Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Making Comics Based on Readers' Theater Scripts

Posted by Diane Roethler on Jun 4, 2014 10:21:00 AM

This is a guest blog post from fifth-grade teacher Diane Roethler. If you like what you read here, check out her blog at this link!

The books in the SuperScripts series are great high-interest, low-reading-level scripts that are perfect for small-group work. Each character is color-coded to make following along much easier. The topics cover activities and interests that my fifth graders love. This activity allows them to exercise their creativity as well as show that they are following the story line.


Since my students love to draw, one activity that I will be trying is to have the students create a comic strip to go with a portion of the script. The plan is to have each student choose an exciting/important part of the story to illustrate in a comic strip format. They dialogue is provided, so they just need to map it out and add the pictures.


Students will create four to five panels to illustrate the portion of the script they choose. It will be important that they include details in the pictures that have been stated in the script, such as character appearance, location etc. While the series of books does have illustrations in each book, there is plenty of opportunity for students to imagine what has not been included. In order to be successful with this activity, students will need to be able to comprehend the events in order to draw the accurately.


Diane has been teaching fifth grade in Iowa since 1999. She has her masters in Educational Technology and loves finding ways to integrate technology into her curriculum. She blogs about organization, classroom management, DIY projects, and more at fifthinthemiddle.blogspot.com. 


To download an information sheet with more information about the SuperScripts series, which contains the books show in this post, click the image below.

 SuperScripts Sales Sheet

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Topics: SuperScripts, Diane Roethler

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

Posted by Rhonda McDonald 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.

SuperScripts Sales Sheet  New Call-to-Action



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

Helping Striving Readers: Q & A with Alan Trussell-Cullen, Pt. 1 of 2

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jun 19, 2013 8:00:00 AM

 Welcome to our first installation of videos in which teacher educator and author Alan Trussell-Cullen answers questions about struggling and striving readers in the upper grades and how to best help them take an interest in and achieve proficiency in reading.

Click on the videos to watch. Transcripts, if preferred, are available below each of the videos.

Q: What kinds of difficulties does a striving reader have in the upper grades?

A: I think the difficulties that striving readers have in the upper grades tend to be two-fold. On one hand, there are technical issues. Obviously they’re going to have gaps in terms of their reading skills and their reading strategies. Because they’ve got those gaps they’re probably also going to have difficulties with comprehension.

Because a lot of learning that takes place in the upper grades is very closely tied in with reading, there is a lot of reading involved, then they’re going to have difficulties probably in other subject areas; the content areas like science and social studies, even mathematics and so on.

But the main difficulties that they tend to have tend to be attitudinal. It’s how they feel about themselves as readers and that so often tends to be rather negative and generally a lack of self-esteem that comes from the consistent problems they’ve been having with reading.


Q: What kinds of materials would be useful to support teachers and striving readers?

 A: I think there are two things that reading materials have to do. First of all they’ve got to provide success for these striving readers. Secondary, they’ve got to provide acceleration.
When we’re looking for good reading materials for striving readers, we need to look at the interest level or the content. It is tremendously important that the content is pitched at the age level that the student have when they’re reading this material. It has to be about the kind of things that students their age are interested in and want to know about and want to read about and get involved in.

That’s where materials like Hameray’s Download series and the The Extraordinary Files series are so valuable. Just have a look at the content; skateboarding, BMX riding, mountain bikes, pop groups, that’s really cool for kids of this age.

The language is very important. It’s important that not only that do characters do the kind of things they like doing, and think about the kind of things that they’d like to be able to be able to do and so on, they also need to talk like them too.


Q: What do you think about using plays for striving readers in the upper grades?

 A: I really like the Hameray’s SuperScript Series. Plays are using all the language written down, they’ve same things people say when they talk. Talk is one of those things which striving readers can do. So when they are reading that material they’re also able to refer to back to their own knowledge and experience in terms of oral vocabulary, in terms of the kind of language constructions we use when we talk.

When you’re reading a play, you’re reading with a group of other students, you’re reading together with other people. That’s very supportive. It’s also fun. It’s also fun to be able to do something with your peers, so that’s great.  While the reading age is more appropriate for Grade 2, Grade 3, the interest level is very much pitched to Grade 4 to 8.

If I was reading the play script, one of the things I would be supported by is the color coding, but also the big spaces between the lines. Basically, this is a very supportive text for a striving reader.  The context is really spot on for the readers of this age. Just look at the titles, Time Warriors, Alien Attack. They’re really just exciting materials. I also like the fact the speeches are short, the cast is small so everybody gets a turn. I like the fact that the action moves along quickly and also they’re supported nicely by some illustration here.

They have also have some other clever things that come with them. The cast names are in colored code. So that you just have to know well I'm the green one, or so I'm reading the yellow part. That actually helps you. Because so often when kids are doing a play, they get so engrossed in the play they forget ah, it’s my turn next. So that’s a useful tip as well.  So it’s all very helpful from a reading point of view, from a language point of view, from a social point of view, and also I think from a literacy point of view as well, because those are wonderful tradition in terms of drama and theater.

