Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Compound Word Activities

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on May 25, 2017 2:12:00 PM

A helpful decoding skill for new vocabulary is to determine whether or not the word is a compound word. If students recognize that some words are made up of two words strung together, it can help them easily pronounce and understand these (often long) and unfamiliar words!

The Common Core State Standards for Grade 2 requires students to “use knowledge of the meaning of individual words to predict the meaning of compound words (e.g. birdhouse, lighthouse, housefly; bookshelf, notebook, bookmark)” (L.2.4d). Although this standard is for 2nd Grade, recognizing compound words can be very useful for younger grade levels as well.


A compound word is made up of two or more words that, combined, create a new word. For example, the word “baseball” is made up of two discrete words, “base” and “ball.” There are technically three types of compounds: a closed compound, like “baseball,” has no spaces or hyphens between the words. A hyphenated compound, like “merry-go-round,” contains hyphens to create one word. Open compound words, like “ice cream,” contain a space between two words but are considered as one word with one meaning. For the purposes of teaching compounds words at the lower-elementary school and for decoding skills, it’s best to focus on teaching closed compound words.


The best way for students to understand the concept of a compound word is to expose them to many examples. Write individual words, such as “book” and “day,” on different index cards. Place them in two columns on the white board and ask students to make compound words out of the individual words. For example:

  • Can you add note and book together to make “notebook”?
  • Can you add note and day together to make “noteday”? (no)
  • What about “eye” and “glass”? What about “eye” and “day”?

After this activity, read Miniboy’s Travels from the Joy Cowley Collection. Have students identify all the compound words in the book:

  • Is Miniboy’s name a compound word? Which two words make up his name?
  • Why do you think “Miniboy” is named the way he is?
  • Is “strawberry” a compound word? Why do you think “berry” is combined with “straw”? [The Oxford Dictionary speculates that "straw" either refers to the stalk of the strawberry or the yellow straw-like spots on the berry.]
  • Is "bushes" a compound word? Although "bushes" can be divided into "bush" and "es," which makes the word plural, emphasize that it is not a compound word because "es" is not an individual word on its own. 



Knowledge of compound words wil help students decode new words, leading to improved pronunciation and reading comprehension!


Click the left image below to download information about Joy Cowley Collection, which features various titles about Miniboy

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Topics: Joy Cowley Collection, Common Core, Compound Words, Reading

Maps and the Common Core

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Feb 23, 2017 3:19:00 PM

 One of the ten Common Core Anchor Standards for Reading is to “integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.R.7). In addition to illustrations and diagrams, looking at maps can fulfill this Common Core State Standard. Not only does map-reading further a students’ comprehension of nonfiction informational texts, this skill is also helpful for social studies and history lessons.

All maps provide information, but their specific function within a book depends on the textual context. Understanding these different functions will allow you, as an educator, to effectively discuss why an author decided to include a map and how a map brings important information to the text.  

Maps support an argument.

Wolves in the Wild, a nonfiction book from the Story World Real World series, argues that hunters threaten the future of wolves (7). This textual claim is supported by a map showing where “wolves used to live” (red) and where “wolves live” today (green). This visual evidence allows students to immediately understand that the wolf habitat is shrinking. Thus, the map strengthens an argument that is made through the text. 5337 Wolves in the Wild_Inside_FINAL (dragged).jpgMaps express diversity.

Breakfast Around the World opens with a two-page world map. The map is labeled with different breakfasts explained in the book. By pinpointing each breakfast on the same map, students can understand that these dishes really come from different corners of the world. A world map also encourage students to locate themselves and understand their geographic position relative to the children features in this book.

Maps explain history.

Anne Frank from the Hameray Biography series features a map of Germany and its surrounding countries (12). The map provides a visual aid for understanding that the Nazis crossed a border to invade the Netherlands, where Anne Frank lived with her family.

Maps provide information on different scales.

Nelson Mandela’s biography contains multiple maps. First, a map of Africa explains South Africa’s location within the continent (4). Then, a second map zooms in to focus on the country of South Africa and its major cities (13). Although both maps include South Africa, the first map provides a global context while the second focuses on the cities within the nation. Emphasize to your students that each map carries a certain perspective and scale.


Exposing your students to different maps is the key to honing their map-reading skills. Maps don’t just serve a purpose for geography and history lessons—they fulfill Common Core Reading Standards, too!


