Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Brand-New Letter Buddies Teacher's Guide!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on May 2, 2017 2:16:00 PM

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Hameray is excited to announce "Letter Learning with the Letter Buddies," our brand-new Letter Buddies Teacher's Guide! This free guide provides ideas to boost your students' alphabetic knowledge with the Letter Buddies

The Teacher's Guide covers every product from the extensive Letter Buddies series:

The skills chart, included in the Teacher's Guide, matches Letter Buddies products to different alphabetic skills. For example, if your teaching goal is to have students identify beginning letters and sounds with accompanying pictures, the skills chart says that you can use the LetterMats, Alphabet Booksand Letter Books. Look no further than the skills chart to decide which product will best suit your students!
Libby Larrabee, the author of the Letter Buddies series, offers a multitude of alphabetic activities that you can use in the classroom. The Letter Buddies Alphabet Books are large and lap-sized, lending them well for whole-classroom or small-group settings. Students draw upon their vocabulary knowledge of common settings, such as the store and the classroom. Using these familiar environments, students learn to recognize and identify letter sounds and shapes. 
Larrabee offers many ideas for using Alphabet Books in the classroom:
  • "Talk about the features of the lowercase and uppercase versions of each letter.

  • Finger-trace the letters to demonstrate formation using verbal directions from the Child Talk Table (see pages 3–4).

  • Name the letters and give students practice naming the letters.

  • Talk about how certain letters are grouped together to form a word. Explain that there is a word under each picture naming what the object is.

  • Show that the letter at the top of the page is the same as the rst letter in the word below.

  • Demonstrate and practice alphabetical order using the picture glossary.

  • Engage in storytelling and conversation while playing the I-Spy game included" (5)

For more ideas and information about the other Letter Buddies products, read through the free "Letter Learning with the Letter Buddies" at our website!

To download information about each Letter Buddies product, click the images below.

Letter Buddies Letter Books Sales Sheet Letter Buddies Blends Sales Sheet Letter Buddies Best Friends Sales Sheet Letter Buddies Starters Sales Sheet Letter Buddies Alphabet Books Sales Sheet

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Letter Learning, Teacher's Guides

Letter Buddies Part 2: Blends

Posted by Marcy Godesa on Feb 21, 2017 3:23:00 PM

marcy_godesa.pngThis 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, be sure to check back here for more of her guest blog posts! 

It is always a great find when you have one resource that continues along with your students as their learning grows and develops. That is why I am still loving the Letter Buddies series from Hameray Publishing.


You can read all about how I used the first stage of Letter Buddies with my developing readers here. We have since moved into blends, which is huge for my readers! I am so proud of them and the connections that they have been making.

The blends books, which are the next stage in the Letter Buddies seriesare the perfect bridge to sight word development that all developing reading must achieve.

Slide1 (2).pngJust like the first stage, the blends books have a sight word book, Letter Buddies Blends, and a pattern book, Letter Buddies Best Friends, that complement each other.

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After reading and reviewing the sight word book, my kiddos practiced building the words and finding connections between other words that they have learned.

They then applied these new words to the pattern book. The success they have with the pattern book is incredible because they are familiar with the words, thanks to the sight word book.

If you haven't checked out the Letter Buddies series from Hameray Publishing, get on it.  I cannot say enough great things about these books.

What is your favorite tool for supporting your developing readers?  Leave a comment below.  I would love to hear from you.



Click the images below to read about the Letter Buddies Blends and the Letter Buddies Best Friends.

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Blends, Sight Words, Marcy Godesa

Word Recognition with Letter Buddies

Posted by Marcy Godesa on Feb 7, 2017 3:21:00 PM

marcy_godesa.pngThis 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, be sure to check back here for more of her guest blog posts! 

Teaching word recognition to developing readers can have its ups and downs. I swear there are days when my kiddos are on it, they are recognizing all their sight words, and then POOF!—the next day it is all gone. I decided to try out the Letter Buddies series with my developing readers.

According to Hameray, "This product line supports the development of letter knowledge and early literacy skills through letter recognition and formation, letter-sound correspondence, phonemic awareness, vocabulary development, and oral language development." I couldn't agree more with this statement. Right away, my readers started building letter recognition that they struggled with prior to using this series.


