Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Zoozoo Storytellers Activities!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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



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

Then we did this fill-in activity.


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


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

Read More

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

Using Books to Teach Inference Skills in Early Grades, Part 1

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on May 12, 2016 4:56:41 PM


This is a guest blog post by Dr. Geraldine Haggard, who is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. It is the first post in a series of posts on using books for building inference skills. 

In this series of blog posts, I will look at the use of guided-reading-leveled books and oral language readers in the early grades to develop problem solving and inference skills in young readers. First, let’s look at some definitions for ‘infer’:

in·fer /inˈfər/ verb

  1. to search for a conclusion about something from known facts or evidence
  2. to reach a conclusion about something from known facts
  3. to make an educated guess based on looking carefully at facts and coming to a possible conclusion

How can we teach our students to possess this skill that is so necessary to the rest of their education, and, indeed, their lives?

child_reading_1953537_Arvind_Balaraman-300.jpgWhat Reading Recovery Has Taught Us

Marie Clay, in Reading Recovery: A Guidebook for Teachers in Training, stated her belief that "the child learns to read by attending to many aspects of text (letters, words, pictures, language, and messages).” The young reader responds as he learns these ways for working at problem solving. She stresses the teacher’s role in helping the child learn to search and simplify the complexity of print. Searching is one of the strategies to be modeled and prompted by the teacher as he or she works with emerging readers and writers.

In Becoming Literate, she states that the search for meaning enables the reader to notice new things about words, print, and messages. The children can then link these discoveries to other things they know. This inner control of reading helps the child construct information from the text and what he knows. Clay expressed her belief that every child is “entitled to an introduction to a text before reading.” This introduction can allow the student to connect things he knows and the text as he reads. Searching strategies can lead the young reader from what he knows to something that he hears or reads.

A Look At Common Core Standards Connected To Inferring

First we will explore kindergarten. The following standards are related to inferring at that level. As you study these, you will see the importance of listening and speaking activities.


  • With prompting and support ask and answer questions about key details in a text. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.1)
  • With prompting and support describe the relationship between the illustrations and the text in which they appear. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.7)
  • With prompting and support compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.9)


  • With prompting and support identify the main topic and retell key details of a text. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.K.2)
  • With prompting and support describe the connection between individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in the text. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.K.3)
  • With prompting and support ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.K.4)
  • With prompting and support identify the reasons the author gives to support points in a text. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.K.8)


  • Ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify meaning. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.K.3)
  • Describe familiar people, places, things, or events with prompting and support. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.K.4)
  • Add drawings or other visual displays to describe and provide additional details. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.K.5)

I have selected three books that can be used in different ways to help kindergarten children as they receive modeling, prompting, and opportunities to problem-solve by inferring. I’ll introduce the first one today and the others in part two of this series of posts. In part three, we’ll look

Zoozoo_cvr_TheSurprise-300.jpgBook One: The Surprise

The first book I chose is The Surprise by Alan Trussell-Cullen, which is part of the Zoozoo Storytellers series of oral language books for fluency. This book can also be used in guided reading. Before reading, share the cover illustration using an Elmo. Invite the children to study the projected picture and think of questions they might ask based on the picture before they hear the story. Examples of questions might include these:

  • What might the man be writing?
  • Who is the lady in the picture?
  • Why is there a calendar in the picture?

Invite the children to share their additional questions and write the questions on the board. Ask them to think about answers to their questions as they hear the story. Ask for sharing and prompt for replies. 

  • The man is inviting friends to a birthday party for the lady.
  • The date on the calendar is her birthday.
  • The man did not want the lady to know about the party and asked the animals to deliver the note, but to be quiet as they did the deliveries.

As the book is shared the following inferences might be made:

  • On cover page the man is happy. Why?
  • On page two do you think the lady understands what is happening?
  • What do you do if you "pass something along"?
  • On page 8, why is the lady 'up in the tree'?
  • On last page, do you think she was surprised?

Discuss the role of the illustrations as they discuss the questions' answers. The page with the discussion idea can be shared as you invite responses for each question.

This is the end of part one in this series of blog posts on teaching and using leveled books for science in kindergarten. To read the next post in this series, click here. You can subscribe to our blog in the upper right sidebar to get new posts delivered to your inbox.


Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from our Kaleidoscope Collection. She spent 37 years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, teaches in her church, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children.


To download information sheets with key features about the Kaleidoscope Collection, which the post author has written books for, and Zoozoo Storytellers, which contains the book mentioned in this post, click the images below.

New Call-to-Action  New Call-to-Action


Read More

Topics: Reading Activities, Kindergarten, Geraldine Haggard, Zoozoo Storytellers, Inference Skills

Teaching Punctuation for Expression

Posted by Dana Lester on Jan 27, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Dana LesterThis is a guest blog post by Dana Lester, who writes a blog called Common to the Core, in which she writes about the Common Core State Standards, student reading skills, behavior management, books and products, and more. Dana is writing a series of guest posts; to see her other contributions, you can click here!

Punctuation’s Important!

Hi! This is Dana from Common to the Core. Today, I want to talk for a few minutes about punctuation. When we think about fluency, the first thing that usually comes to mind is speed or maybe accuracy. Expression is usually an afterthought, but it is just as important. You’re wondering what fluency has to do with punctuation, right? Well, punctuation drives expression. Our inflection is decided by the punctuation of each sentence. Consider the difference in these two sentences:

1. Let’s eat Grandma.

2. Let’s eat, Grandma.

Sentence 1 always makes me giggle! Leaving out the comma not only changes our tone, but the meaning as well. We have to teach our young readers this!

After teaching your students the basic punctuation marks (period, comma, question mark, and exclamation point), bring attention to them in the context of text. Using a big book or morning message, let students highlight the punctuation marks with highlighter tape. Place a sheet protector over a page in a book and circle punctuation marks with a dry erase marker.