Click the left image below to learn more about Story World Real World, which contains Wolves in the Wild and Breakfast Around the World. Click the middle image to download a Teacher's Guide for Anne Frank. Click the right image to download a Teacher's Guide for Nelson Mandela.

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Topics: Common Core, Real World, Biography Series, Social Studies, Maps

Inauguration Day: Compare and Contrast

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Jan 19, 2017 2:27:00 PM

Tomorrow, January 20th, is America’s 58th Presidential Inauguration. Students are sure to have heard about it from their family or the media; your school district may even encourage watching the event on TV during the school day. Acknowledge your students’ curiosities and provide them with basic inauguration facts by comparing and contrasting the past

First, ask your students for basic information about this year’s inauguration:

  • When will it take place?
  • Where will it take place?
  • Who is the next president?

Students can also visit kids.gov, a federal government website designed specifically for kids, to find information about the inauguration. Visiting this website will fulfill the Common Core State Standard to “integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.9

Next, tell the students that you will be examining American life in 1789, when George Washington became the first President of the United States. George Washington from the Hameray Biography Series describes Washington’s inauguration on p. 30:


george_washington_180.jpgBIO_GEORGE WASHINGTON_INSIDE (dragged)-2.jpg


Ask students to compare and contrast George Washington’s inauguration to tomorrow’s inauguration. You may want to create a Venn diagram to record the similarities and differences.

Use the rest of George Washington’s biography to get a glimpse into American life in the late 1700s. How was the late 1700s different from your life today?

  • p. 6: the calendric system
  • p. 9: American schools
  • p. 17: Fashion
  • p. 19: The political status of colonies
  • p. 30: The U.S. capital

By using the Hameray Biography Series to compare and contrast, your students will learn real-world knowledge while fulfilling Common Core State Standards!


Click the images below to download the Hameray Biography Series Teacher's Guides for George Washington.

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Topics: Common Core, Biography Series, Social Studies, Compare and Contrast, Election

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


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

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, brainstorm 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!



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

Teach Back-to-School Safety with Informational Texts

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Aug 18, 2016 3:30:00 PM

As the end of August approaches, the beginning of school is right around the corner! For students, a new school year ushers in a multitude of new encounters: meeting new people, making new friends, starting new activities and maybe even attending a new school.

Although the novelty of it all can be thrilling, it’s crucial to ensure that students know how to act safely, especially in new situations. Stay Safe, a Real World book from the Story World Real World series, offers concrete ways that students can stay safe both in and out of school. The book includes key nonfiction features such as headings and an index, allowing you to introduce informational texts to the classroom while teaching about back-to-school safety.


After reading the text once through as a class, return back to the table of contents.

  • Discuss how the table of contents tells us about the information in a book. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.I.5)
  • Examine the items listed in the table of contents. Which safety information is helpful for staying safe at school? (A: All of them!) 

pg5.jpgEmphasize sections of Stay Safe that are especially relevant for the beginning of a new school year: 

Stay Safe Going to School (pp. 6–7)

  • Ask students how they get to school.
  • For students who ride the bus, make sure they wait with friends at the bus stop. Stay seated on the bus while it is in motion.
  • For students who walk, help them map out the safest route from their home to school. Why is crossing guard written in bold? Where should we look to find the meaning of crossing guard? (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.I.5)
  • For students who arrive by car, stress the importance of wearing a seat belt. Remember that children must ride in booster seats until they are eight to twelve years old. 

Play Safe (pp. 8–9)

  • It’s important to receive permission from a parent or guardian before arranging a play date with a new friend. Remind students to make sure their parents know where they are going and with whom. 


A few students might feel worried or spooked, but there is no such thing as having too many conversations about safety. Assure the students that not all strangers are bad, but it’s important to be cautious in order to feel happy and free from harm. With Stay Safe, you can ensure a safe and successful school year for everyone!


Click the image below to download an information sheet with key features about Story World Real World, which contains the book featured in this blog post. 

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Topics: Common Core, Real World, Informational Text, Leveled Readers, Safety, Sally Hosokawa

Comparing and Contrasting with Joy Cowley's Mr. Tang—Includes FREE Download!