First of all, I love that the letters on the covers of the books are printed in a raised text. My kiddos were able to "feel" the letters before diving into the books. By using their kinesthetic sense, we began building a muscle memory that is vital for learners.


Each Letter Buddy has a book and a starter that go hand-in-hand. We started with the Letter Books and practiced our letter and whole word recognition. This allowed my readers to begin connecting the inital letter throughout the book.


After spending time with the Letter Book, we reviewed the words, generated a few more, and started gaining more letter and sound connections. It was amazing listening to my readers as they inquired about their learning. One of my students, who has really struggled with letter recognition, asked, "Why do all the words have red letters?"  This is HUGE!! He took his learning past letter recognition to word recognition.

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Once my readers showed an understanding of the letters and their sounds, we dove into the Starter Books. These pattern books take the words that students practiced in the Letter Books and place them in an early reader format. The Starters allow for students to continue to build on their letter and word recognition while gaining fluency and accuracy with more sight words.

I am so excited for my readers and the skills that they have gained. I cannot wait to use the Letter Buddies Blends Books with them!


Have you used Letter Buddies with your readers?  What are your favorite resources for teaching letter and word recognition?  Leave a comment below and let me know.


Click the image below to read about the Letter Buddies Letter Books and the Letter Buddies Starters.

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Sight Words, Marcy Godesa

Make Your Own Letter Buddies!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Nov 10, 2016 4:02:00 PM

 Have you met the Letter Buddies? The Letter Buddies Series offers children an engaging way to familiarize themselves with the alphabet and build a strong foundation for literacy skills. From Blends Books that feature common consonant blends to LetterMats for snacktime exploration, Letter Buddies encourages learning in a variety of settings.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the series, though, is the line-up of Letter Buddy characters. Each letter in the alphabet is personified into a fun, eye-catching creature with a unique personality. Meet them all below!

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You can find a Letter Buddy in every book of the Letter Buddies series. The block-printed letter buddy characters will ensure that your student can recognize alphabet letters in various fonts, an important aspect of letter-shape knowledge.

As an oral language activity, have your student choose their favorite letter buddy. You can find each letter on the covers of the Letter Buddies Letter Books. Discuss that letter’s personality traits (jumpy, loud, kind), and then ask your student to make up a story about the letter.

What does Happy H like to do? Why do you think Happy H is happy? Who is Happy H’s best friendhameray-early-childhood-letter-learning-resources-teachers.jpg

The Letter Buddy characters only feature the 26 uppercase letters in the alphabet—why not make your own class set of lowercase letter buddies? Assign a letter to each student. Brainstorm together to think of a “describing word” (adjective) that starts with their letter but is different from the uppercase letter buddy’s adjective! For example, Chatty C’s lowercase friend might be “cute c.” This exercise will help the students identify different words that begin with a certain letter.

Once the describing word has been decided, have the students write their lowercase letter and illustrate it with hands, eyes, feet, etc. Assist the students in labeling their letter buddy. Compile everyone’s drawings into a class set of Letter Buddies! 

Who is your favorite Letter Buddy? Let us know in the comments below!


Click the image below to learn more about the Letter Buddies Letter Books series. Visit our website to see all of our Letter Buddies products!

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Beginning Letter Sounds, Letter Learning

Teaching the Alphabet through Connections

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jul 1, 2016 10:01:16 AM

Teaching the Alphabet through Connections - Kathy Crane

One of our frequent guest bloggers, Kathy Crane over at Kindergarten Kiosk, wrote this neat post on teaching the alphabet through connections. She uses lots of strategies: animal buddies, letter books, anchor charts, and an object tub, among other things. Here is an excerpt from her post:

One of the most important skills that young children need to conquer quickly, is to crack the code of the alphabetic principle! This is not an easy task for most children. In fact, the skill is most easily acquired if it is taught in a strategic manner that is purposeful, and makes sense. 

This group of animal friends allows for such strategic teaching! As I introduce a letter a day for the first 26 or so days of school using multisensory cues, I have found that most students learn the majority of letters and sounds in a very short time.

Click here to read the rest of her post, and if you're interested in the Letter Buddies Letter Books she uses in her approach, there are a few ways you can get a better look at them:

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Letter Learning, Kathy Crane

Summer Fun with Letter Learning!

