage the children to predict what will happen next.

Cinderella_Inside_Final-16.jpgAfter Reading:

  • Discuss vocabulary, e.g., mean, work, ugly, magic, sparkling, slippers, midnight, charmed, hurts.
  • Discuss text features such as speech punctuation.
    • How do we know who is talking? How do we know where the talk starts and ends? (A: speech punctuation.)
  • Discuss the illustrations.
    • What do the illustrations tell us about the characters? For example, look at Cinderella’s clothes at the start of the story. What do you think they tell us about how she was treated?
    • Do the two sisters look ugly or beautiful to you?
    • Look at the illustration on page 13 showing the prince holding the glass slipper. What do you think he is thinking and feeling?
  • Reread pages 2–3:
    • Do you think Cinderella was treated fairly?
    • How do you think she felt when the ugly sisters made fun of her and made her do all the work?
    • Role play: If you were Cinderella, what would you like to say to your mean stepmother and your two unkind sisters?
  • Reread pages 4–5:
    • How do you think the sisters felt about the invitation to the ball? How do you think Cinderella felt?
    • Role play: If you were one of Cinderella’s sisters, what would you have said when you read the king’s invitation? What would you have said to Cinderella? If you were Cinderella, what would you have said when you saw the invitation? What would you have said to the sisters?
    • What do you think Cinderella felt when her sisters went off to the ball?
  • Reread pages 6–7:
    • What do you think Cinderella felt when she saw her fairy godmother appear?
    • Role play: If you were Cinderella and you suddenly found yourself wearing a beautiful ball gown and sparkling glass slippers, what do you think you would say to your fairy godmother? What would you tell her about how you felt?
    • Look at the illustrations. Is there anything in the picture that might help you predict what is going to happen next? (A: The pumpkin and the mice.)
  • Reread pages 8–9:
    • Look at the illustrations. How can you tell what the coach was made from? What about the “horses”?
    • Can you draw a clock and show where the hands would be at midnight?
    • What does the fairy godmother mean when she says about the clock “striking” twelve?
    • How do you think Cinderella was feeling as she rode off in the coach?
  • Cinderella_Inside_Final-6.jpgReread pages 10–11:
    • Look at the illustrations. What do you think each person looking at Cinderella was thinking or whispering to the people nearby?
    • Role play this as a “still frame.” Choose children to be the different people in the illustration. Get them to stand as if they are in a still photograph. Make sure each is facing the same way and has a similar expression as in the book illustration. Then let each person, one at a time, come alive and speak, expressing thoughts and feelings. How do some of the words used in the text help us understand what they are feeling? (“beautiful,” “wonderful,” “charmed,” etc.)
    • If you have a class dress-up box (assorted pieces of cloth, old drapes, etc., rather than actual costumes), help the students dress up a little for the still-frame role play. You might also like to practice this a little, then videotape the sequence. Play it back and talk about the characters and what they are feeling.
  • Reread pages 12–13:
    • Talk about how Cinderella must have been feeling as she danced. Remind the children about Cinderella’s life just a few hours before. Help the children make a list of words to describe how she was feeling.
    • Why do you think Cinderella had forgotten about the clock striking twelve? (A: She was having such a wonderful time.)
    • How do you think she felt when she heard the clock start to strike? Help the children write down the thoughts that were going through her head as she heard this. Use quotation marks to indicate Cinderella’s own words or thoughts. Talk about speech punctuation—the way we show our readers who is talking and what they say.
    • On page 13, what is the clock showing? What do you think the prince felt when Cinderella suddenly ran off? What do you think he thought and felt when he discovered her glass slipper?
  • Reread pages 14–15:
    • Why do you think so many people wanted to try on the glass slipper? (A: Perhaps they all wanted to marry the Prince!)
    • Do you think the prince would have liked to marry one of Cinderella’s sisters? Why not?
    • Look at the illustration closely—what do you think Cinderella is thinking and feeling?
  • Reread age 16:
    • The prince is “so happy” that the slipper fits. What does it feel like to be “so happy”?
    • What do you think Cinderella was feeling when the prince asked her to marry him?
    • Look at the stepmother’s face in the illustration. What do you think she is thinking and feeling? (A: Maybe she is thinking there is some advantage for her in this too!)
  • Shared writing activity:
    • Get the children to retell the events of the story (CCSS, Grade 1: #2), then help them turn this retelling into captions, e.g., “Cinderella is made to do all the work. Her ugly sisters do nothing.” What happens next? “The king’s invitation to the ball arrives.” What happens next? “Cinderella’s fairy godmother gets Cinderella ready for the ball.” What happens next? “Cinderella dances all night with the Prince.”
    • Write each caption for the children on large cards, then divide the children into groups.
    • Give each group a caption, a sheet of art paper each, and suitable art materials. Help them plan and complete their own illustration for each caption (CCSS, Grade 1: #7).
    • Mount their drawings on the wall with the captions in sequence to make a wall story. Prepare a “title page” too. “Cinderella retold by room 4 at Sunshine School. Illustrated by (the children’s names).” Read the story with the children.
    • You might like to share your Cinderella wall story with another class. Congratulations, you are published authors!

