Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Asking Questions with Informational Texts—with FREE Download

Posted by Lyssa Sahadevan on Sep 20, 2017 5:01:35 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.

Readers ask themselves questions as they read to make sense of the text. When readers ask their own questions, the reader learns to search for answers and find deeper understanding. Asking questions while reading informational texts is just as important as when reading fiction. Here are three engaging ways to encourage asking questions with our earliest readers.  

  1. Model, model, model! Use the projector or a big book to model asking questions before, during, and after you read a nonfiction book. Choose your book wisely as this lesson will anchor the others. One of my favorites is Lions by Alan Trussell-Cullen. It has beautiful pictures and the chapter headings happen to be questions.
  2. Keep it interactive! Make a large chart divided into three sections — before, during, and after. Place three sticky notes on each student’s desk. Explain that they will need them later. This will build excitement! During morning meeting or a transition time, show the cover of your next informational read aloud. Read the title and share the table of contents if applicable. Invite your students to write a question they have about the text. They may not have a question, and that’s OK. Repeat the process during your read aloud and after you read. You can spread it out over an entire day… if the sticky notes last.
  3. Bring it to their level! Use question cards to guide students during guided reading or small group time. I have included a freebie set I use in my classroom. I laminate and cut these so I can use them again and again with many levels. I have students who love animals (Amazing Otters) and some who want to know more about weather (Wind.) These cards will work for many topics. I also print them 12 to a page so I can create bookmarks for my students to take with them as they read independently.


Asking questions supports retelling, monitoring for meaning, and making connections. Scaffolding our readers by modeling and keeping it engaging makes the journey a little more fun.


Lyssa Sahadevan is a first-grade teacher in Marietta, GA. She loves reader's and writer's workshop, is a former Teacher of the Year, and shares ideas at www.mymommyreads.com.


For more information on the books mentioned in this blog post, click the series highlights images on the left below or click these links to visit our webpages for the Kaleidoscope Collection or Fables and The Real World series. To download the questioning cards, click the image to the right.

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Topics: Lyssa Sahadevan, Kaleidoscope Collection, Reading Comprehension, Scaffolding, Fables and the Real World

Reading About Weather

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Apr 18, 2017 3:14:00 PM

Spring has sprung! Because spring is a transitional season, the weather outside often changes drastically from day-to-day—even if it’s sunny and pleasant today, it could be windy and raining tomorrow. Unpredictable weather fluctuations might be frustrating for your students, who are ready to play outside on the playground. On the other hand, though, since it’s possible to experience a vast range of weather during a short amount of time, the spring is the best time of the year to teach lessons about the weather.

Hameray offers a multitude of books, both narrative and informational, that discuss the weather and the changing seasons. On a rainy spring day, keep students engaged by reading narratives about puddles and umbrellas from the Kaleidoscope Collection:

  • In Puddles, a young boy frolics outside in the rain by jumping into puddles—he even sees a rainbow!
  • Whose Umbrella? traces a rabbit’s quest to find the owner of a lost umbrella.



On a sunny day, teach your students about the importance of sunlight with these titles from Fables Real World:

  • The Sun describes how the sun is so hot that “nothing can even get close to it without melting”!
  • Sun and Wind Energy discusses how the weather can be used for sustainable energy and for generating electricity.



On windy days, mix up the genres with one informational and one narrative book:

  • Wind, from Fables Real World, discusses the different words that we use to describe wind (breezes, gusts, gales, hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards). Students will be enthralled by the power of wind!
  • Hurricane Dog, from Kaleidoscope Collection, follows a dog that looks for a new home after a disastrous hurricane hits his town.


Selecting reading materials based on that day’s weather keeps your lessons relevant and engaging. Happy spring!


For more information about the Kaleidoscope Collection and Fables and the Real World, click the images below.

