Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Dr. Richard Gentry Explains Why Students Can't Write

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Aug 16, 2017 4:29:43 PM


Dr. Richard Gentry, "America's Spelling Guru" and one of the authors of the new professional book Kid Writing in the 21st Century, shared a blog post on Psychology Today yesterday explaining why students can't write, what to do about it, and how to use this great new tool to accomplish more in the classrom than you may have imagined possible. Here's an excerpt from his post:

Kid_Writing_Book_250.jpgSo what do educators need?

We need to be child-centered in the context of meeting kids where they are functioning—when they enter kindergarten. We need to motivate children as writers. It’s crucial to teach basic skills like spelling and handwriting explicitly. Children need a dictionary of academic words in their brains that they can retrieve for writing. Children have to listen to or read poetry as well as good fiction and nonfiction literature to feed their brains as writers. Writers have to have academic vocabularies and deep knowledge for thinking. And vocabulary and background knowledge have to be taught—especially for children in low-income neighborhoods and for English Language Learners who don’t grow up in an English language-rich environment.

To accomplish these curricular objectives teachers need proven, evidence-based practices that have grown from both progressive education and basic skills movements.

The not-so-new wakeup call exposes an important education policy problem on which all educators see eye to eye: “The root of the problem, educators agree, is that teachers have little training in how to teach writing and are often weak or unconfident writers themselves.” (Goldstein, p. 8) The problem—lack of preparation for teaching writing at their grade levels and lack of “knowing how to get started”—is evidence-based and reported by educators in both approaches' camps, with multiple studies showing that (1) how to teach writing isn’t taught in teacher preparation programs and (2) teachers in both camps report lack of confidence.

The Goldsteinaug article poses the question: “Could there be a better, less soul-crushing way to enforce the basics?” For kindergarten and first grade teachers or anyone working with beginning literacy, the answer is “Yes, there is a way.”

Want to know more? You can read the rest of Dr. Gentry's Psychology Today post by clicking here.




Read More

Topics: Kindergarten, Teaching Writing, First Grade, Kid Writing, J. Richard Gentry

5 Research-Based Practices for Kindergarten and First Grade

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jun 5, 2017 3:35:57 PM

Kid_Writing_Preview Photo.jpg


Kid Writing in the 21st Century authors Richard Gentry, Eileen Feldgus, and Isabell Cardonick have been featured in a guest post over on the Psychology Today blog. The post details some of the research-based, classroom-tested practices and strategies that have been shown to help kids learn to write. Here's an excerpt from the post:

1.  Use invented spelling. We found invented spelling to be joyful, motivational for our students, and wonderful in terms of providing opportunities for scaffolding and systematically teaching almost all important aspects of the kindergarten literacy curriculum including phonics, phonemic awareness, knowledge of the alphabet, writing conventions, and vocabulary development. But perhaps the most amazing discovery throughout our journey was that kids had remarkable capacities to make meaning if we supported them in the process and allowed their creative juices to flow.

2. Abandon teaching letter of the week. Teaching one letter per week was standard practice in kindergarten when we began teaching. We tried our best to jazz up our teaching of the alphabetic principle because we knew it was essential to breaking the code and reading.

3.  Use a developmental writing scale to monitor progress. Even before we published the first book on Kid Writing, we were collaborating with Richard Gentry on how to use a developmental spelling/writing assessment along with a developmental rubric to show how young children’s progression through five phases of developmental spelling revealed—among other things—the individual child’s understanding of phonics and his or her invented spellings as evidence of what the child knew or did not know.

4.  Let go of worksheets! We found that teaching and learning in our classrooms improved when we abandoned worksheets.

5. Teach children to stretch though a word with a moving target. Our stretching through technique helped kids move from l for lady in Phase 2 to lad in Phase 3 to ladee in syllable chunks in Phase 4, on the way to conventional lady. The stretching through technique met kids where they were and supported them in moving to higher levels of spelling sophistication from phase to phase.