Posted by Lyssa Sahadevan on Jun 2, 2016 4:00:00 PM


This is a guest post by Lyssa Sahadevan of Marietta, GA. She writes a blog called My Mommy Reads which is about motherhood and teaching-related topics.

As a teacher and a learner, I often wonder about the relevance of what I am teaching or what I am being taught. It is not that I am not judging the content but rather wanting to make it practical and understand its importance.

One of the Common Core Reading standards (RL.1.9) requires students to compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories. This, I can wrap my around! Comparing and contrasting information is part of real life, and we are asked to do it every day! Hmmm…which shoes to wear? Where should I sit on the carpet? Which book to read? Which car to buy?

We know students are capable of comparing and contrasting, but they need support to do it well. By helping students strengthen this skill (the sooner, the better,) we can help them remember key information, improve comprehension, and make the most of their background knowledge. Introducing this strategy during the early years also builds a foundation for higher order thinking.

In my first-grade classroom, I have some students who simply see differences and similarities right away. Whether we are playing a math game or reading a book, they have it. They can identify what is alike and different when they are read to or when they read independently. However, some students struggle with this skill. During our strategy group time, I pull these students aside, and we start small. Here are a few ways to keep it fun for our beginners:

  • Have two students stand up. Orally start sharing what you notice about their clothing. Compare and contrast what they are wearing. Then have the students join in!
  • Show students two different calendar pages, postcards, or book covers. Have them share what they notice is alike or different. Use sentence stems like, “They both have…” or “Only this one…”
  • Write the students’ names on large cards. Have them work together to compare their names. 
  • Sort, sort, sort! Have them sort books, words, pictures, and even themselves into groups and have them explain the sort.

Once they have this basic understanding, it is time to work on the standard! I like using a favorite character from the Joy Cowley Collection—Mr. Tang. I like these stories because the settings are very clear, the stories are similar, and there is more than meets the eye!


We start by reading the title and looking at the pictures in one of the books. Then we add the next Mr. Tang story and do the same. They immediately start sharing what they notice! We then choose one of the first two books to compare to a third Mr. Tang story. This time, we record our thoughts together on a chart. Their next step is to try it independently!

At the bottom of the page, for a free download, I have included a packet of different compare and contrast organizers that I use in my first-grade classroom. I hope you will be able to put them to use as you support your critical thinkers!


For more information on the books used in this blog click the series highlights images on the left below or click this link to visit our webpage for the Joy Cowley Collection series. To download the Comparing and Contrasting Packet, click the image to the right.


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Topics: Joy Cowley Collection, Common Core, Lyssa Sahadevan, Compare and Contrast, Mr. Tang

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.

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

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

Talk about Tubman: Taking Advantage of Current Events

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Apr 21, 2016 6:00:00 AM

Harriet Tubman portraitThe Common Core State Standards require students to "describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text" (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3: Informational Text).

There are many great ways to get students to understand historical events in sequence and to see the connection between history and current events. One is to find relevant examples of historical figures being mentioned in current events and then present students with both a biography on the person and with information on the current event. 

This week's news of Harriet Tubman replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill provides a perfect opportunity for a lesson of this type. You can use her biography to teach exactly why she is important enough in history to deserve a place on our currency.

You can get some ideas for your lesson from the free downloadable teacher's guide for our Harriet Tubman book (CLICK HERE TO SEE THE BIOGRAPHY, GRL M). It gives Common-Core-correlated ideas for learning goals and lesson plans. Here is an excerpt of the guide:

Social Studies Goals

  • Focus on time continuity and change to explore historical issues from Harriet Tubman’s era, for example, slavery, the Underground Railroad, and how Tubman made a difference for many slaves wanting to travel to the North to achieve freedom.
  • Focus on individual development and identity, for example, how Tubman was personally motivated to make a difference in her own life and the lives of many others. 
  • Focus on individuals, groups, and institutions, for example, how slavery was a practice in certain states and how conflicts that slavery produced in the nation led to civil war. (CCSS ELA-Literacy “National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies”: Chapter 2—The Themes of Social Studies; S&L 3.1)

You can download the teacher's guide in its entirety at the bottom of this page. Beside it, there is also a series highlights sheet with key features of the books outlined that you can download if you'd like more information on the entire Hameray Biography Series, or you can click here to see all the titles available


 Biography Series Highlights Bio TG

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Topics: Common Core, Biography Series, Reading Standards

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