Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

How to Catch a Gingerbread Man—with FREE Printable Download!

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Dec 20, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Gingerbread Man Cover Final 250This last post before we go on a two-week holiday blog hiatus is a guest post by blogger Elizabeth Hall. If you like what you see here, you can check out her blog, Kickin' It in Kindergarten, for more of her writing, or you can click here to see her other contributions to our blog!

Hi all, Elizabeth here from Kickin’ it in Kindergarten! Let me tell you, we have been kickin’ it for the past few weeks! I am sure you have, as well. We have been able to read some fantastic holiday books. We spent an entire week reading and comparing different versions of The Gingerbread Man. I like doing a week of gingerbread stories because it gives you the option of being “holiday-ish” without having to talk about Christmas. Even though you might love Christmas, not every child in your class celebrates it. One year, I had a student that didn’t celebrate any holidays. He didn’t even get to celebrate his own birthday! I had to be careful around every holiday. Gingerbread stories give you the feeling of Christmas, and students don’t feel like they are being left out of a celebration. It’s a win-win situation!

Thursday, we completed our very first “how-to” writing activity after having read Gingerbread stories since Monday. The students had plenty of time to compare the characters, discuss the settings, and debate over which was their favorite story. When we read Hameray's version of The Gingerbread Man from their Story World series, most of my students said it was their favorite version. A big part of the reason was the illustrations. The illustrations in this particular gingerbread story seemed to stand out. They liked the colors, and they thought the old lady in this story was hilarious.

When we finished the book, we talked about how we would catch a Gingerbread Man. I cut out the transitional “writing word” cards printed with first, next, then, and last. I put magnets on the back of the words and posted them on the easel.

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We talked about step-by-step writing for the first time. I had every student hold up four fingers. Each time I would use a “writing word,” they would put a finger down. I had them practice with their partners. I kept the words up on the board after we brainstormed and did several together.

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We discussed how writers have to use steps to organize their thoughts. We will have many more step-by-step “how-to” writing activities this year. This was our first attempt, and I was impressed by how well they did!

They didn’t need too much help from me. I continued to remind them about using their transitional words. I was very happy with how they turned out! I hope this blog post with printouts is a resource and idea that will be helpful to you in the classroom! Be sure to check out these great books!

Happy Holidays!


elizabeth hallThis is my fifth year as a kindergarten teacher. The best part of kindergarten is watching a child fall in love with reading. It has become my passion to show children the possibilities and amazing adventures literature can offer. I love watching their eyes light up when they tell me they can read their favorite book, or they can’t wait to go back to the library! I have the best job in the world!

I am so lucky to have such a wonderful support system in and out of school. My family lives close and I get to spend a lot of time with them! While I am not at school, I enjoy running, teaching spin class, swimming, playing kickball, spending time with my husband, and traveling. I also have a sheltie named Maggie, which is spoiled rotten. I am married to the best guy in the world, work with wonderful people, and have fabulous students!


To download Elizabeth's "How to Catch a Gingerbread Man" worksheet and word cards, click the worksheet image. For more information on Story World and its accompanying informational texts Real World, click here to visit the webpage, or click the information sheet image below to download series highlights with key features. After today's post, we will be on a two-week blog hiatus, to return January 6th, so check back then for more great classroom ideas!


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Topics: Story World, Holiday, Teaching Writing, Elizabeth Hall

Lessons Learned: Digging a Little Deeper with Traditional Literature

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Dec 2, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Lyssa SahadevanThis is a guest blog post from first-grade teacher Lyssa Sahadevan. If you like what you read here, you can see more of Lyssa's posts here, or check out her own blog here! This post contains a free worksheet on lessons learned from traditional tales at the bottom of the page!

Lessons Learned

Comprehension, comprehension, comprehension! We want to make sure our youngest readers really understand what they are reading. We ask questions. We practice retelling the beginning, middle, and end in narrative stories. We make chart after chart of story elements. We confer and reteach in small groups. The primary grades set the stage for understanding (and we pretty much rock)!

The thing is, not all narrative stories are just telling a story. They have greater themes, bigger ideas, and often a lesson or moral. This is one reason I love-love-love traditional tales, also known as fables. Fables are short stories, typically with animals as characters, that convey a moral. My first graders love them and the fable basket is a hot spot in our classroom! Fables ask readers to think a little bit harder, and I love that!

To introduce fables, I read them like crazy! They are a great read-aloud because they are short, and the characters are relatable. Being all about movement in our first-grade classroom, we often act them out, too.

Crow and Rain Barrel Cover FinalI tell my readers that fables have a lesson hidden inside, and we must discover the lesson each time we read one. We retell the story first, then have a discussion about what the fable is trying to teach us. They do not always agree on the lesson learned, and that is okay—as long as the reader can provide a solid explanation, their answer is accepted. Another fun activity we do is watch fables on Youtube and then discuss them in the same way. We complete the worksheet (downloadable at the bottom of the page) together first, and then students complete it independently with their favorite fable or one we have read together. You can also compare and contrast, but that would be a whole different activity.