(read more)

The book Kid Writing in the 21st Century explains in great detail how to most effectively implement these practices and strategies. It includes reproducibles and a strategy guide to make adopting this process in your classroom quite simple.


For more information on the book, click the image below to view or download a brochure.

Kid Writing in the 21st Century Brochure


Read More

Topics: Kindergarten, First Grade, Kid Writing, J. Richard Gentry, Eileen Feldgus, Isabell Cardonick

A Better Path to Reading Success: Richard Gentry Discusses Kid Writing

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Apr 13, 2017 3:42:00 PM

Author Pages_Richard Getntry-1.jpgJ. Richard Gentry, affectionately known as "America's Spelling Guru," is an internationally acclaimed author, researcher, and educational consultant. He is also a co-author for Hameray's upcoming professional book, Kid Writing in the 21st Century: A Systematic Approach to Phonics, Spelling, and Writing Workshop, which will be released in May 2017.

Last week, Dr. Gentry published an article in Psychology Today, "Landmark Study Finds Better Path to Reading Success." The article proves that a young student's reading and writing skills go hand-in-hand. In other words, writing in the classroom will also boost students' reading scores!

In his article, Dr. Gentry cites a study by Gene Ouellette and Monique Sénéchal that was published earlier this year (2017). This study advocates for "invented spelling"—a young writer's "self-directed and spontaneous attempts to represent words in print" (Gentry). Through invented spelling, a student might incorrectly spell a word, like "KN" for the word "can." However, meaningful learning is still taking place—invented spelling requires the child to draw upon phonics and sound-symbol correspondence, which are two essential reading concepts!

Invented spelling even promotes a student's cognitive devleopment:

The human brain generally gets better at whatever it practices—including invented spelling. Reflection about how to spell a word allows the child to actively practice making decisions, rather than passively memorizing. This active practice likely results in synaptic changes in the child’s brain by strengthening neuronal pathways for long term-retention of spellings to be retrieved for reading and writing.

Dr. Gentry stresses the fact that writing exercises are win-win activities for a teacher—they improve writing AND reading skills!

Ouellette and Sénéchal found a direct line from invented spelling leading to improved reading scores at the end of first grade. In their carefully crafted longitudinal study, they found invented spelling to be “a unique predictor of growth in early reading skills, over and above children’s alphabet knowledge and phonological awareness.” Now that’s a huge finding! 



Kid Writing in the 21st Century further explores the research ideas stated in Dr. Gentry's article. In addition to explaining invented spelling in greater detail, the book also provides example lessons to encourage students to invent spellings. Dr. Gentry, Eileen Feldgus (Ed.D.), and Isabell Cardonick (M. Ed.), share their real teacher experiences and literacy lesson ideas. Incorporating the wisdom of its authors and the newest 21st-century research, Kid Writing is sure to become your go-to professional text!

Kid Writing in the 21st Century will be released in May, but you can reserve your copy today at this product link!







Click the image below to view a brochure about Kid Writing in the 21st Century!


Read More

Topics: Kindergarten, Teaching Writing, First Grade, Kid Writing, J. Richard Gentry

Using Joy Cowley in Science Lessons

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Mar 2, 2017 2:34:00 PM

Joy Cowley’s stories are famous for teaching “literacy through laughter” and are specially written for young students who are developing their reading skills. Did you know that Joy Cowley’s narratives could also be used to teach content subjects? By pairing her books with supplemental informational texts, you can use Joy Cowley in all your lessons, all day long!


In ­Wishy-Washy Mirror, Mrs. Wishy-Washy's animals encounter a mirror for the first time. The cow peers into the mirror and sees a picture of a cow, but the pig sees a picture of the pig (34). Discuss with your students why the animals can’t agree on the mirror’s content. What happens when your students look into a mirror?