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Topics: Leveled Readers, Kaleidoscope Collection, Science, Fables and the Real World, Weather

The Importance of Pictures for Reluctant Readers

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Apr 6, 2017 3:42:00 PM

Why do children’s books include pictures? Of course, colorful illustrations are eye-catching and pique any reader’s interest. Pictures in books don’t just exist for visual pleasure, though—they provide important visualization that deepen textual meaning.

The Common Core State Standards focuses on a reader's ability to gain meaning from pictures in both narrative and informational texts:

  • "Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, settings, or events" (RL.1.7)
  • "Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the wrods in a text" (RI.1.6)

Research shows that many students who struggle with reading comprehension also have trouble creating a mental image of what is happening in the text. With pictures to accompany the words, students receive a visual scaffolding that helps them understand the content of the story.

HRay_DoveKing_PAGES (dragged).jpgFor example, students might have never encountered "a flock of doves" (2) in their lifetime. This unfamiliarity would seriously hinder a student's comprehension of The Dove King from Fables and the Real World.

However, the illustrations on page 2 allow students to infer that a dove is a white bird. Furthermore, because many birds are pictured, a "flock of doves" must refer to a group of birds. In this way, the book's illustrations promotes understanding and allows the students to access a book through multiple avenues. 



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Pictures aren't just for "little kids"! Hameray's Extraordinary Files series allows students at higher reading levels to benefit from visual representation in their books. Leveled from Guided Reading Level T to Y, this series features graphic novel-style art, like the one shown in the opening page of Sleepwalker (3). Even older readers will find this series sophisticated and age-appropriate.

Every spread of these 48-page books contain illustrations that give clues about the setting, plot, and characters' emotions. Better yet, the pictures don't sacrifice the complexity and richness of the actual text. Students must pay attention to the words and the pictures on the page to gain full understanding of the story. Older students who don't gravitate towards reading will love reading this series like a graphic novel!

As described above, pictures are helpful reading tools for readers of all age, especially for reluctant readers that would benefit from comprehension aids. What student doesn't love looking at pictures?


The foundational concept for this blog's ideas are supported by Gomes and Carter's "Navigating through Social Norms, Negotiating Place: How American Born Chinese Motivates Struggling Learners" (2010). 


Click the left image below to download information about Fables and the Real World. Click the right image below to download information about The Extraordinary Files.

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Topics: Narrative Text, Extraordinary Files, Reluctant Readers, Fables and the Real World, Hi-Lo, Pictures

New Spanish Fables & Paired Texts!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Mar 21, 2017 3:31:00 PM

Do you know about Hameray Publishing's newest series?

We're excited to announce Fábulas y el mundo real, the Spanish equivalent of the popular Fables & The Real World series. ELL and dual language classrooms will benefit from this 40-book paired-text series. The fables, such as La tortuga y el conejo [The Tortoise and the Rabbit] and El zorro y el chivito [The Fox and the Goat], impart universal lessons that are relevant in any culture.


The nonfiction titles are designed to support the Common Core State Standards in Informational Texts. Titles such as ¿Es un lobo o un coyote? and La energia del sol y del viento teaches comparing and contrasting skills (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.9). Each book also includes captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, and other informational text features (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.5).


With a variety of topics such as weather, community markets, and showing gratitude, Fábulas mundo real allows ELL teachers to include content area subjects into their literacy lessons, too.

Visit the Fábulas y el mundo real website to browse all the titles and view sample books.¡Vamos a leer!



Click this link to view sample books from Fábulas y el mundo real. Click the image below to download an English series highlights about Fables and the Real World. 

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Topics: Spanish, ELL, Fables and the Real World, Paired Texts, Fabulas y el mundo real

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.

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

Identifying Character Traits through Paired Texts—with FREE Download!

Posted by Laureen on Nov 1, 2016 3:51:00 PM

This is a guest blog post by Laureen, a Canadian first grade teacher of 25 years who writes at the blog Teach with Laughter. This post includes a free download!