I love using the Story World series for fables. Two of my favorites are The Crow and the Rain Barrel and The Lion and the Mouse (retold by Alan Trussell-Cullen). After reading The Crow and the Rain Barrel and discussing the message or lesson, we work on building the connection to our own lives. I record the students' thinking on chart paper. Students say things like, “the crow did it one stone at a time, just like we built our reading stamina a little at a time” and “the crow did it slowly, just like we have to take our time when we build a tower.” Powerful stuff! Students can then complete the attached worksheet for either book.

Fables are a fun read and provide an excellent opportunity for strengthening comprehension with our youngest readers. Do you have a favorite fable?


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


To download a free PDF of Lyssa's worksheet on lessons learned from traditional tales, click the template image below! To learn more about the Story World books used as an example in this post, visit our website or click the series highlights images below to download free information sheets explaining key features of the Story World-Real World series.


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Topics: K-2 Literacy, Literature, Lyssa Sahadevan, Story World, Narrative Text

Critter Corner: Why Do Wolves Howl?

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Aug 29, 2013 8:00:00 AM

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Ask any child to pretend to be a wolf, and in addition to scampering around on all fours and growling, the child is likely to throw back his or her head and let out a mighty howl. But why do wolves howl? Scientists learned a little more about that recently, and the results were released last week in Current Biology.

howling wolves 75563236 StayerAs it turns out, part of the reason that wolves howl is for a particularly kid-friendly reason: they miss their friends! Scientists at the Wolf Science Center in Austria discovered that when they took individual wolves out on walks on a leash, the wolves left behind tended to howl. The scientists decided to try to find out why, and they discovered that the closer social relationship a particular wolf had to the wolf being taken on the walk, the more likely the wolf left behind was to howl. Likewise, if the wolf being taken for a walk was higher up in the pack—more popular—the likelier the left behind wolves were to howl.

The scientists wanted to know if the wolves left behind were feeling stressed by the departure of the wolf they were howling for, so they measured their levels of cortisol (the "stress hormone"). They found that cortisol levels were not elevated, so the wolves were probably howling more to communicate with the wolf that left and/or to express sadness or loneliness, than they were to be feeling stressed out or fearful due to the wolf's departure.

You can incorporate this fun fact into your next lesson that mentions wolves, perhaps if you do a unit on Little Red Riding Hood and use the Real World book Wolves in the Wild. It would also be a great opportunity to explain to your students that the nature of scientific knowledge is that it is always changing and being refined. When Wolves in the Wild was published, we didn't know that wolves missed their friends, and now we do!

If you're interested in reading the original article, the PDF is available here. To learn more about the Story World Real World series that offers a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, along with three related informational texts, including Wolves in the Wild, click the book cover below to visit the web page, or click the information sheet to download it and learn about key features of the series. Happy howling!

5337 Wolves in the Wild Cover 180 

Photo credit: Stayer

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Topics: Story World, Real World, Critter Corner, Animals

Sneak a Peek at Story World and Real World on Pinterest!

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jul 17, 2013 8:00:00 AM

5122 Where Would You Like to Live Inside FINAL 6We've put some pages from our new series Story World–Real World on our Pinterest page!

Story World–Real World is a 40-book series for the K-2 classroom that bridges traditional narrative texts to informational texts. Comprising ten traditional tales like Little Red Riding Hood and thirty informational texts that relate to the stories, the series meets Common Core State Standards for reading in both literature and informational texts. Each of the traditional stories is paired with three informational books that offer fun and interesting real world facts relating to specific elements from the narrative text.

Story World is a series of traditional story tales retold by Alan Trussell-Cullen and intended to be supported by the informational texts available in the Real World series. While each story stands well on its own, with bright, contemporary illustrations and simple dialog, the accompanying informational texts give children a chance to more deeply understand the elements of the story and see how they tie into real life. The selection of stories is drawn from European fairy tales and Aesop's fables. Some, such as Three Little Pigs will likely already be familiar to children, while others, such The Lion and the Mouse, are less known and may be novel to them.

Click here to see our Pinterest board and take a look at the bright, interesting photography, fascinating facts, and whimsical illustrations.

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Topics: Story World, Real World, Pinterest

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Guest Post by Rhonda McDonald

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jul 5, 2013 8:00:00 AM

describe the imageThe “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You” project was made possible with a proposal known as the George H. Irby, Sr. Incentive Grant of $500.00, submitted to the Virginia Association of Federal Education Programs.   “….these funds must be used to support the academic achievement of students receiving Title 1 services and/or to enhance the involvement of their parents/families in the academic process.” 

My proposal involved parents and students recording video readings at home to increase time spent reading together, improve fluency and expression. Parent participation was a critical piece of the puzzle for motivating reluctant readers. I had observed the series of books of the same name as the project—collections of two- to four-page stories, by Mary Ann Hoberman—used in choral reading at reading conferences, and thought they would be an effective teaching tool. They are written in a humorous, rhyming script format for a pair of readers, and cover the genres of short stories, fairy tales,        Mother Goose, scary tales, and fables


The grant made it possible to purchase three video Flip cameras, three flexible Gorilla tripods, fifteen hardcover books, three rechargeable battery packs, a camera recharging unit, DVDs, DVD cases and plastic backpacks. I purchased two to three copies of five titles of books. The federally funded Title 1 program receives funds for Parent Involvement. With these funds, I purchased durable, plastic pocket folders and additional backpacks.


cameraWe began the program in January of each school year. A letter to parents explaining the project was inserted in the clear, front pocket of the folder. An agreement for parent and student to discuss and sign with rules for care of the camera while in their possession and tips for filming were in the inside pocket. Rules included no eating or drinking while using the camera. The camera was not to be used for any other type of recording or connected to any other computer. The students were not allowed to take the camera out of the backpack until they were at home.  In the back, clear pocket was a progress chart to keep track of participation.   