Posted by Margaret Hufstedler on Jul 30, 2015 4:41:00 PM

MaggueHufstedlerbiopicThis is a guest blog post by Margaret Hufstedler, a veteran teacher of 28 years who has taught kindergarten for the past 22 years.  She is an accomplished musician, the owner of Maggie’s Kinder Corner, and co-moderator of #TeacherFriends Chat every Tuesday on Twitter.  The following article features ideas for implementing project based learning using a variety of resources in your own classroom.

With the summer months here, it is so much fun to be outside enjoying activities with little ones. I love playing camp out in our washing machine box "cabin," reading great books, and mixing up various concoctions. Combining books and concoctions is one way to make summer letter learning fun!

I recently received a set of Letter Buddies Letter Books from Hameray, so my grandchildren and I spent a lot of time looking at the colorful pages and discussing what the objects on each page had in common. We talked about the shape of each letter, the sound at the beginning of each object name, and how we could write, paint or draw the letters. This led us to a search on Pinterest for recipes on sidewalk paint using corn starch, water and food coloring.

summer_funAfter a brief scramble to find paint brushes, then mixing the "paint" and adding color in each of 12 muffin tins, we went outside! Wonder of wonders! This was the best activity of the summer! I asked the children to try making the first letter of their names, then we tried other letters. The oldest painted the entire alphabet! The best thing about this paint is how it brightened to a beautiful chalky appearance as it dried.

After the fun, we came inside to clean up and look at the books that had letters we had made. We also made letters by arranging beans, cereal, raisins, baby carrots and many more edibles, and everyone had a good time!

Using books as a springboard for learning helps children make permanent connections about important concepts. I encourage you to try the paint and a few other things to create your own summer fun!

Recipe for chalk paint:

1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. corn starch

1/4 c. water

bright neon food coloring (color to suit your needs)


 For more information about the Letter Buddies series, click HERE to return to our website or click the series highlight page below to download an information sheet. 

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Letter Learning, Margaret Hufstedler

Using Letter Buddies to Build Vocabulary

Posted by Kathy Crane on Jul 7, 2015 2:05:00 PM

This is a guest post by Kathy Crane, one of our occasional guest bloggers. If you like what you see here, check back frequently for more posts from her and click here to read her blog.

Crane-Letter-BuddiesAbout a year ago, I told you about my two-year-old grandson who quickly learned all of his alphabet letters and sounds using the Letter Buddies books. Now let me tell you about his little sister: G. has taken to these fun readers just as eagerly as her big brother. While her big brother learned all of his letters early from the books, she took a different trajectory.

The Letter Buddies books have taught her to love books and, by eighteen months, she was quietly sitting, book in hand, making up stories. Because both children love the books so much and have learned from them in uniquely different ways, I was curious to see what else I could do with these little wonders.

While I was spending a few days with the kiddos, I was thinking about how these books could be used to teach vocabulary. I picked up a book and began pointing at each picture one by one, and, to my surprise, G. could name each picture in every single volume. Not only had she learned to love books and learn some letters, she had gleaned the vocabulary from each book. Although I believe the books alone are great, don’t forget the companion app. It is a great educational substitute for busy moms. You can check it out on YouTube here!


Kathy Crane holds a M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Reading, is a published author of thirteen books, a freelance author and developer of teaching curriculum, has been a teacher of kindergarten for twenty-two years, and publishes the blog Kindergarten Kiosk
For additional information on the Letter Buddies books shown in this post, click here to visit our website, or click the image below to download a series highlights sheet with key features. 
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Topics: Letter Buddies, Vocabulary, Kathy Crane

Working with Magnetic Letters—with FREE Download!

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Mar 26, 2015 3:50:46 PM

This is the final post in a series of three posts on letter learning taken from the Letter Buddies teacher's guide by Libby Larrabee. You can read the earlier posts here and here!

magnetic-lettersMagnetic letters can be used on a daily basis to support young children’s development of letter-shape, letter-name, and letter–sound knowledge. This can be accomplished with sorting activities. As they practice sorting, children learn to categorize, recognize, and classify distinguishable features of letters. Their ability to distinguish one letter from another rapidly is a skill that is important for reading. Good readers sample just enough information in print (letters, word parts, and whole words) to maintain meaning while they are reading. This quick visual sampling means that letters must be recognized automatically.