The Next Generation Science Standards expect first-grade students to understand that light waves can travel in many ways, including by bouncing off of reflective materials (1-PS4-3). To teach students exactly how mirrors work, introduce Mirror Magic!


Part of the Story World Real World series and leveled at Guided Reading level L, comprehending the entire Mirror Magic book may be challenging for many first-grade students. However, they can focus solely on pages 6–7, which trace the path of a light when it reflects off of a mirror. Of course, you as a teacher can read the rest of the book aloud and try the cool mirror tricks in class!

Although more implicit in content, What Is a Cow? from Joy Cowley Early Birds is also relevant for science lessons. The title of the book poses a research question: “What is a cow?” In the story, Little Rabbit and Chickie set out to answer this question by observing a cow outside. Both characters draw upon their own knowledge to describe different features of the cow, such as “A cow has four posts” (4) for its legs and “a cow has a rope” (5) for its tail. This process of asking questions and observing real-life evidence for answers parallels the Scientific Method introduced by Aristotle. Reading this story will help your students think like scientists!


Joy Cowley doesn’t need to be confined into your literacy lessons. You can incorporate her lovable stories into your science lessons as well!


Click the left image below to learn more about Joy Cowley Early Birds, which includes Wishy-Washy Mirror and What Is a Cow? Click the right image below to learn more about Story World Real World, which contains Mirror Magic.

Joy Cowley Brochure           New Call-to-Action


Read More

Topics: Joy Cowley Early Birds, Real World, Science, First Grade

Teaching Verb Tenses with Narratives

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

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

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

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

Before reading:

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

During reading:

Page 2:

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

Page 5, 7, and 9:

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

Page 6 and 8:

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

Page 10:

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


After reading:

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


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


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

Fables and the Real World More Information


Read More

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

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!



Read More

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

Zoozoo Storytellers Activities!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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



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

Then we did this fill-in activity.


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


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

Read More

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

Ocean Life Study in First Grade—With FREE Activity Sheet!

Posted by Cindy Price on Aug 16, 2016 3:00:00 PM

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

What do all kids love? Animals, especially ocean animals!

In first grade, we are focusing a lot on nonfiction readers. Sometimes, it is hard to find a nonfiction reader that is right for all of your students. The nonfiction readers in ZooZoo Animal World's Ocean Animals Set, however, are great for all of your learners. Below, I’ll walk you through the lesson that I teach to my class using the Sea Turtle book.


To begin the lesson, we always start with our Wonder Wall. For those of you who have never heard of a Wonder Wall, it is a place in the classroom where the kids can post their wonders and refer to them throughout the lesson. On a sticky note, students write one thing they wonder about or want to know about sea turtles.

After the Wonder Wall, I show them the cover of the book. The kids look at the cover and then turn and talk with a partner to see what they know or think they know about sea turtles.

After discussing the cover, we begin to read the book. I love the pages of this book because the pictures are bright and colorful, and the text is easy enough for all learners to be successful. With a clean page layout, the reader can focus on what the text is saying. 


As I read the text to them, I stop and ask them questions. I also allow them to ask questions and to talk with a partner throughout the book.

After we discussed the books, we completed some activity sheets. You can download my activity sheets for FREE at the bottom of this blog post! I created an activity sheet for each book: Sea Turtle, Octopus, Dolphin, Shark, Seahorse, and Killer Whale.


I love these books! I used Sea Turtle as an example in my post, but the Ocean Animals Set also includes Octopus, Dolphin, Shark, and Seahorse. We also read Killer Whale from the Arctic Habitat Set!



Click on the left image below to download Cindy Price's FREE 15-page activity sheet about Ocean Life Animals! Click on the right image below to learn more about the ZooZoo Animal World Series that is featured in this post.

