Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Visualizing Relative Words with Low-Leveled Books

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Apr 27, 2017 3:28:00 PM

Why is it so important to directly teach vocabulary to children? Children have an amazing ability to soak up new words every day from their environment without being explicitly taught. Many words in our English vocabulary, however, are relative and abstract in their meaning. With informational texts, you can teach your students about the meaning of relative words!


Directional words, such as “up” and “down,” are dependent upon the position of the speaker and the listener. The meanings of directional words are difficult to grasp without concrete visual aids. Going Up and Down, a new level B reader from the Kaleidoscope Collection, offers images of common activities such as sliding down a playground slide and climbing up a rock-climbing wall. The familiar images help the reader become situated and understand the spatial meanings of “up” and “down.” 


If you want to add a science twist to teaching the vocabulary, read Up and Down from the My World Series. Leveled at Guided Reading level E, the book features plants that grow up from the ground (like a sunflower) and plants that grow down underground (like a carrot).


Big and Little (Level D) from the Kaleidoscope Collection also uses adjectives with relative meanings. The meaning of the words “big” and “little” only make sense if the reader knows what the object is being compared to. The boy’s shirt is big compared to Baby’s shirt. Baby’s pants are little compared to her brother’s pants. Ask your students: Would the boy’s shirt be big compared to his dad’s? Would Baby’s pants be little compared to a doll’s pants?


Using photographs for reference will help your students distinguish between these relative words that are understood through context. Their vocabulary skills will go up, up, and up!


Click the left image below to download information about Kaleidoscope Collection. Click the right image below to download information about My World.

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Topics: Informational Text, Early Childhood, Kaleidoscope Collection, My World, Pictures

Guided Reading to Support Textbook Reading, Part 3

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on Mar 14, 2017 3:34:00 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 second post in a series about using guided reading activities to support content-area textbook reading. To read the first post, click here.


The same procedures used for teaching Fantastic Frogs can be used to teach higher-level books like Benjamin Franklin from the Hameray Biography Series. The biography is a longer book, and thus contains more informational text tools:

  • The TABLE OF CONTENTS includes chapter titles. Discuss the meaning of a chapter.
  • Invite students to go to page 38 for the LEARN MORE section. A list of books and websites encourage students to do more reading about Benjamin Franklin.
  • Use CHAPTER 1 for guided reading. Discuss the picture on page 4: Why is Franklin hungry? Who is the young woman?
  • Ask the students to read with you in a guided reading setting. After reading, discuss the answers to the two questions.
  • Ask the students if there are any unfamiliar words in the chapter. Invite the students to find the bolded words in the glossary and use the words to create their own sentences.
  • What happens in a print shop? What is a document? Can you think of an example of a document?



  • Remind the students about the various informational text features that can help them read the text.
  • Emphasize the importance of pictures and their own prior knowledge to supplement their reading.
  • Encourage rereading and making a note of questions. Using graphic organizers allow the students to write what they already knew, what they need to learn, and questions still left unanswered by the text.
  • Ask children to do further reading on the content area topic.

Using parts of content area books for guided and shared reading will help students both in content area subjects and language arts. Don’t forget to frequently use the new vocabulary in your classroom!


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 image below to download a FREE Teacher's Guide for Benjamin Franklin. 

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Topics: Informational Text, Biography Series, Geraldine Haggard, Guided Reading, Social Studies

Guided Reading to Support Textbook Reading, Part 2

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on Mar 7, 2017 3:34:00 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 second post in a series about using guided reading activities to support content-area textbook reading. To read the first post, click here.

In today's post, I'll give examples of how to provide textbook reading support for science lessons in the lower elementary grades.


There are several tasks to complete before you can formally support readers in using content area reading texts.

First, you should explore available materials and select diverse reading materials that support the standards for the unit of study in the content area:

  • Formal textbook content that is up-to-date and appropriate
  • Books in classroom libraries and school libraries
  • Books for guided and shared reading during language arts lessons
  • Computer sites that are available and approved by your district. 

If you find a formal textbook to use, select the appropriate sections of the textbook and consider how much assistance they will need to read the text. It is important that all students are given support for two aspects of textbook reading: content-specific vocabulary and informational text features.


New vocabulary can present challenges: pronunciation, words with multiple meanings, and a lack of prior knowledge about the word and how it is used in new content. The following activities can help prepare the students for their introduction to new vocabulary:

  • A short video that introduces the unit of study and contains some of the new vocabulary
  • Reading books that introduce the topic
  • Teaching the students how to use a glossary
  • Helping students hear word segments by clapping the syllables in a new word. (As a fourth grade teacher, I used a bulletin board to divide the words into syllables and play riddle games. We also played bingo that enabled them to practice writing the word and remember its definition.)

Remember that students must understand the meaning of a word as they hear and see it. Writing the word can help the word become a part of their mastered vocabulary.