This automatic recognition of letters develops over time. Initially, young children will need to examine the details of individual letters. Your conversations about letters and how they are formed will help this happen. Daily sorting of letters will also support the development of this automatic recognition. Once you have demonstrated how to sort, the activities can be placed in your ABC center. You can also have several different sorting activities available depending on the needs of your children. 

Materials Needed:

  • Several sets of Letter Buddies Magnetic Letters

  • Small baskets to hold letters for sorting activities

  • Letter Buddies Magnetic Whiteboards or any magnetic surface (upright and at child’s eye level)

Choosing Letter Features to Sort:

Initially choose categories where the differences are easy to see (e.g.: short and tall), and use only a few letters. As children become more proficient in sorting, put more letters of each category in the basket. Letter Buddies Foam Magnetic Letters come in three colors, which helps draw children’s attention to the different features of the letters.

Here are some categories of features for sorting letters:

  • Short and tall letters

  • Short and tall letters and letters that fall below the line

  • LB-ZLetters with open and closed curves

  • Tall letters with and without circles

  • Small letters with and without circles

  • Letters with and without hooks

  • Letters with one valley/two valleys (v, w, y)

  • Letters with one hump/two humps (n, h, m)

  • Letters that are crossed/not crossed (t, f, l, h, b)

  • Letters with tunnels/letters with holes (n, h, m, d, g, a, b, q, o, p)

  • Letters with sticks and curves/letters with just sticks (t, l, v, w, z, y, r, u, f, h, m, n)

  • b, d, p, q (done after many other sorts)

Also try using some of these categories to sort uppercase letters!

whiteboardDemonstrating Sorting (best done individually or in small groups):

  • Bring the basket of letters to the upright magnetic surface. Initially use only 6–8 letters.

  • Show children how to place the letters in a group on the magnetic surface just above their eye level.

  • Using both hands, slowly move the letters down into their appropriate groups. (It is important for children to use both hands and have the letters at eye level).

  • Return the letters back to the group and sort again. 

  • Initially (especially for very young children), it is not necessary to name the letters. The focus to begin with should be on the features of the letters.

  • As children become familiar with the task, their speed will increase.

  • When they have learned the corresponding letter names, ask them to name the letters while they sort. 

  • Remember to change your sorts every week or two weeks to keep the activities fresh and the children challenged.

A Note about Sorting:

Make sure to continue telling your students the purpose for sorting. It is brain work! They are exercising their brains so that reading will be easier!

Matching Uppercase and Lowercase Letters

Once your children can recognize the significant features of letters, use the Letter Buddies Magnetic Letters for matching uppercase and lowercase letters. Knowing both the uppercase and lowercase form of each letter is important. You may want to start out with only 6–8 letters to be matched. As time goes on, children will be able to match all the letters of the alphabet.

Learning Alphabetical Order

LB-C-QLetter Buddies Magnetic Letters can also be used to help children learn alphabetical order in both uppercase and lowercase. Prepare some strips for matching. You may want to break the alphabet up into smaller groupings before having the children alphabetize all the letters. For example:

  • a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i,
  • j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r,
  • s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z

After working with smaller groupings of letters, children can be challenged to alphabetize all the letters without the matching strip.

Advanced Activities

  • Place pictures of several objects in a basket with the corresponding magnetic letters for initial sounds. Have the children match the correct letter and picture.
  • Practice letter formation. Place a letter on the magnetic whiteboard. Have the children finger trace the foam letter, getting a feel for its shape. Once familiar, ask them to try writing the letter on the whiteboard, next to the magnetic letter, using dry-erase markers. 

For More Practice with Letter Learning...

Download our 12-page Letter Buddies Matching worksheets below, with tracing and initial-sound exercises for each letter of the alphabet.

Learn about our Letter Buddies line of letter-learning products for early childhood by clicking here to visit our website or clicking the image to the left below to download information sheet on Letter Buddies Letter Books for letter learning! To download the free worksheets, click the image to the right.

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, Letter Buddies, Letter Learning

Working with Alphabet Books—with FREE Download!

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Mar 24, 2015 3:30:00 PM

This is the second in a series of three posts on letter learning taken from the Letter Buddies Teacher's guide by Libby Larrabee. Check back later for the next post in this series! You can read the earlier post here!