Ocean Life Activity Sheet      New Call-to-Action

Read More

Topics: Leveled Readers, Zoozoo Animal World, Nonfiction, First Grade, Cindy Price, Ocean Animals

10 Fun Facts About Elephants for Kids in Kindergarten and First Grade

Posted by Nick Bennett on Apr 5, 2016 8:08:36 PM

This is the beginning of a new series of blog posts on fun, unique animals which many students are sure to love — we’ll be writing easy-to-read, quick and informative posts on animals from dolphins and lions, to panda bears, tigers, and penguins.

This is first post in this series. To read the next post in this series, please check back next week. As always, you can subscribe to our blog to get new posts in your inbox.


Each new post will go over a different, fun, unique animal, and explore the interesting traits and characteristics of the specific animal with 10 fun facts. The purpose of this series of posts is to help teachers share information on some of the world’s most interesting animals, and to get students in kindergarten and first grade excited about reading, exploring, and understanding more about these animals in class and at home.


This week, we will be going over and discussing one of the largest animals in the wild — the elephant. There are several remarkable, fun facts about the elephant that are sure to fascinate young students. Following are just 10 facts that are sure to get your students excited to learn more and read more about elephants. You can use this information in units or lessons on elephants, or fun classroom activities around elephants.

     Fun Fact 1
  • Elephants are the largest mammals, and largest land animals, in the world. Some elephants weigh as much as 14,000 pounds, and are as tall as 13 feet.

     Fun Fact 2

  • Elephants are able live to be over seventy years old when living in the wild.

     Fun Fact 3

  • Elephants have a very highly developed brain; their brain is larger than the brains of all other land mammals.

     Fun Fact 4

  • Elephants are very social animals and have a well-developed system of communication.

     Fun Fact 5

  • Elephants like to eat plants, and they like to live next to bodies of water.

     Fun Fact 6

  • Elephants are like humans — they are either right-tusked, or left-tusked, like humans are either right-handed or left-handed.

     Fun Fact 7

  • Elephants one of only a few mammals which are unable to jump.

     Fun Fact 8

  • Elephants lack great vision, and have an average sense of sight. Elephants do, however, possess both a very good sense of smell and sense of hearing, as well as a great sense of touch.

     Fun Fact 9

  • Believe it or not, elephants are able to swim — they use their trunk to breathe, similar to a snorkel, when submerged in deep water.

     Fun Fact 10

  • Elephants are able to have an improved sense of smell by waving their trunks up in the air.

This is the end of the first post in this series of blog posts on
 fun facts about animals for kids in kindergarten and first grade. To read the next post in this series, please check back next week. As always, you can subscribe to our blog to get new posts in your inbox.

To view and learn more about titles from Hameray on the topic of elephants, please click the images below.

          ITW_NF_Elephant-1.jpg     ITW_F_BigElephant.jpg     ITW_W_PlayBall.jpg


To download an information sheet with key features about the Zoozoo Into the Wild series, which contains the books about elephants mentioned above, please click the image below.

New Call-to-Action 


Read More

Topics: Making Learning Fun, Kindergarten, Zoozoo Into the Wild, Animals, First Grade

[New Post] Using Language Arts to Meet Social Studies Standards in Grade One: Part 4

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on Jan 21, 2016 3:30:00 PM

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

This is the last post in a four-part series. You can see the first post here, the second post here, and the third post here.

The purpose of this series of blog posts is threefold: sharing the importance of the social studies standards, explaining how to combine the uses of the Language Arts and Social Studies in the first grade, and sharing ways to use Language Arts Standards and leveled books to deliver social studies expectations centered around homes. Specific books will be keyed to specific social studies standards as examples.