Check back frequently for more news of our upcoming teacher's guides—for this series and others!

For more information on Story World Real World, you can click the image to the left below to download a series information sheet with key features, or you can click here to visit our website. Click the image to the right below to download a brochure.

New Call-to-Action Story World Real World Brochure

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Topics: Story World, Real World, Lesson Plan, Alan Trussell-Cullen, Teacher's Guides

Muhammad Ali: Celebrate His Life and Greatness

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jun 7, 2016 3:13:30 PM



In honor of Muhammad Ali, we're offering his biography on sale for $5. It's a great summer read, and learning more about his life is a wonderful way to celebrate the accomplishments of this sports legend. The book has a free downloadable teacher's guide, in case you need some inspiration for your summer school lessons. You can download that at the bottom of the page. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE BOOK ON OUR WEBSITE.

Heavyweight Champion of the World

A three-time World Heavyweight Champion, Muhammad Ali's popularity transcended the sport of boxing and made him an international icon. He made headlines for his refusal to enter the Vietnam draft, his conversion to Islam, and for being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Follow along, from his early years as Cassius Clay, to his emergence as Muhammad Ali - The Greatest of All Time. 

Written by Alan Trussell-Cullen
40 pages
Guided Reading Level: P


For more information on the other books in the Biography series, you can click the image to the left below to download a series information sheet with key features, or you can click here to visit our website. Click the image to the right below to download the Muhammad Ali Teacher's Guide.

Biography Series Highlights Bio TG Ali

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Topics: Biography Series, Special Offers, Sports

Wordless Books As Story Prompts to Build Oral Language & Writing Skills

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on May 31, 2016 4:53:15 PM

PDFHR_Tiger-Brothers_cvr-1.jpgWhile reading is indeed the foundation of literacy education, writing skills and oral language skills are also very important to bolster the depth of students' understanding. One crucial tool for improving both of these types of skills is the story prompt. As visually engaged as young students tend to be—as much as they love pictures—the wordless picture book is a great alternative to spoken or written story prompts to get kids' imaginations firing.

For younger students or those who may be learning a second language, wordless books are invaluable for their oral language development. First, they are a great assessment tool to use when you need to see where a student stands in oral language accomplishment. By having the student look at a series of related pictures and and asking them to tell you what they see, you'll quickly be able to assess their fluency, vocabulary, and ease of calling up language structures.

Secondly, after the assessment stage, using these books is great practice for honing skills up to a higher level. They'll get up to speed on Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards faster when they are comfortable speaking extemporaneously in response to an assigned prompt.

For students who are a bit further along and are working on meeting Writing Standards relating to sequenced events, using wordless books with a storyline as a reference are a perfect step in the process of being able to recount and sequence:

Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.1.3)

Example Student Work: Brothers from Zoozoo Into the Wild

One Reading Recovery teacher shared the written story produced by one of her students in response to the Zoozoo Into the Wild book Brothers, and I've recreated it here with pages from the book to show examples of what the student was responding to.


Page 2 (student text): Here are two brothers and they are tigers.