The Fables and the Real World series is a set of 40 books that pairs fables with informational text. I had the wonderful opportunity to use The Ant and the Grasshopper along with Grasshoppers in my classroom.fables-ant-and-grasshopper-book.jpg


Fables often have animals as main characters. In the classic fable The Ant and the Grasshopper, the grasshopper enjoys relaxing while the ant works tirelessly to prepare for winter. It won’t take long for your students to identify the moral of the story: there is a time for work and a time for play. Ask your students: Have you ever wanted to play when it was time to do a chore or your homework?  

After reading the information text Grasshoppers, have students discuss the differences between the grasshoppers in the two books. The nonfiction book Incredible Ants is a perfect pairing text for comparing the ants. As with most fables, the animals are given human characteristics. These characteristics differ from real grasshoppers and ants.

Have a discussion about the traits of both the ant and the grasshopper in the fable. Character traits are the part of their personality that is consistent over time. Have students reflect on character traits of the ant and the grasshopper on the following page.

ant and grasshopper traits.jpg

I am anxious to get my hands on more sets from the Fables and Real World Series!


To learn more about Fables and the Real World, click the series highlights image below to download an information sheet with key features. To get today's free activity download, click the second image below!

Fables and the Real World More Information

 Ant and the Grasshopper

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Topics: Fables and the Real World, Paired Texts, Laureen, Character Traits

Establishing Buddy Reading Expectations

Posted by Marcy Godesa on Oct 4, 2016 3:10:00 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, check her blog out, and be sure to check back here for more of her guest blog posts!

Setting clear expectations beginning on the first day of school is vital. The amount of time we practice routines in my classroom may seem crazy to some people, but it is the only way to ensure a successful school year. One area that I spend a lot of time practicing with my students around is buddy reading. I have learned never to expect that my students know how to do something—they need to be taught. This doesn't just apply to primary age students, but all students. As teachers, we sometimes expect kids to just know or remember from the pervious year and that does not always work on our favor. Therefore, day by day, we practice one expectation and add another as mastery of the previous is shown.

Here are the buddy expectations that we have been working on. We practiced one a day, adding to our expectations over the first few weeks of school.


                        Marcy2.jpg        Marcy3.jpg

I have learned over the last 12 years that it is important for buddy readers to not only be able to meet the expectations set, but to be able to communicate on the same level. I have searched high and low for great books that buddies can build their background knowledge with, and then discuss further through a buddy read. My search for great books is finally over! The Fables and Real Word Series from Hameray Publishing fits all of my buddy reading needs.


This series allows my kiddos to read and build their background knowledge with the nonfiction books. They can read them independently during Read-to-Self or with their buddy.


Students then have common vocabulary and topic background knowledge to make connections, retell, find their favorite parts, and just book talk. The nonfiction books are just the beginning. Each nonfiction set has a fable that relates to the topic. Buddies are able to read the fables together, building off their nonfiction reading.


I love sitting and listening in on buddy reads. It is such a wonderful opportunity to hear students talking about books. I have noticed that by reading books sets and series together they are able to make connections through the conversations they have. Buddies are also so excited to share interesting excerpts with each other. 
Buddy Reading has become a successful time in my classroom. I firmly believe that setting and reviewing exceptions is key, but having meaningful text is the icing on the cake.

What is a Buddy Reading MUST in your classroom?


Want to learn more about nonfiction books shown in this post? Click the image below to read about the Fables and the Real World series.

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Topics: Leveled Readers, Group Work, Fables and the Real World, Marcy Godesa

Book Introductions With Guided Reading Groups, Part 3

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on Sep 27, 2016 3:45:00 PM


This is a guest blog post by Dr. Geraldine Haggard, who is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. It is the third and last post in a series about utilizing book introductions to help guided reading groups develop their reading strategies. To read the first post (introduction), click here. To read the second post, click here.

This blog series focuses on the importance of book introductions in guided reading groups. Today, I will conclude this series by examining a Level I book, The Ungrateful Tiger, and provide an opportunity for teacher reflection after giving a book introduction to guided reading groups.


Series: Fables and the Real World. Guided Reading Level: I (i). Genre: Fable.