Alphabet_BooksLetter Buddies Alphabet Books are great resources that encourage young children to begin learning the alphabet. The large- format, lap-book size (12” x 16”) encourages conversation and interaction by all children in a whole- or small-group setting. During alphabet book sharing, children can learn about letter features, letter names, and letter sounds. The large letters in the corner of each page allow for easy letter-formation demonstrations.

Each Alphabet Book focuses on an environment that is common to a child’s world: home, school, and store. Encourage children to talk about their experiences in each place, using the vocabulary from these books as much as possible. This will promote greater comprehension and retention of new words and skills. 

Your conversation during Alphabet Book sharing is critical. This is the perfect time to encourage oral language development. Explicit talk and questioning about each book will encourage children to make connections to their own experiences and become involved in the reading. This is the time to explain unfamiliar concepts and teach new vocabulary.

Letter_Buddies_VAlphabet_Books_SpreadThoughtful questions and comments will also help children focus on different aspects of letter knowledge. Here are some ways that you can use the Alphabet Books:

  • Talk about the features of the lowercase and uppercase versions of each letter.
  • Name the letters and give students practice naming the letters.

  • Talk about how certain letters are grouped together to form a word. Explain that there is a word under each picture naming what the object is.

  • Show that the letter at the top of the page is the same as the first letter in the word below.

  • Demonstrate and practice alphabetical order using the picture glossary.

  • Engage in storytelling and conversation while playing the I-Spy game included.
  • Finger-trace the letters to demonstrate formation using verbal directions from the Child Talk Table (see below). 



For more ideas, be sure to check out the suggested activities provided at the end of each Alphabet Book!

Add to your collection! Have your students create a class alphabet book (or try it individually). Start the year with a large, empty book with at least one blank page per letter. Each time you have a read-aloud, ask the children to identify 2 or 3 items from the story to be placed in the class alphabet book. 

Alphabet books can also be used to teach initial sounds. Each page of the alphabet books uses a letter to introduce something with the corresponding beginning sound. The items introduced will be familiar to children from the context of home, school, or store. To further help children learn the correspondence between letters and initial sounds, we have included a free 23-page downloadable set of initial-sound worksheets at the bottom of the page.

Learn about our Letter Buddies line of letter-learning products for early childhood by clicking here to visit our website or clicking the image to the left below to download information sheet on Letter Buddies Alphabet Books for letter learning! To download the free worksheets, click the image to the right.

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Alphabet Books, Letter Learning

Teaching Blends with Letter Buddies—with FREE Download!

Posted by Laureen on Oct 9, 2014 8:00:00 AM

This is a guest post by blogger Laureen. If you like what you see here, you can check out her blog, Teach with Laughter, for more of her writing.

Hi again! It’s Laureen from Teach With Laughter. I’m excited to be writing today about some blends books from the Letter Buddies series that I have had a chance to share with my students.

The Letter Buddies Blends Books each contain six examples of a blend, one per page with just the word printed underneath.  The Letter Buddies Best Friends Books are a perfect companion, using the same six words written in simple sentences.


I used the Blends Books in a small group to introduce the words to the students. Since the pictures gave us clues to the words this was easy and built their confidence. Then I introduced the Best Friends blends book with the same words used in sentences. Since students were familiar with the words and the other words were beginning sight words they were very successful, and we could focus on fluency and sentence structure.

Do your students struggle with ‘b’ and ‘d’ reversals? Mine do, so for this lesson I focused on the blends ‘br’ and ‘dr’. Scroll to the bottom of the page to download a ‘br’/‘dr’ blends anchor chart.


Then to check for understanding, I had my students complete the following activity. They needed to differentiate between pictures that start with ‘br’ or ‘dr’. Combined with the anchor chart, students completed this independently at a word work station while I worked with another group.


I hope that you have a chance to check out this great book series!


Laureen is a first-grade teacher in Canada. She has been teaching kindergarten and grade one for more than twenty years. Laureen loves to make learning fun and you can find her at her blog, Teach With Laughter.


To learn more about Letter Buddies, click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights images below to download information sheets with key features. To get today's free activity download, click the image to the right below!

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Topics: K-2 Literacy, Letter Buddies, Blends, Laureen

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