Use of Leveled Books to Deliver Social Studies Expectations for Grade One

I am listing (in alphabetical order) six examples of books appropriate for incorporating language arts standards with social studies expectations in grade one, along with suggestions for language arts activities. The first three were listed in the third post in the series, and the second three are below. If you’d like to use these ideas as lesson plans for these books, I’ve linked to where you can buy the books, but you can also use these suggestions as guidelines to apply to any similar books you might already have on hand.

my_big_sister_400.jpg4) My Big Sister by Teri Horner


  • Families have rules and expectations
  • Families help each other
  • Families are kind and considerate of each other
  • Families differ in size
  • Understanding what a family is

Lesson suggestions:

  • Vocabulary to be developed can include 'patience,' 'sharing,' 'helping,' 'younger,' 'older,' 'selfish,' ‘kindness,' 'considerate.'
  • Prepare for the sharing of the book by making a list on the board of students in the following family categories: ONLY CHILD, TWO CHILDREN, THREE CHILDREN, MORE THAN THREE CHILDREN. Provide time for the children to study the lists. They can then share the thoughts that come to them. Some families have more children than other families. Invite them to share good things about having siblings. If they have siblings, they may also discuss problems they have with them.
  • After this activity tell them that you are going to share a story about two sisters. Ask them to listen carefully and be ready to talk about how each sister in the story feels about her sister. Share the front cover using an opaque projector if possible and introduce the sisters. Read the story slowly and display the pictures as you read each page. Provide opportunities for the children to make comments.
  • The following questions can guide the discussion: "How many of you have older siblings that treat them in the same way as the older sister in the family treated her sister?" "How does this make them feel? " "How did the little sister react? Why do you think she acted in this way?" "How do we know that the sisters really love each other?" "Are there ways that you can treat older (or younger) siblings, in a way that lets them know that you really love them?"
  • Ask the children to write two ways they can be considerate and kind to a sibling. This means that they really think about how the younger or older sibling feels. Children with no sibling can write about how they should treat a good friend. Explain to the group that that is how they should treat a brother or sister. They can be a best friend to their brother or sister. Invite volunteers to read their suggestions. Ask them to use one of the suggestions and be ready to share the next day what happened. Make time the next day for this sharing. What happened when they were kind to a brother or sister?
  • Give each child a piece of paper and show him how to fold it into two parts. Display a title for them to copy at the top of the page. “(Sibling’s name)____________ IS LIKE AND UNLIKE ME.” They then label one side ALIKE and the other UNLIKE and list at least three ways they are alike and three ways they are unlike. They write a sentence telling why they love that sibling. A child with no sibling can choose a friend. Those with more than one sibling can choose one of their brothers or sisters. If there is time, the back of the page can be used for them to draw a picture of themselves with their sibling or friend. Suggest that the children sit in groups of three and share their work. The completed pages can be made into a book for the classroom library.


Hameray_My_Family_LS-Entry_v3-1.gif5) My Family (LS1) by Adria Klein Ph.D., Barbara Allen, Allison Briceño, Bee Medders, Deb Nemecek, Nicki Smith & Susan Wray


  • Different kinds of families live within a community (Culture, types of homes, languages, customs, traditions)
  • Families have lived in different places in the past

Lesson suggestions:

  • Vocabulary to be developed: 'family,' 'responsibilities,' 'lifestyles,' language spoken,' 'customs,' 'grandparents, ' 'traditions. '
  • As the vocabulary words are used in discussion, listening, reading, and writing, students can record them in their journals, and the words can also be kept in a list on display for teacher to refer to and discuss as the book is used. Make a deliberate attempt to include the use of the vocabulary words.
  • Share the family picture on the front cover of the book. Invite discussion based on the family in the picture. The students can share what they see: members of the family, children and grandparents, a home, etc.
  • After using the book in discussion and reading, the children can draw family portraits similar to the book cover. They then sit in groups of four and each child shares his family portrait and talks about his family.
  • A large group discussion could be based on discussing likenesses and differences in family groups and comparisons made to the cover picture. How many children have grandparents living in the home? What languages are spoken in the homes? How many have younger children and grandparents living in the home. If so, how would that change the way the family members act and are helpful in the home?
  • The book can be read as a read aloud, used in guided reading, and/or placed in the classroom library. The simple sentence pattern of the LS1 (Language Structure 1) book can be used by the children as they create and illustrate small books about their families. These books can be put in the classroom library as well. The last page of the book is a summary statement. Share that statement and why it is a good way to end their books.
  • The picture and text on page 5 can be used to discuss food customs/traditions. Explain that a custom is something that is done at special times and often. Saying the pledge to the flag is a custom in the school. The kind of food that Dad is cooking may be a tradition or something that comes from having past family members share over many years. It may have started in another country. Ask the children to share special foods eaten in their families and decide if those foods are traditional foods. Do the foods have foreign names? Are some of the foods parts of special days or holidays?
Hameray_My_Pets_LS4_v4-1.gif6) My Pets (LS1) by Adria Klein Ph.D., Barbara Allen, Allison Briceño, Bee Medders, Deb Nemecek, Nicki Smith & Susan Wray