Page 3 (student text): Brothers care for each other. It doesn’t matter what happens to each other. They always care about each other.


Page 4 (student text): The brothers play in the water together.


Page 5 (student text): But then a Zookeeper comes and said, “Hey, you need to be more quiet! “ said the Zookeeper.


Page 6 (student text): Then the Zookeeper fell in the water. “Please don’t eat me!” said the Zookeeper. “I will let you be as loud as you want if you don’t eat me!” But the tigers don’t understand English. So, the two brothers ate the Zookeeper.


Page 7 (student text): “Mmm that was some tasty humans.” the brothers said to each other.

In the back of each of the Zoozoo Into the Wild wordless books, there is a suggested synopsis and also a list of other activities the books are good for in addition to retelling. We also have other wordless books, though less story-driven, in our My World series (which can be viewed here). They are especially good as vocabulary tools and for introducing readers to the concept of an informational text.

For more information on the wordless books used as an example in this post, you can click the image below to download a series information sheet with key features, or you can click here to visit our website.

New Call-to-Action

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Topics: Common Core, Zoozoo Into the Wild, Oral Language Development, Speaking and Listening, Wordless Books, Writing Standards

Fun with Mrs. Wishy-Washy in Kindergarten!

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on May 10, 2016 3:16:17 PM

We were so delighted and surprised when we got an email out of the blue from kindergarten teacher Amy Blessing showing us the creative ways that she and her students used Mrs. Wishy-Washy and the Big Wash and our Mrs. Wishy-Washy and Friends finger puppets in her classroom.

We always love when teachers write in and tell us how their students are enjoying our books and accessories! We asked Amy's permission to share this teaching strategy with our blog followers so that the literacy community at large could be inspired by her methods of making reading fun—and by her students' creativity! Check out the images that Amy created and sent to us to see what they did!




We love hearing from you! Want to share your own creative and fun classroom ideas on this blog? Email tara (at) hameraypublishing.com to become a guest blogger, or to submit a photo set like Amy did!


To learn more about the books and other prizes that this classroom received, you can download the series highlights for the Joy Cowley Collection and Joy Cowley Early Birds by clicking below, or you can read about the audiobooks and finger puppets by clicking here

 New Call-to-Action New Call-to-Action

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Topics: Mrs. Wishy-Washy, Joy Cowley

Common Core Corner: Talking About Informational Text Features

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on May 5, 2016 4:47:31 PM




We all know by now that informational texts are a huge focus of the Common Core State Standards, with special emphasis placed on how to recognize informational text features and knowing how to use them. Just teaching students the names of these different parts of a book is not enough—though even that can be tricky for beginning readers. They also need to know why they are important.

One way you can help students to understand the purpose of informational text features is to divide the features into categories. You can show them how each category of text feature is there to help them in a particular way. You can teach them to think of these features not as a challenge to understand, but as a set of helpful friends that are there to make understanding the text easier. Here is one way to divide the features:

Features for Finding

These features tell you where things are. If an assignment asks the student a question about something in the text, these features are helpful for the student to locate the information and answer the question.

  • Table of Contents
  • Index
  • Headings

Screen_Shot_2016-05-05_at_4.45.20_PM.pngFeatures for Flagging

These features tell you what is important. If a student is reading a book, these features are a sign, like waving a little flag, that tell them that it's time to pay close attention.

  • Bold print
  • Italics
  • Bullet points ;)

Features for Explaining

These features take something on the page and tell you more about it. They are there to give you more information and show you how something works or what something means.

  • Glossary
  • Captions
  • Diagrams
  • Charts
  • Sidebars

Once students understand how informational texts are there to help them—each helping in its own way—it will make it a little easier for them to meet the standards of knowing how to use them even at early grade levels. For low-level informational texts that contain these features and make a good introduction to how they work, check out our paired text series: Fables and the Real World (at a first-grade reading level) and Story World Real World (at a second-grade reading level).

For more information on our informational texts and to see inside pages of books from these series and more, you can click the image below to download an informational text brochure.

K-3 Informational Text Brochure

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Topics: Common Core, Informational Text, Reading Standards

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