The backpack and one of the books were sent home with each student. The student was to take about a week to read the book with their parent, grandparent or other family member. Then they were to select their favorite four stories to practice for recording.  Once the progress chart was completed with these steps and the agreement had been signed by the parent, the book bag, book, and chart were returned to school.  

camerastandOur Title 1 group talked about and practiced operating the Flip camera. We discussed finding a quiet, well-lit place in the home to record. Then the student was given a Flip camera on a tripod to take home for two nights for recording the practiced stories. As the cameras were returned to school, I transferred the recorded stories into each student’s computer file and erased the Flip camera. The camera was recharged and ready to go home with another student. The practice of rotating the three cameras did not present a problem, because usually not more than three students were ready to film on a particular night. As their computer files grew with video clips, the students were able to watch the clips and critique each other.  As they say, “a picture says a thousand words.”  I think the opportunity for the students to hear themselves reading and to hear peers also motivated them to improve. I would recommend backing up the files onto another location for safekeeping.

At the end of the school year, the students typed a Table of Contents to place inside the cover of their own DVD.  On the front, I took a picture of each child holding his or her favorite book. They were very proud of their DVD produced with assistance from our Technology Teacher.  Comments from the Parent Survey that was sent home were favorable.


Title 1 students are selected based on a rubric with several pieces of evaluative data. Those with the greatest academic needs who are “at risk,” are eligible for the year-long program. Ten third grade Title 1 students participated in the 2011-2012 group. All of these students improved discstheir confidence, expression, and fluency with oral reading. They all passed their Virginia English Standards of Learning Test at the end of the school year. One student had a perfect score and three received a Pass Advanced Score. This was quite an achievement considering that some of these students started two years below their appropriate reading level. The average gain in Fountas & Pinnell Reading Levels was 4.3 reading levels.

The 2012-2013 group of six second graders and three third-grade Title 1 students have shown great improvements also. At this writing, I do not have end-of-the-year third-grade testing data to share. All of the second-grade students are reading on their appropriate grade level.


One of the challenges that I did not anticipate were homes where the parents were reluctant to fully participate. In those cases, I encouraged the students to invite different family members to read with them. We had recordings with sisters, brothers, and grandparents as well as moms and dads. The project grew as we invited personnel at school to take up the slack and read with the students. Readers that participated included the librarian, guidance counselor, classroom teachers, art and music teachers, the principal, and our technology teacher. Students also had the opportunity to invite a few of their peers from their homeroom. The project became a real team effort to help each student experience success. 

At first, I thought that the students should read a new selection each time they recorded. But in the course of the project, they discovered favorite stories. Each time they recorded those stories, they became increasingly confident with the script and could shine in the expressive delivery.  Some of the typically shy students became quite the dramatic actors and actresses.  The transformation was amazing to observe.


boys readingFor the 2012-2013 school year, I decided to expand the program to include Title 1 second-grade students as well as third. We invited some of the veteran students that are now in fourth grade to come record with the younger students. The fourth-grade students were proud to be the “experts.”  

I was able to purchase one additional Flip camera and tripod this year, as well as five books.

The idea for the program has been implemented with another Title 1 teacher in our county this year. She had the opportunity last year to record with some of my students and viewed first hand the value of the shared readings. I have shared the program with other teachers at the Roanoke Valley Reading Council’s Fall Conference and the 2013 Virginia State Reading Conference. The audience was eager to learn more and asked many questions. One teacher suggested adapting the program with other available equipment.


I would encourage anyone to implement this motivating project. There may be other types of technology that would do the same job as the Flip cameras. I chose this avenue because it was easy to operate and not too expensive for a piece of equipment to send home. If you should have questions, I would be glad to share my experience.  HAVE FUN READING!!  

- Rhonda McDonald


Rhonda McDonald is a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia. She can be reached at rhondakmcdonald2013@gmail.com.

One way this project can be adapted is to select a wide variety of reading materials. Books with dialogue work especially well for this purpose, including scripts, and fairy tales. Check out the series highlights of our SuperScripts and Story World series below for an example of books that have the potential to work well with this activity.




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Topics: Story World, Narrative Text, Rhonda McDonald, SuperScripts, Technology

Using Informational Texts in the Common Core Classroom: Grades 1-2

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on May 16, 2013 11:25:00 AM

Informational Text Standards:

Grade 1

Students should be able to do the following:

~ Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

~ Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.

~ Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.

~ Ask and answer questions to help determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases in a text.

~ Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.

~ Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text.

~ Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas.

~ Identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text.

~ Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).

Grade 2

Students should be able to do the following:

~ Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.

~ Identify the main topic of a multiparagraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text.

~ Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.

~ Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area.

~ Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.

~ Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.

~ Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.

~ Describe how reasons support specific points the author makes in a text.

~ Compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic.