  • Families have rules and responsibilities
  • Families work together
  • Family members are independent
  • Understanding that pets are sometimes family members

Lesson suggestions:

  • Vocabulary to be developed: 'rules,' 'responsibilities,' 'kindness,' 'pets,' 'family members,' 'care of pets,' 'feeds.'
  • Display the cover of the book and talk about the boy and his many pets. Ask the children to face a neighbor and share information about their own pet if they have a family pet. Invite the children to share some of the pets they heard about: dogs, cats, fish, birds, hamsters, etc. Make a list on the board, or screen, of each animal mentioned.
  • Conduct a survey on types of pets: have students raise a hand if they have a particular type of pet at home. List the number of responses for each animal. Invite the children to share what they know after seeing the results of the survey. 'What was the most popular pet?' 'Second most popular?' 'Which pets were the most unusual?'
  • Conclude the discussion with what having the pet means to each family member: is it a family friend, someone to play with, a buddy for exercising together, etc.)
  • The next day, introduce the children to Carlos in My Pets. Share the front cover and ask the children to identify a pet Carlos has that none of them has.
  • Suggest that the students listen carefully and find what these animals have in common. (Each animal has to be fed.)
  • After you have shared each page visually and orally, get responses. The following questions could guide the conversation: "What does Carlos have to know about feeding each pet? (When, what food, how much food, where to feed the pet, what does the pet need in addition to food?)
  • Conclude the conversation by sharing the meaning of 'responsibility' and guiding a discussion of responsibilities the family members must have to have a happy and healthy pet. ‘Should this be the parents' responsibility only?’ ‘What can you do be responsible for the care of a pet?’ ‘Page three includes a calendar. What dates might be put on your pet's calendar?’ (Vet visits, shots, grooming, etc.)
  • Each child can draw a picture of a pet and write a description of the pet. If a child has no pet, he can share a pet he would select and describe it. Use the picture on page three to guide children is composing oral sentences about Carlos's dog. Explain that they can look at the picture of their pet and write sentences to describe size, color, kind of pet, what it eats, how the child cares for it, etc.
  • If there are young children in the family, the small ones may need help in understanding how to be kind to pets. ‘What can happen if a family member is not kind to a pet?’ (Pets can become angry and not be kind to the other family members. Friendship between the pet and the human members of the family is threatened. Pets may not trust the family member who is unkind and be unkind to that person. There is less joy in having a pet.)
  • Share the cover of My Pets. ‘How can we tell by Carlos's face that he is kind to his pets.' Revisit the pictures. Do the students see anything that makes them feel that Carlos's pets are not his friends? Ask the students to participate in a shared writing activity that is based ways to be kind to pets.

I hope that you will find ideas you can use with leveled books and enjoy using the language arts activities to deliver the important social studies expectations.


Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from our Kaleidoscope Collection Series. For more information about the Kaleidoscope Collection Series click HERE to return to our website or click the series highlight page to the left below. 

 New Call-to-Action 

Read More

Topics: Common Core, Language Standards, Social Studies, First Grade, Grade One

Subscribe to Email Updates

Posts by Topic

see all

Follow Me