  • You might want to remind the children of the definition of a fable.
  • The word "ungrateful" has both a prefix and a suffix. The multi-meaning word 'fair' is also a key word throughout the story and the group needs to understand what it means in the story.



  • Distribute the books. Ask the children to notice the word in green at the top of the front cover. Remind them of a fable that you know they are familiar with and how it teaches a lesson. Explain that this book does the same thing.
  • Read the title to the children. Ask them to frame the first and last syllables and find that 'un' means 'not' and 'ful' means 'full.’ They can predict that 'ungrateful' means 'not being full of thanks.’
  • Ask the children to study the pictures and meet the main characters in the story (the boy, the tiger, and the owl).
  • Ask the children to turn to page 8 and study the picture and frame the word 'pounced.’ How does the picture help them determine the meaning of 'pounced’? Remind them that the pictures can provide clues for meaning as they read the story.
  • Remind the students that they should think about this fable’s lesson while they read. Who learned the lesson? Remember to discuss this question after the first reading.


  • After the first reading, a second reading could be done as a reader's theater. The teacher can be the narrator and students read the conversations of the men, the tiger, and the owl. This reading can demonstrate knowledge of traits and emotions of the characters.
  • The book also is a good tool for discussing cause and effect. Why did the men dig the pit? Why did the tiger cry for help? Why did the boy help the tiger out of the pit? What happened because the boy got the tiger out of the pit? Why did the owl know what was happening between the boy and the tiger?
  • You can read another fable to the children or provide fables that they can read with 95 percent accuracy or better. Children can also share a fable they read in the past and why it was a fable.



  • Do you think your introduction helped the children more fluently use a strategy they are developing or use a new strategy for the first time?
  • Was the reading rate appropriate?
  • Did the children exhibit some feelings or facial and vocal emotions that demonstrated their understanding of character emotions? Did they use the punctuation marks as clues to understanding the character traits and feelings?
  • Did the students demonstrate a need for a reading strategy that you didn’t introduce? Think about that strategy as you plan the introduction of the next book.
  • Remember that multiple readings of a book are important. The students can reread the book at home. The book can be placed in the class library for even more readings. Help your parents understand the importance of the re-readings.

As you use carefully planned book introductions, you will find your readers improving their use of strategies and becoming more independent readers. Selecting just the right book and identifying what support the group needs to read a new book will help students improve their reading strategies, fluency, and reading rate.


Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from our 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 left image below to download an information sheet with key features about Fables and the Real World, which contains the book featured in this article.

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Topics: Leveled Readers, Geraldine Haggard, Guided Reading, Fables and the Real World, Book Introductions

A Digraph Scavenger Hunt with Fables and the Real World

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

The Fables and the Real World series pairs narrative and informational texts together to help students make connections between fiction and reality. This series isn’t just created for teaching valuable life lessons, however. It also serves as a valuable resource for developing foundational literacy skills.

By Grade 1, the Common Core State Standards require that students “know the spelling-sound correspondences for common consonant digraphs” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.3.A) Digraphs, where a combination of two letters represents one sound, occur frequently throughout the English language. However, early readers can easily mix up the sounds of similar digraphs. The downloadable Fables and the Real World Teacher’s Guide lists different digraphs to focus on in each book, perfect to use for a digraph scavenger hunt with your students! The Teacher’s Guide also offers various exercises to teach digraphs:



 Nets for Work and Play (from the Dove King set)

  1. Have children identify words in this book with consonant digraphs: there, catch(ing), things, sh, ships, trucks, with, something, they, beaches, sharks, other, throw, through, stick, kick.
  2. Write the words on the board and ask children to take turns circling the letters that make the consonant digraphs.


Marvelous Milk (from the Milkmaid and her Pail set)

  1. Have children identify words in the book with consonant digraphs: where, what, there, things, with, cheese, pudding, milkshakes, whipped, chocolate, chip, healthy.
  2. Together, brainstorm words with consonant digraphs. Then have children use the words to make up rhymes.