The Common Core State Standards place a high value on informational text, emphasizing it more in the early grades than ever before. We've looked at how to work with narrative text in the classroom and how to deepen interest in literature by tying in facts (and vice versa); now, let's take a look at how informational text can function on its own in the classroom. For easy reference, I've reproduced here the standards that students are expected to meet with regards to prose literature in the sidebar.*

Helping Students to Recognize Features of Informational Texts

One of the main ways that informational texts differ from narrative literature texts, aside from the veracity of their content, is that informational texts have key recognizable features that can clue readers in to the fact that they are reading something that is intended to inform. We are all familiar with these features: table of contents, glossaries, indices, photos and realistic illustrations, etc., but it is likely that our students are completely new to the medium. As early as the first grade, the Common Core State Standards expect children to be able to recognize these features and know how to use them.

One way to familiarize students with the features is to scan the pertinent pages of an informational text that show the different features, and have students read along with their own copies of the book. You can present the pages in diagram form, labeling things such as headings, illustrations, and the index, and test the students on their knowledge with a worksheet with blank labels. An example of a bare-bones version of this is below.

ITparts diagram

Choosing Your Informational Text

6273 Pg07 school reading 000014079708 Kim GunkelWhen introducing your students to informational texts, you'll want to choose topics that both have all or most of the informational text features and will also be interesting to students. One way of finding topics that will interest them is to choose books that draw from and expand upon things the students are already familiar with. Another way is to find topics that they may have recently heard or read about through exposure to narrative texts.

These first informational texts should be bright and captivating, with pictures—illustrations and especially photographs—that draw students in. Where possible, the photographs should feature children, though this won't be applicable to every topic, of course. The informational texts should be at the correct reading level, with lines of text broken up into bite-sized chunks at sentence or phrase boundaries, with enough space between the letters and words that fledgling readers will not have trouble making them out.

While Hameray's new series Real World was designed to pair with the Story World series (narrative texts), they can stand just as well on their own as terrific informational texts. The topics are diverse enough that there will be something of interest for almost every young reader, from animals to the water cycle, and from baking to ball games. This also allows them to be worked into various teaching units throughout the school year. Disciplines covered span from the sciences to the arts and beyond.

The Story World-Real World series was specifically tailored to help students meet these Common Core standards, and the free Teacher's Guide (available for download in June) will include many ideas to support teaching informational texts.

Below are example lessons extracted from the Story World-Real World Teacher's Guide for one of the books in the set of informational texts intended to support the traditional tale Cinderella.** The book is called What's the Time?, and it is about different ways of telling time and where you can find clocks. There are many more activities and lessons in the teacher's guide; this is just a sample. There's a flip book of the title below the lesson.

Example Lesson: What's the Time?

Before reading the book:

Look at the cover with the children. Ask what kind of book is this going to be—a story (like Cinderella) or an informational text? (CCSS Reading Standards for Literature Grade 1 #5)

During the reading of the book:

If you are doing a shared reading, read the text with the children, spending time on the photographs and illustrations as well as the text (CCSS Reading Standards for Informational Text Grade 1 #7). For guided reading, decide on a specific learning focus: for example, vocabulary (reading, saying and understanding new words), or informational text features, or science information and concepts.

After reading the book:

Discuss Informational Text features (table of contents, headings, photographs, captions, glossary, index). How do they help us read and write about a nonfiction or informational subject? (CCSS Reading Standards for Informational Texts Grade 1 #5)

Reread pages 4–5: Can we see our own shadows? Use a light to act as the sun. Have a student stand in one place. Shine the light on the student so he or she casts a shadow. What happens if we move the light around the student? (The student’s shadow moves.) What have we made? (A human sundial!) Talk about the students’ shadows when they are out in the sunlight on a sunny day. Why is it that sometimes our shadow is front of us and sometimes it is behind us? Why do shadows seem to get smaller towards the middle of the day and then longer in the afternoon?

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Reread pages 12 – 13. Ask the children to count how many clocks they have at home. Are there any clocks on public buildings in your town or city? How many clocks can they find in the classroom? (Don’t forget computers.) In the school? Why do we need so many clocks?

WTTblog12 13 

 This was a sample lesson from the Story World-Real World Teacher's Guide. The suggested text is meant to help guide the discussion and facilitate interactions, but is in no way meant to dictate exactly how a lesson is taught.


 Features of What's the Time?

  • Informational text type: Description (Text type description: “informs the reader about the subject being described”.)
  • Informational text features: Table of contents, headings, glossary, index. (CCSS Reading Standards for Informational Texts Grade 1 #5)
  • Visual information: photographs with captions and labels. (CCSS Reading Standards for Informational Texts Grade 1 #6,7)
  • Vocabulary: (egg timer, sundial)
  • Supports integrated curriculum learning – literacy learning (reading informational texts: (CCSS Reading Standards for Informational Text Grade 1), plus science (Physical science: measurement, light and shadows, gravity).

To see all titles available in the series, you can visit our website or take a look at our brochure for the series or download the series highlights by clicking on either below.

- Tara Rodriquez


*All information regarding the CCSS comes directly from the Common Core website and can be found in the downloadable PDFs available on that site.

