Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

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?

 

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Happy reading!

 

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

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Topics: Animals, My World, Becca Ross

Fun at School

Posted by Becca Ross on Oct 20, 2016 3:43:00 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!

Here in the Pacific Northwest, most of us begin school in September. With a good 4 weeks under our belts, things are finally settling in and we’re having some fun at school!

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In my kindergarten classroom, kids spend time playing each day. They draw, write, paint, build, play cars, play house, create with Play-Doh, and much more.

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One of the books published by Hameray Publishing is all about having fun at school.

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Fun at School is a book with repetitive text that shows kids doing fun activities in their classrooms.

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This is a great book for letting kids make connections to their own lives and building their schema! It is also a fabulous opportunity to talk about the important work of PLAY in the classroom. I want my students to know WHY they are doing certain activities each day. I want them to understand that the tools I put out for painting, manipulating Play-Doh, and picking up beans are not only fun, but they are also great at strengthening muscles in their hands... the same muscles we use every day when we are writing! I also want kids to know that I value story telling and that their stories at the dollhouse, cars, and puppets are important aspects of language development. There are so many lessons we teach each day in the classroom, while our kids think they are just going to have fun.

So, yes, we do have fun at school. But, like the book says, we are learning at school too!

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Happy learning!

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To learn more about Fun at School and the My World series, click on the image below and download an information sheet!

 My World Series Info Sheet

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, My World, Becca Ross

Mrs. Wishy-Washy and the Big Farm Fair

Posted by Becca Ross on Sep 6, 2016 3:30:00 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!

It’s the fair season and I can hardly wait to visit our local fair! The Evergreen State Fair is just a few miles from my school and a lot of kids will be going. This is the perfect opportunity to help kids activate their schema about the fair and animals, let them engage in retelling with some fun props, and read a book featuring one of my favorite characters… MRS. WISHY-WASHY!

Sharing Our Schema

Many of my students will have just gone to the local fair by the time we start school, so Mrs. Wishy-Washy and the Big Farm Fair from the Joy Cowley Collection will be the perfect book to introduce the idea of schema.

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When I introduce schema, I start by telling the kids that our brains are like a big filing cabinet. Everything we read, experience, or observe goes into that filing cabinet. I use the example of hot air balloons because we live by a hot air balloon field. I tell the kids that I’ve read books about hot air balloons and I’ve filed that information away. I’ve seen hot air balloons taking off and landing, which I’ve also filed away. One thing I have never done is ride in a hot air balloon. I don’t have schema for that, but someone else may and that is what makes our schema different from one another.

Back to the concept of the fair, I ask the kids to tell me what they know about the fair to activate their schema before reading the text. More specifically, we focus in on the competitions they have at the fair. Some kids in our area participate in 4-H and may be able to share exactly what the animal competitions are all about. After we’ve activated our schema and shared things we know about animal competitions at the fair with our classmates, we’re ready to read the book. I usually stop during reading and ask the kids if they have schema to add.

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Retelling With Props

A few plastic animals, a spray bottle, and a plastic bin (so water doesn’t get everywhere) are all you need to create this retelling station. Some kids will be able to easily pick up the props and start reenacting the story, talking out loud as they go. Other kids will quietly spray an animal but won’t tell the story out loud. This is a great opportunity to jump into playtime and listen, model, and encourage. Adding some of the language in the story and talking with kids about the meaning behind different words is a great idea as well.

Mrs. Wishy-Washy is always a favorite character in my classroom with my kindergarten students. I imagine this year will be no different. I can’t wait to hear about my students’ fair experiences and share Mrs. Wishy-Washy and the Big Farm Fair with them!

Happy reading!

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To learn more about Mrs. Wishy-Washy and see Joy Cowley's books, you can click here to visit our website or click the Joy Cowley Collection series image below to download an information sheet with key features.

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Topics: Mrs. Wishy-Washy, Joy Cowley, The Joy Cowley Collection, Becca Ross, Farm Fair

Guided Reading Tips: Meanies in the House

Posted by Becca Ross on Aug 9, 2016 3:30:00 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 often for more posts from her, or check out her blog!

Have you met the Meanies? My kindergartners absolutely LOVE the Meanies series from the Joy Cowley Collection. I recently found that there are new books featuring these fun characters. It's time to start stocking up on some new Meanies books for my classroom!

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The kids think these books are ridiculously funny. There is usually a rhyming element to the books and this makes it easy for the kids to chime in.

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Meanies in the House is a super-fun book that the kids are going to love!  Teachers will also appreciate that the end of the book has suggestions for how to use the book before, during, and after reading.

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Before Reading

Before the reading, the book suggests asking the children what a "mess" would look like in different rooms in the house. This activates their schema for messy places and helps them relate to the story a little better. I would use this book after a few other Meanies books had been introduced and ask the kids to predict what types of messes they think the different Meanies characters might make in a house. This is also a good time to introduce new vocabulary words in the story such as scattering and tappy.