I think it might also encourage them in their writing as well. They might want to write a story about the kind of experience they have read here. They might want to write their own script, who knows. They might want to write their own little video play, lots of exciting possibilities.
Maybe one other point, when you’re on a play, particularly some of the characters in these plays, these characters have got attitude. They do things. They say things. They make things happen, and that’s very empowering for them as people too.


The book series mentioned in this interview, Download series, The Extraordinary Files, and SuperScripts are part of Hameray's High Interest / Low Vocabulary genre, intended to encourage struggling readers to read through presenting compelling topics that they want to read about. Download offers facts about the exciting world of extreme sports and hot contemporary subjects such as technology and natural disasters. The Extraordinary Files is a mystery-fiction series that follows the adventures of two sleuths as they work to solve cases, often of a supernatural bent. SuperScripts are action-packed, easy-to-follow plays in such genres as sci-fi, drama, and sports. They combine reading with social interaction, making it fun for even the most reluctant reader.

Flip through samples of books from these series to see how they appeal to readers who have trouble taking an interest in reading.

If you're interested in learning more about these series, you can click on the images below to download an information sheet with highlights and key features. Check back on Friday for the second part of this Q & A!

- Tara Rodriquez

Download Series Highlights Extraordinary Files Sales sheet SuperScripts Sales Sheet

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Topics: Videos, Alan Trussell-Cullen, Struggling Readers, Striving Readers, SuperScripts, Download, Extraordinary Files

Helping Striving Readers: Q & A with Dr. Adria Klein (Part 2 of 2)

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on May 7, 2013 6:00:00 AM

Welcome to our second installation of videos in which professor emerita and literacy expert Dr. Adria Klein answers questions about struggling and striving readers in the upper grades and how to best help them take an interest in and achieve proficiency in reading. If you missed part one of the interview, you can read it here.

Click on the videos to watch. Transcripts, if preferred, are available below each of the videos.

Q: Can technology be helpful for instruction with students that have reading difficulties?

A: Absolutely. Technology is essential. Students today know media often better than they know books. They need access to software, to interact with whiteboards to instructional techniques that are current and move at a pace and allow the student to interact in a way that interests them all the time.

When you think about older students in the secondary schools who are struggling readers, Paul Blum talks about the kinds of things that will capture their interest. And that is the opportunity to interact and responding to text. Software allows that to happen. It allows them to keep a record of their work and helps the teacher know how the students are progressing. It is also is helpful to have the technology where writing is an opportunity and not just the fact that we are playing a media game.

Q: How do you interest and motivate a striving reader to want to read?

A: All the ideas we’ve been talking about today have to do with reaching a striving reader. They have to want to try. They have to be interested in the books. And they have to be willing to put out their best effort. Stamina is a real issue with an older reader. They can't keep going as long as they need to keep reading in order to improve their comprehension and their vocabulary.

When we look at material with proper laying on the page, we have to think about picture support, we have to think about the size of the print, and we have to think about how many words they’re reading on a page. The idea that a text is too large a print size or has too few words on a page will put an older reader off.

Another factor would be the kinds of supports—are there side notes in the book, is there a glossary? Is there an opportunity for the student to find resources so they don’t have to stop and go get a dictionary?

Q: Are there other types of materials that support older struggling readers?

A: Another type of material that really supports comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency is the use of stories that are in play form. One of these materials, Superscripts is new from Hameray and gives the opportunity for students to read character parts as if they were talking. To do it like a play, and it supports how kids learn to read more fluently. That gives a wonderful opportunity for small group interaction in a highly supportive environment.

The characters are near the age of the readers that we are talking about, and the characters are of interest and in conflicts that upper grade, elementary, and junior high students would encounter in their own social and personal lives.

A lot of research has been done about what appeals to upper grade readers and play form, for scripts, for both independent reading and for small group reading is one of the most highly recognized forms of encouraging a struggling older reader.


The book series mentioned in this interview, SuperScripts, is part of Hameray's High Interest / Low Vocabulary genre, intended to encourage struggling readers to read through presenting compelling topics that they want to read about. SuperScripts are action-packed, easy-to-follow plays in such genres as sci-fi, drama, and sports. They combine reading with social interaction, making it fun for even the most reluctant reader.

Flip through a sample book from this series to see how these books appeal to readers who have trouble taking an interest in reading.


To see a wider variety of titles from this series, take a look at our catalog. We have more of these books and other series that will appeal to the same age-group and reading level.

Hameray 2016 Catalog Request

We hope you have enjoyed this Q & A with reading expert Dr. Adria Klein! Take a look at Part 1 of 2 if you haven't already seen it.

- Tara Rodriquez

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Topics: Videos, Interview, Adria Klein, Struggling Readers, Striving Readers, SuperScripts, Upper Grades

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