** Because this is a sneak-preview of the forthcoming Teacher's Guide, which is still in draft form, the final downloadable Teacher's Guide soon available may deviate slightly from what is presented here.

Photo credit: Kim Gunkel

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Topics: K-2 Literacy, Common Core, Story World, Real World, Informational Text, Lesson Plan

Connecting Narrative Text to Informational Text to meet Common Core

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on May 15, 2013 9:33:00 AM


156301275Yesterday we looked at how to use narrative text in the classroom to help students meet Common Core State Standards, using an example from Hameray's new series Story World by Alan Trussell-Cullen. Today, we're continuing down this path by exploring how to expose informational texts to children by pulling real world elements/topics from out of a piece of literature. The Story World-Real World series is a terrific vehicle for introducing different text genres since it pairs narrative texts—whether fairytales or fable—with related informational texts. 

The real world elements found in these informational texts are things that children will find interesting and will be welcome additions to a young reader's world knowledge. The topics span across many disciplines, from hard sciences to the arts. Here's the list of topics along with the story they were pulled from, to give you an idea:

Traditional Tale and Related Informational Text Topics

Cinderella: dancing, telling time, shoes

The Crow and the Rain Barrel: crows, the water cycle, things water is good for

The Gingerbread Man: making gingerbread cookies, ways to have fun with food, running speeds

Goldilocks and the Three Bears: bears, temperature, breakfast

The Greedy Dog and the Very Big Bone: bones, working dogs, how reflections work

The Lion and the Mouse: lions, keeping pet mice, teeth

The Little Red Hen: grains, bread, the field-to-table process

Little Red Riding Hood: wolves, safety, the tree-to-lumber process

The Princess and the Frog: frogs, ball games, what castle life was like

Three Little Pigs: pigs, unconventional types of housing, the home construction process

Lesson Ideas for Bridging Narrative to Informational Texts

Start by introducing students to the fictional story, and then asking engaging questions about the real world elements that can be found in the literature. Find out what students already know about these informational topics and have them tell you their opinions on them. Inquire what more they would like to find out about the topic and finally, introduce them to the relevant informational text.

Now, applying this lesson plan to the Cinderella Theme Set from Story World-Real World, you'll find a sample of how to introduce key real world topics found in the Cinderella tale as well as ideas for connecting these topics to the three related informational texts where they can be explored more completely. These ideas can be applied to a range of narrative and informational texts, but in the Story World-Real World series, the themes come organized for you! (Note: there's a flip book of each informational text from this theme set for your reference and you can flip through the Cinderella book by clicking to yesterday's post). See the three informational text topics below:

Dancing: Let's Dance!

  • Cinderella was happy that her fairy godmother was able to help her go to the ball, where she got to dance with the prince.
    • How many of you like to dance?
    • Do you have a special kind of dance that you like to do?
    • What kinds of music do people dance to?

Once you have engaged the students into thinking about the dancing aspect of the story, you can introduce the informational text, Let's Dance, which shows different kinds of dances from around the world. You may want to ask the students if they've seen any of the kinds of dance before, and if they have any traditional dances they do with their families. This can set the stage for a discussion on cultural diversity or sharing their experiences dancing at special events (weddings, parties, etc.).

The Common Core State Standards ask that children understand the feelings and experiences of the characters they encounter in narrative texts. Once you have established how the students feel about dancing and shown them the happy expressions on the people dancing in the book, you can come full circle to the Cinderella book, asking them why they think Cinderella might have been happy to dance (especially in contrast to the work she had been doing).

Telling Time: What's the Time?

  • Cinderella had to leave the ball when the clock struck midnight.
    • Sometimes, people tell the time on clocks that are on the wall, like in the story—can you think of other places that you've seen clocks?
    • Can you think of other ways that people tell time? (Some students might be familiar with sand timers from board games or references to telling time by the sun in movies.)

The informational text What's the Time? explains how people used to tell the time before the invention of clocks and shows places that clocks can be found. As you go through the book, you may want to ask the children if they have ever seen the earlier methods of time-telling and find out where their families have clocks. If the units coincide, you may also want to tie the reading in with a lesson on telling time.

The narrative text Cinderella does not actually say what happens when the magic runs out at midnight. You can ask the children to hypothesize what will happen to her coach and horse, and then talk to them about why it is important to be on time—what real-world consequences can result from being late? Have any of those things ever happened to them or to their families?

Shoes: Why Do We Wear Shoes?

  • The prince was able to find Cinderella by looking for a woman who fit the shoe she left behind.
    • Have any of you ever lost a shoe?
    • What kinds of shoes do you wear?
    • Do you have different shoes to do different things or to wear in different seasons?

Why Do We Wear Shoes? describes various types of footwear and what environments they are used for. As you go through the book, you could take a survey of the students and see whether they have worn the different types of shoes (roller skates, flippers, snow boots, etc.).

Bringing the topic back to the story, you can talk about how different people come in different sizes and about uniqueness—Cinderella's shoe fit her perfectly, but it did not fit the other women. You could do a foot-tracing activity to see if there is variation in the size and shape of the students' feet. You can also explain that sometimes people wear special shoes to dress up; they are not really made of glass Like Cinderella's, but sometimes they can sparkle and shine. You could have the students draw pictures of some shoes that they might like to wear, or cut them out of catalogs, then decorate them with glitter to make them "magic slippers."