During Reading

We can use prior knowledge from the reading we have done of other Meanie books. Have kids predict if there is anything they think the Meanies might be scared of.

After Reading

When the reading is complete, kids love to talk about the book. We can ask the kids to talk about the evidence they see in the story that the Meanies were making a mess. We can infer why we think the Meanies are especially scared of Grandma.  We can also dive into the meaning of words in the story. Many young readers might not know what phrases like run for cover might mean.

I can't wait to use my new Meanies books in the classroom. I think these books are great to use as guided reading books in small group instruction, but they are also awesome to use in whole class lessons. I would highly recommend using a document camera and projecting the books onto a large screen or using a big book for whole class instruction.  This book is great and I can't wait to share it with my kiddos when school starts up!

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To learn more about the Meanies and see Joy Cowley's books, you can click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights images below to download an information sheet with key features.

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Topics: Mrs. Wishy-Washy, Joy Cowley, The Joy Cowley Collection, Becca Ross, Meanies

5 Ways to Use Mrs. Wishy-Washy for Guided Reading

Posted by Becca Ross on Jun 23, 2016 4:39:20 PM

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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 often for more posts from her, or check out her blog!

If you teach Pre-K through 2nd grade, I'm sure you're familiar with the beloved Mrs. Wishy-Washy. Twenty years ago, when I first started teaching, I had many of the Mrs. Wishy-Washy books. I had big books for whole class lessons and six-packs for small group instruction. Many of the books were purchased with a grant from the school, so when I moved schools I couldn't take the books with me. My new school didn't have the Mrs. Wishy-Washy books so I started looking for them online. Much to my dismay, the company that I had purchased them from previously had been bought by another company and I couldn't find the books!

For the past several years, I've been teaching with the few Mrs. Wishy-Washy and Meanies books that I own. (If you aren't familiar with the Meanies books, Mrs. Wishy-Washy makes a cameo appearance.) One day, I was browsing through some of my favorite literacy blogs and spotted a post about Mrs. Wishy-Washy! The books looked slightly different than my 20-year-old copies, and appeared to have a new publisher, but I was THRILLED to have found my favorite character again! Now I get to tell you all about why I love Mrs. Wishy-Washy!

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The book that I would like to share with you today is called Mrs. Wishy-Washy and the Big Wash, written by Joy Cowley and illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller-Fulton. I'll start by telling you about the story: Mrs. Wishy-Washy is a bit obsessed with cleanliness. She likes things just-so. When it was time for the farm animals' “wash day,” she was out of water and they had to search the town to find some. Now that you have an idea of what the book is about, here are my favorite five ways to use these books for guided reading:


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  1. Onomatopeia

     I chose this book as my first to share with you because my kindergarten students absolutely LOVE onomatopoeia and I knew this would be a favorite. If you aren't familiar with onomatopoeia, it refers to “the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of a sound associated with it” (Merriam-Webster). It's a game-changer when introduced during kindergarten Writer's Workshop. The kids love adding "sound words" to their writing, and I suspect that they just love saying the word “onomatopoeia” every time they notice it being used in a story.

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  2. Teacher’s Notes

    Another great thing about this book is that it has “Teacher Notes” at the back... hello, Guided Reading groups! The back page of the book gives the teacher suggestions for before, during, and after reading, and also has suggestions for making meaning, analyzing the text, and taking things to the next level. They call this Cracking the Code, and point out rhyming and compound words. 

    In my previous school district, we had an entire room dedicated to storing our Guided Reading books. Unfortunately, my new district does not have the same resources. Last spring, I described the steps of a Guided Reading lesson to a teaching partner, and we wished our books had a tool like this embedded into them.

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  3. Group Lessons

    I'll tell you a couple of different ways I would use this book in my ideal world. I love using big books in my classroom because kids can actually see the text and the illustrations, even if they are sitting at the back of the rug. One way to use this would be to do a whole group lesson with the big book version of the story. I would still use some of the before, during, and after reading ideas, but I would spread it out over 3-5 days of instruction. I love reading half of the book on the first day and saving the other half for the second day. Kids absolutely beg for the second half of the story! By day 5, most of the kids are reading along with the big book and they are also able to read it on their own during our literacy stations.

  4. Guided Reading Groups

    Another option for using this book, in my ideal world, would be to purchase six-packs of the small versions of the books to have on hand for Guided Reading groups. The before, during, and after reading Teacher Notes at the back are set up perfectly for small group instruction.

  5. Other Text Features

    Any way you read this book, I love the text features you can point out. Punctuation, rhyming words, onomatopoeia, and compound words are part of our everyday instruction in kindergarten.

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    I'm so happy that I've found Mrs. Wishy-Washy again and I can't wait to share some really fun ways to use these books in the classroom or at home with your little literacy lovers!

    Happy reading!

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    To learn more about Mrs. Wishy-Washy and see Joy Cowley's books, you can click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights images below to download an information sheet with key features.

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Topics: Mrs. Wishy-Washy, Joy Cowley, The Joy Cowley Collection, Becca Ross

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