Introduce students to the informational text features that provide tools to help understand new topics and vocabulary. Project a copy of Fantastic Frogs from Hameray’s Real World collection or use guided reading copies.


Front cover:

  • Discuss the information that the cover provides, including the title, author, and publisher.
  • Why do you think there is a picture on the cover?
  • What does “fantastic” mean?

Title page:

  • How is the title page similar to the front cover? How is it different?
  • Do you think the picture is fantastic? Why?

Pages 4 – 5:

  • What is the title or subject of these two pages?
  • Study the pictures. How do they help the student’s understanding of the text?
  • Ask the student to do shared reading while reading the pages. Slowly pronounce the two bolded words. Ask the students to use the glossary to identify the words.
  • Invite the students to discuss why frogs might need to adapt. Can you think of other amphibians that live on land and water?

Make sure to note that every word in the index was also included in the glossary, which explains content-specific vocabulary.

Next Tuesday, I’ll discuss how to apply this reading support for higher-level social studies curriculum. Make sure to subscribe to the blog in the right-hand toolbar to receive my new post in your inbox! 


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 image below to learn about Story World Real World, which features the book mentioned in this post. 

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Topics: Real World, Informational Text, Geraldine Haggard, Science, Guided Reading

Groundhog Day Science!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Feb 2, 2017 3:12:00 PM

Happy Groundhog Day! Punxtsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, which means that we still have six more weeks of winter...or do we?

Groundhog Day is always filled with anticipation, so children are always disappointed when they learn that the custom has no concrete meteorological reasoning. Although the groundhog’s shadow might not accurately predict the arrival of spring, you can teach students that we can actually shadows on the ground to tell the time!


What’s The Time? from the Story World Real World series explains different ways in which humans can measure time. Before reading, discuss that shadows occur when an object blocks light. If your students have already learned about opaque and transparent objects, this discussion will review the concept that only opaque objects create shadows.

SWRW_WHAT'S THE TIME__INSIDE (dragged).jpgp. 4:

  • Read about the relationship between the sun and a shadow. When a groundhog sees its shadow, where is the light coming from? (The sun.)
  • If you have a portable projector or another movable source of light in your classroom, use it to demonstrate that when the light source moves, the shadow moves, too. 
p. 5:
  • What is a sundial? Ask students to point to the shadow in the image. This exercise teaches that images illustrate and support key ideas in the text (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.1.6).
  • How does a sundial look similar to the clocks you see today? How is it different?
p. 6–7:
  • If it’s sunny outside, make a class sundial as shown in the book. All you need are stones or chalk and a tall stick. You can make a sundial with snow on the ground, too, as long as the sun is in the sky!


Groundhog Day itself doesn’t have scientific credibility, but you can teach real science lessons about shadows and time instead. Students will be thrilled to turn off the classroom lights and watch shadows move! Make sure to read the rest of What’s The Time? to learn about egg timers, hourglasses, and other clocks that don’t use shadows.



Click the images below to learn more about Story World Real World, which contains the book featured in this post.

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Topics: Real World, Informational Text, Holiday, Science

Building Argumentative and Reasoning Skills

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Jan 5, 2017 3:26:00 PM


Happy New Year! As your students return from the winter vacation, they will surely be excite dot share stories about hteir holiday adventures. While their memories and schema for different places are still fresh, why not read a book about exploration?

Where Would You Like to Live?, an informational text from the Story World Real World series, examines different houses that the reader can live inside. For each location, the author presents an argument for and against living in that house. This structure helps students understand and "describe how reasons support specific points the author makes in a text" (CCSS.ELA-LlTERACY.RI.2.8). Although the book is leveled at guided reading level I, the book can be utilized for any grade—the content is relevant and intriguing for higher ages too!

Before reading:

  • Read the book title. If necessary, review the function of a question mark.
  • Explain that the book will present different possible answers to the question "Where Would You Like to Live?"

Page 4:

  • Has anyone been to a lighthouse before? If so, what was it like? If you're lucky, one of your students will have visited one over the break and will be able to provide details for other students.

Page 5:

  • Read the paragrah titled "Yes!" What is another reason why living in a lighthouse is a good idea? Write down your students' ideas on the left side of the board.
  • Next, read the paragraph titled "But..." What is another reason why living in a lighthouse is a bad idea? Write down these ideas on the right side of the board.
  • Hold a class vote. Would you like to live in a lighthouse? Ask students to raise their hands if their answer is "yes."


Page 6 to 12:

  • Repeat the discussion for the remaining houses. Encourage students to come up with as many reasons as possible for each location, and allow them to answer "yes" to more than one house.

Page 14:

  • Why is it a bad idea to live in a dollhouse?