5160 Pg14 children dance 69627673 Gladskikh TatianaUsing informational texts in tandem with the narrative text stories allows students:

  • to better understand the characters in the stories and their motivations, by tying them to the children's own opinions and experiences
  • it also helps them to understand the world around them better, by expanding their knowledge of topics, items, and concepts that they may have been familiar with only in passing.

For an even deeper look at the elements featured in the books, you can take your list of questions the children said they would like answered about the topics that weren't answered by the informational texts, and you can help them to look up the answers in a children's encyclopedia online. Or you can ask them what other parts of the story they would like to know more about—in the case of Cinderella, perhaps princes and how the idea of royalty works—and help them make their own books on the topic using online resources.

Combining the whimsy of traditional fairy tales with the excitement of curiosity-satisfying factual information is one way to make children eager to learn. You can see all available titles in the Story World-Real World series when you click on the image of the brochure below! Check back tomorrow for more ideas on how to use the informational texts!

- Tara Rodriquez

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, Story World, Real World, Narrative Text, Informational Text

Using Narrative Texts in the Common Core Classroom: Grades 1-2

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on May 14, 2013 10:00:00 AM

6358 Cover teacher reading 44645287  iofotoThe Common Core State Standards (CCSS) require students to gain exposure to a wide variety of texts, including narrative text (literature) and informational text. The CCSS for English Language Arts states the following:

"Whatever they are reading, students must also show a steadily growing ability to discern more from and make fuller use of text, including making an increasing number of connections among ideas and between texts."

With this idea in mind, the Story World-Real World series was created. Written by Alan Trussell-Cullen, this series is leveled for the first- and second-grade reader. It takes traditional story tales, updates them with modern, easy-to-read language and bundles them with a set of informational texts that tie in to real-life elements of the narrative text that children might be curious about. Today we will focus on the narrative texts, and how they can be used to satisfy the literature standards required for the early elementary classroom. For easy reference, I've reproduced here the standards that students are expected to meet with regards to prose literature in the sidebar.*

Narrative Text and Literature Standards:

Grade 1

Students should be able to do the following:

~ Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

~ Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.

~ Describe characters, settings, and major events ina story, using key details.

~ Identify words and phrases in stories that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.

~ Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information, drawing on a wide reading of a range of text types.

~ Identify who is telling the story at various points in a text.

~ Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

~ Compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories.

~ With prompting and support, read prose of appropriate complexity for grade 1.

Grade 2

Students should be able to do the following:

~ Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.

~ Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.

~ Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

~ Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story.

~ Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.

~ Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.

~ Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.

~ Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.

~ By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature in the grades 2–3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

The Story World-Real World series was specifically tailored to help students meet these Common Core standards, and the free Teacher's Guide (available for download in June) will include many ideas to support teaching narrative texts.

Below are example lessons extracted from the Story World-Real World Teacher's Guide for using children's favorite traditional tale: Cinderella. Note: there's a flip book of the story below, so you can read how the story was adapted for the this reading level**.

Example Lesson: Cinderella

Before Reading: introduce the idea of folktales (to support the Grade 2 standard on the topic): "We are going to read a story that people love so much that they have been telling it for hundreds of years." Examine the cover and the title with the students ask them what they think the story is going to be about.

As you read the narrative text with the children, encourage them to join in with the reading when they think they know the words. Before turning the page, encourage them to predict what will happen next. This gets them thinking about the structure of a story and allows them to draw upon the illustrations for clues.

After Reading: The Teacher's Guide provides a wide variety of "after-reading" activities to engage the children once you've finished the book. Here are a few examples:

•    Reread pages 6–7. What do you think Cinderella felt when she saw her fairy godmother appear? Role play: If you were Cinderella and you suddenly found yourself wearing a beautiful ball gown and sparkling glass slippers, what do you think you would say to your fairy godmother? What would you tell her about how you felt? Look at the illustration. Is there anything in the picture that might help you predict what is going to happen next. (Answer: the pumpkin and the mice.)

Cinderella 6 spread resized 600

•    Reread pages 8–9. Look at the illustrations. How can you tell what the coach was made from? What about the “horses”? Can you draw a clock and show where the hands would be at midnight? What does the fairy godmother mean when she says about the clock “striking” twelve? How do you think Cinderella was feeling as she drove off in the coach?

Cinderella 8 9 spread resized 600

•    Reread pages 14–15. Why do you think so many people wanted to try on the glass slipper? (Perhaps they all wanted to marry the Prince?) Do you think the Prince would have liked to marry one of Cinderella’s sisters? Why not? Look at the illustration closely—what do you think Cinderella is thinking and feeling?

Cinderella 14 15 spread resized 600

child drawing 44797486 Jane September
•    Shared writing activity: Get the children to retell the events of the story (CCSS Grade 1 #2). Then help them turn this retelling into captions, for example:

- Student: “Cinderella is made to do all the work. Her ugly sisters do nothing.” Teacher: What happens next? 

- Student: “The King’s invitation to the ball arrives.” Teacher: What happens next?

- Student: “Cinderella’s fairy godmother gets Cinderella ready for the ball.” Teacher: What happens next?

- Student: “Cinderella dances all night with the Prince.”