Sun and Wind Energy (from the North Wind and the Sun set)

  1. Have children identify words with consonant digraphs wh, th, sh, ph, tch, ck, ng. Ask them to write the words and circle the digraphs.
  2. Create a chart with digraphs (including ch) as heads. Have children brainstorm words they know with these digraphs.

Turtle or Tortoise? (from the Tortoise and the Rabbit set)

  1. Have children find words in the book that use consonant digraphs wh, ch, th, sh. Ask where they can be found in words.

Animals are Clever (from The Fox and the Goat set)

  1. Help children identify words in this book with consonant digraphs th, sh, wh, ch, ck, tch, ng, ph.



seeds-cover.jpgSeeds (from the Dove King set)

  1. Have children find words in the book with final silent e as well as long vowel digraphs: seed(s), inside, waiting, three, goes, rain, sunshine, tree, eat.
  2. Have children sort the words by their vowel sounds, and then sort them by their vowel combinations.

The Tortoise and the Rabbit

  1. Have children find words in the book with final silent e as well as long vowel digraphs: time, race, see, each, ate, tie, shoes, came, eat(ing), take, woke, line.
  2. As children read other books today, have them look for words with final silent e and words with long vowel sounds made by using common vowel combinations.

The Donkey and His Driver

  1. Help children identify words in this book with vowel digraphs: donkey, mountain, road, looked, below, see, straight, slow, stay, head, tail, hay, instead.
  1. Help children identify words in other books that use the vowel digraphs contained in this book.


Going on a scavenger hunt through the Fables and the Real World series is a great way to learn how to distinguish both vowel and consonant digraphs. You can download the complete Teacher’s Guide for free at the bottom of this post.

What are other clever ways that you use the Fables and the Real World series to teach literacy skills to your students? Let us know in the comments below!


Click here to download a Fables and the Real World Teacher's Guide for FREE! Click the image below to download an information sheet about the Fables and the Real World series. 

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Topics: Leveled Readers, Digraphs, Grade One, Fables and the Real World

Reader's Theater with Fables and Fairy Tales—with FREE download!

Posted by Kathy Crane on Aug 2, 2016 3:30:00 PM

This is a guest post by Kathy Crane, a kindergarten teacher, author, and curriculum developer. If you like what you see here, read her previous guest blog posts and click here to read her education blog

Fables are a great way to engage young readers along their learning-to-read journey. This year, after teaching some of my favorites tales like The Little Red Hen, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and The Three Pigs, I decided to try a new story, The Fox and the Goat. This fun tale offers great teaching opportunities, and was a favorite among my students.  I added to the fable by using The Fox and the Goat Theme Set available at one of my favorite go-to publishers, Hameray Publishing.

In addition to the fable, the set also includes three informational books: Animals Are Clever, Goats on the Goand The Life of a FoxI really enjoyed having the supporting texts to expand the animals and situations in the fable. These supporting nonfiction readings added to my student’s understanding and enjoyment of The Fox and the Goat story. 


To add to the fun of our fabled learning, my students love performing the fables through partner plays. You can download my "Three Pigs: Reader’s Theater or Partner Play," which complements Three Little Pigs from the Story World Real World series, for free at the bottom of this blog post! Please also be sure to check out my store for other reader's theater plays based on classic tales: CLICK HERE!


Kathy Crane holds a M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Reading. A published freelance author of thirteen books, Kathy also develops teaching curriculum and has been a teacher of kindergarten for over two decades. She publishes the blog Kindergarten Kiosk


For more information about the Fables and the Real World series, click on the image below.

Fables and the Real World More Information

To learn more about the Story World Real World Series, which contains the storybook complement to Kathy Crane's Reader's Theater, click on the image to the left below. To download Kathy Crane's FREE "The Three Pigs: A Young Reader's Reader's Theater" guide, click on the image to the right below.  
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Topics: Kindergarten, Download, Fables and the Real World, Reader's Theater

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