After reading:

  • Have a whole-class "debate" to decide which house is the best place to live: a lighthouse, tree house, motorhome, igloo, or houseboat. 
  • Encourage students to provide both supporting reasons for their opinions and counterarguments to other students' claims.
  • At the end of the discussion, hold a class vote answering, "Where would you like to live?" This time, students can only vote once!

Where would you like to live?


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

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Topics: Real World, Informational Text, Reasoning

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

Shared Reading and Community Helpers—with FREE Download!

Posted by Sharon Dudley on Jul 5, 2016 9:12:26 PM

Sharon_Butterfly_1.jpgSharon Dudley is a veteran educator with over 20 years of experience in the early childhood field. She uses technology to create games and personalized take-home reading books for each child based on their needs and interests. She offers nearly 200 games, books, and other resources on Teachers Pay Teachers. She is also the author of a blog, Teaching With Sight.

Community Helpers and More!

My ESOL kindergarten students loved reading the big book My Community that is part of the My World series. Every page prompted rich discussions about our neighborhoods. In the beginning of the year, my students were very mixed up about communities, community helpers, and vehicles they use. For example, I asked “Who puts out fires?” and one student responded “A fire engine!” He could not tell me that it was a fire fighter who actually did the job, and that the fire engine was the vehicle.

Now my students have a much better grasp of the theme vocabulary. One thing I like about this book is that the illustrations show many different types of communities, encouraging the children to contrast city life (where they live) to a country community. Another thing I like is that the book talks about various homes as well as places we go in the community to have fun (such as pools), which the students were very excited to see. I don’t often see this in books about communities.

MWBB_MyCommunity.jpgMusic is a very powerful tool to help children remember facts. When I was little, I learned my multiplication tables and parts of speech from listening to and watching “School House Rock.”

Therefore, I incorporate music into all subjects of the curriculum, including social studies. One simple idea for centers that I’ve used this year is placing a CD in Listening Center that has community helper songs such as:

  • “Community Workers” by Bubbly Vee
  • “Community Helpers” by Mar Harmon
  • “Community Helpers” by Shawn Brown

In Creativity Center, I have Duplos that students can use to make a whole community with buildings, people, and vehicles. I encourage my students to talk about their work as they build it, since I am blind and I want to know what they’re doing. This strategy works great for sighted teachers too. You can record their narrations with your phone or other device to document their growth throughout the year.

In ABC Center, I place cards in a pocket chart so that students can use a pointer to read sentences independently. I go over it first in large group, and students usually pick up on it fairly quickly. One of the products I offer in my Teachers Pay Teachers shop is a Community Helper Folder that helps children make their own books and labeled pictures about their favorite community helpers. I made a freebie that you can download at the bottom of this page. It includes a community helpers matching game and pocket chart sentences.


Sharon Dudley is a classroom teacher and grade-level chairperson at the kindergarten level at a Title I school in Prince George’s County, MD with a 95% ESOL population. She was featured in a TV news segment for being a blind educator who achieved certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in just one year, and she has served as a mentor for candidates who are aiming to achieve certification themselves.


For more information on the My World series, which contains the book used in this post, you can click here to visit our website, or click the image below to download a series information sheet. For the community helpers matching activity and pocket chart sentences, click the image to the right below to download!

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Topics: Informational Text, Big Books, Community Helpers, Sharon Dudley

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

Build Real-World Knowledge at Any Reading Level

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Apr 12, 2016 10:42:22 AM

Sea Turtles Informational Texts

Building real-world knowledge through informational text is a cornerstone of teaching and, as the Common Core explains, immersing students in information about the world around them helps to develop the strong general knowledge and vocabulary they need to become successful readers. But this doesn't have to be boring—you can make it fun and engaging!

Sending your students on fact-finding missions can be one way to do this. They can pull out a pre-assigned number of facts from informational texts at their "just-right" level and then compare the facts they picked with the facts picked by their neighbors. This encourages students to read closely to try to find the "best" facts about their topic.

If your unit is on animals, or habitats, or the ocean, for example, you could model this by taking a book on sea turtles and pulling out the fact that sea turtles come onto land to lay their eggs.  Depending on the individual student's reading level, you might ask them to pull out more or less complex descriptions of their facts. Having a wide range of informational texts at different reading levels but on the same or similar topics is helpful for this exercise. 

Sea Turtle Informational Text Zoozoo Level F Sea Turtles Informational Text Intervention Level s

Pictured above are an example of the lower-level Sea Turtle book from Zoozoo Animal World (guided reading level F) and of the book Sea Turtles from the intervention series Underwater Encounters (guided reading level S).

What is your favorite way of getting students to dive into informational text? Share it in the comments below!

To download information sheets with key features about the series shown in this post, click the images below. Zoozoo Animal World now features four additional habitats to those listed on the information sheet: ocean, desert, grasslands, and mountains.

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Topics: Common Core, Informational Text, Animals, Nonfiction

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