Write each caption for the children on large cards. Then divide the children into groups. Give each group a caption, a sheet of art paper for each child, and suitable art materials. Help them plan and complete their own illustration for each caption (CCSS Grade 1 #7). Mount their drawings on the wall with the captions in sequence to make a wall story. Prepare a “title page,” too, e.g, “‘Cinderella’ retold by room 4 at Sunshine School. Illustrated by (the children’s names).” Read the story with the children.

 This was a sample lesson from the Story World-Real World Teacher's Guide. The suggested text is meant to help guide the discussion and facilitate interactions, but is in no way meant to dictate exactly how a lesson is taught.

 Features of the Narrative Text Cinderella:

•    Aligned with the Common Core State Standards (see Reading Standards for Literature Grade 1 #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10).
•    Punctuation: speech punctuation, exclamation marks, questions marks.
•    Opportunities to develop reading for inference skills.
•    Dialogue between characters.
•    Vocabulary development
•    Words and phrases that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses (CCSS Reading Standards for Literature, Grade 1 #3).
•    The characters’ actions and feelings (CCSS Reading Standards for Literature Grade 1 #4).

Check back tomorrow to see how the informational texts related to Cinderella can be used to to help children make connections between the fictional narrative text of the story and things that exist in the world around them! To see all titles available in the series, you can visit our website or take a look at our brochure for the series by clicking below.

- Tara Rodriquez

*All information regarding the CCSS comes directly from the Common Core website and can be found in the downloadable PDFs available on that site.

** Because this is a sneak-preview of the forthcoming Teacher's Guide, which is still in draft form, the final downloadable Teacher's Guide soon available may deviate slightly from what is presented here.

Photo credits: Iofoto (classroom scene); Jane September (child drawing)

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Topics: K-2 Literacy, Common Core, Story World, Real World, Narrative Text, Alan Trussell-Cullen

Text Variety Helps Inspire Striving Readers: Alan Trussell-Cullen Pt2

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on May 13, 2013 8:00:00 AM

Exposing students to a wide variety of texts will both prepare them for life outside the describe the imageclassroom and also increase the chances that even the most reluctant readers will stumble upon a topic that will capture their interest and nurture a love of reading. In the second installation of our series of interviews with Alan Trussell-Cullen, teacher educator and author of our new Story World-Real World series, he shares some of his experiences in the classroom that illustrate just how important this variety can be.

Can you explain why it’s important for children to read an array of different types of text?

Firstly, it’s a matter of survival. In order to survive in the world today, we are confronted by so many different kinds of text, from road signs and billboards to manuals and recipe books, from poetry and literature to advertising slogans and TV graphics, from romance and mysteries to weather reports and timetables, and from blogs and tweets to “How-to” guides and “Who-done-it” mysteries. To live a so-called “normal” life in our modern world, one has to be able to read, understand, respond to, and create all kinds of text.

Secondly, it’s a matter of knowing what is out there in order to exercise our right to choose. When it comes to reading, we all have our fads and favorites. Adults do, and children, too. That’s not a bad thing—when Harry Potter appeared on the scene, millions of children suddenly began to read in a way they had never read before!

But children can also get stuck on a particular kind of book. Sometimes they lack the confidence to branch out and try something new. That’s where the good teacher can do a great job building reader confidence and coaxing them to try something new.

Often, it is a matter of finding some kind of personal link or connection. I can remember a nine-year-old boy in a class I was teaching. His name was Steve, and Steve was adamant that he didn’t like reading. Every day after the lunch break, the children in my class came back into the classroom and did about ten minutes of SSR. (Everyone probably knows that SSR stands for “Sustained Silent Reading,” but one six-year-old recently told me SSR stood for Super Silent Reading!)

Anyway, Steve hated SSR. While everyone else read their chosen library book or a book from the Class Bookshelf, or a book or story written by one of the children in the class (the kids would tell you: “We are all writers in this class!”), Steve would sit and fidget or stare into space. All my attempts to find something of interest for him didn’t seem to work.

And then one day a miracle happened. He told the class about his big brother. His big brother had a motorbike. His big brother loved his motor bike. So did Steve. He loved to help his brother take it apart and clean it and tune it. Now I knew next to nothing about motorbikes, so I asked Steve how he and his big brother knew what to do when they worked on the bike.

“He’s got these manual things,” said Steve. “He lets me read them, too.”motorcycles

 “Hey,” I said. “Do you think your brother would let you bring his motorbike manuals to school? You could read it at SSR time!”

Steve’s eyes lit up.

“Could I?” he asked.

The next day when the kids settled in for SSR, there was Steve with a rather tattered and suitably oil-stained volume which was obviously his brother’s motorbike manual! It was very technical, with diagrams and photographs, but Steve seemed to be reading it. I usually finished SSR with a few minutes of sharing, so on this day I asked Steve to tell us about his book. He began shyly, pointing out what he and his brother did the other night. He showed the class the page and explained the diagram. The class was enthralled—and not just the boys!

I had a special list on the wall headed “Our Class Experts.” Whenever someone showed they had special knowledge about something, we put their name up there. Then the other kids knew who to go to when they needed information or help on that subject. One of the kids put a hand up and said: “I think Steve should be up there as our class expert on motorbikes!”

Everyone agreed.

By now Steve was obviously floating on cloud nine!

He brought more stuff on motorbikes the next day. He wasn’t just looking at pictures—he was really reading. Other kids began to ask him questions. In art he drew motorbikes. Each day we had a writing time. Steve began to write about motorbikes. At first he wrote about the things he did with his brother. Then he began to write a book on motorbikes. The other kids loved it. One girl took it home. She said she wanted to show it to her brother, but I knew she didn’t have a brother! The whole class began to write manuals. Steve then began to make up stories about motorbikes. From motorbikes he moved to racing cars, and then big trucks. Then it was action stories and action heroes...

And what did I, as a teacher, learn from that? Reading shouldn’t just be about reading what the teacher thinks the children need to read. It isn’t just about reading books. And it isn’t about doing lots of “reading practice.” It’s about doing real reading, about helping kids connect their school experience with what they know and enjoy and love doing in their own lives. It’s about bringing the real world into their classroom and into their imagination.

Should parents and teachers approach how they use informational texts differently than narrative reading materials when reading with children? Why or why not?

I think Steve is the answer to this question. We don’t need to make a big difference between reading informational texts and reading fictional and imaginative material. It isn’t really a child reading smiling 6079588 Monkey Business Imagesdifferent kind of reading. If something is part of our lives, it can be part of our reading. Sometimes people think fiction is more emotional than nonfiction—but Steve really loved his motorbike manuals! And sometimes people think boys enjoy informational texts more than girls do. Well, maybe sometimes boys do, but we need to push children beyond received stereotypes. The girl who first took home Steve’s book on motorbikes wasn’t doing so to share it with her non-existent brother—she wanted to read it for herself!

Children need to read both informational texts and narrative reading material and they also need to write both and talk about both and feel free to choose both.

And incidentally, that is why I chose to write the Story World-Real World series for Hameray—it combines the world of imagination with the world of reality. We need both because one balances the other.

Can you tell us your best tip for teaching reading to beginning readers?

Don’t get too hung up about lots of standardized tests and reading levels. There are two wonderful instruments for assessing reading progress, and they are way better than any standardized test. And those are a good teacher’s ears and eyes!

The more we observe our children and listen to them, the more we will discover about them and the more we can help them become confident and engaged and unstoppable readers and writers.

...5054 Bears Cover FINAL

Story World-Real World, Alan's newest endeavor, features retellings of traditional tales that are coupled with informational texts to provide real-world background knowledge and support the elements of the story. For example, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which stands well on its own as an entertaining story, is available in this series bundled with books on bears, temperature, and breakfast. Each "theme" in the series works this way—by pulling elements out of the narrative text of the traditional story and giving children information about how those elements work in the real world. 

To learn more about the new series, you can download a page of key features below:

We'll have more content from Alan Trussell-Cullen in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back regularly if you like his tips for helping children learn to love reading! Additionally, if there is a reluctant reader in your home or classroom who likes motorbikes, be sure to check out our Download series, with topics such as Motorcycles, Motocross, and BMX bikes!

- Tara Rodriquez

*Photo credit: Monkey Business Images

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Topics: Making Learning Fun, Story World, Real World, Interview, Alan Trussell-Cullen, Download, Reluctant Readers

Hameray Herald: April 2013 Literacy Issue

Posted by Jacqueline Jones on Apr 30, 2013 3:00:00 AM


Story World Real World Newsletter3

Story World Real World is a new series by Alan Trussell-Cullen for the K-2 classroom. It bridges traditional narrative texts to informational texts and is comprised of ten (10) traditional tales and thirty (30) informational texts. The series meets Common Core Standards for reading in both literature and informational texts. Learn More

Little Red Riding Hood Spread 500px2 Download the brochure:


JCC Contest Teacher Spotlight 

The month-long Joy Cowley Classroom Giveaway comes to an end today (4/30/13) and a winner will be announced tomorrow: May 1st. With over 1,200 entries and counting, selecting a winner will be difficult, but there's still time to get last minute entries in before 5pm PST. Click Here for more info. 


Hameray's Classroom Literacy Blog adds a fun new feature that highlights educators who are making a difference. The Teacher Spotlight will recognize creative teachers (& parents) who are educating children in interesting and noteworthy ways. Know someone who should be highlighted? Email us at: info@hameraypublishing.com!





An Interview with Author Alan Trussell-Cullen

What inspires a child to grow up and become a writer? What influences can teachers, literatuhttp://blog.hameraypublishing.com/blog/bid/269987/The-4-Things-We-Learned-at-the-2013-International-Reading-Conferencere, and school experiences have on a student's future career path? Alan Trussell-Cullen, teacher educator and author of our new Story World-Real World series, has some insights—both from the perspective of the child and of the teacher. Read More.


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The 4 Things We Learned while Attending the International Reading Association Conference in San Antonio. Mrs Wishy-Washy Fans abound, design matters and meeting Common Core standards with a new series... Read More






The FREE OLDS Teacher's Guide is now available for download. This 30-page TE provides specific attention to administering an oral language assessment and more... Check out the detailed teacher's resource.




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Topics: K-2 Literacy, Story World, Hameray Herald, Alan Trussell-Cullen

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