A favorite way of mine to bring attention to punctuation marks is with sound effects. First, students make up a sound and motion for each mark. Then, during oral language activities, or anytime the child speaks out in the class, they must use the sound and motion at the end of the sentence. For example, with my first graders, the sound for a period was of tires screeching on the road. The gesture was to put your hand out and down like you were pushing an imaginary brake pedal. When students made a statement it would go like this, “I like to play on the monkey bars EEERRKK” and hand would press that imaginary brake pedal. They loved it!

The Zoozoo Storytellers books by Alan Trussell-Cullen are great for practicing intonation. These books have nice short sentences full of sight words that even your most struggling readers should recognize. Students can easily look ahead to the punctuation mark at the end of these short sentences and practice using the correct tone and voice inflection. Take a look at the punctuation in the flipbook below:

A method for practicing punctuation mark fluency is to write down the alphabet and insert the marks you want to practice. It looks something like this:

Abc? Defg. Hi? Jklm, n, o,p. qrs? Tuv. Wx! Yz!

Go ahead, read that aloud, it’s fun!

Please share with us any activities you use to practice punctuation fluency in the comment section below!



Dana Lester received a B.S. and Master’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and is currently teaching at Walter Hill School in Murfreesboro, TN. Dana is also a Common Core Coach with the Tennessee State Department of Education. She has 12 years of classroom experience and has just begun her role as Library Media Specialist. As a strong advocate of the Common Core Standards and Whole Brain Teaching strategies, she engages her students in hands-on, inquiry based learning and shares many ideas and activities on her blog, Common to the Core. She was named Teacher of the Year at Walter Hill in 2013.


To learn more about Zoozoo Storytellers, you can click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights image below to download an information sheet with key features.

New Call-to-Action

Read More

Topics: Dana Lester, Zoozoo Storytellers, Punctuation, Oral Language Expression

Oral Language Development Lesson with Zoozoo Storytellers

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on May 8, 2013 10:02:00 AM

“Oral language is the foundation of all literacy. Those who can use language to clearly express themselves are more likely to succeed when learning to read and write or, reading and writing to learn.” - Dr. Lance Gentile

                                                                                    describe the image

"Research in literacy has demonstrated that primary school children who have well-developed oral language have higher levels of achievement in reading and writing in upper elementary school. English language learners (ELLs) comprise an estimated 7% (3 million) of the US public school population. However, studies done by Allington (2002) and Snow, Burns, and Griffin (1998) have shown that ELLs and students with various English vernaculars from impoverished socio-economic backgrounds frequently have low levels of oral language development. It is well documented that these groups tend to struggle with literacy throughout their years of public education."*

Specially developed to support oral language development, the Zoozoo Storytellers series written by Alan Trussell-Cullen contains ten books, each also available in a teacher's edition with a five-day lesson plan written by language and literacy specialist Dr. Lance Gentile.

The books contain a consistent cast of characters, who will quickly become familiar to students and keep them interested in the books and curious about what will happen next in the lives of their "new friends." The stories use bright illustrations and humor to teach not only reading and oral language skills, but also social skills.

In the case of our example book, Oops! Sorry!, children learn that if they cause something unpleasant to happen to someone, even if it is an accident, the correct thing to do is apologize.

Flip through Oops! Sorry! for a representative glimpse at the Zoozoo Storytellers content, and then look below for an excerpt of the lesson plan created to teach with the story.

The lesson plans from the teacher's edition can either span a five-day class week or you can tailor them to fit your own classroom's needs, combining more than one activity into a longer lesson, or cherry-picking which activities best serve your particular students. This lesson, from Day 1 of the lesson plan, focuses specifically on Oral Language Development:

Objectives: (based on National Standards) Children will be able to:

1) Listen, look at pictures, and understand a story told to them.
2) Listen and respond to specific purposes related to a story.

Warm Up:
1) Display the back cover. Introduce and talk about the characters in the story.
2) Show the front cover and point under the first letter of each word as you read the title. Ask the children to read it with you as you point again.
3) Build background knowledge by leading the children in a conversation about apologizing to others. (When? Why? How?)

Activity: Picture Talk and Developing Narrative
1) Identify a meaningful purpose for the children to listen as you tell an elaborated story. Say, “I am going to show you the pictures and tell you a story. Listen carefully, because when I
am finished, I will ask you what the word unaware** means.”
As you repeat the word, clap the syllables. Then ask the children to clap and say un-a-ware with you.

The following example is meant to guide, not dictate, the exact story you tell. Make sure you incorporate the text from the book in your story. When you come to the pages with text, model reading by pointing under the first letter of each word as you say it.

Cover: The title of our story today is: Oops! Sorry! Max and the monkeys are swinging wildly through the trees.

Title Page: Emma is drinking water. She is unaware of what is about to happen. Max is swinging on a vine. He suddenly realizes that he is headed for Emma’s rear end.

Page 2: Max bangs into Emma. He says, “Oops! Emma, I’m sorry.”

Page 3: Emma is shocked when Max hits her. She sprays water out of her trunk. Pam is mopping and is unaware that she is about to be hit with water.

Page 4: As the water hits Pam, Emma says, “Oops! Pam, I’m sorry.”

Page 5: Pam is knocked down by the water. She throws her mop backwards as she falls. Carlos is unaware that the mop is heading straight for him.

Page 6: Pam is drenched. She’s flat on the ground. She watches as Carlos is hit with the mop and hollers, “Oops! Carlos, I’m sorry!”

Page 7: The mop hits Carlos off his feet. As he falls, he tosses the bucket he is carrying into the air. Water is spilling from the bucket as it flies towards Ferdinand who is happily resting on a lily pad. Ferdinand is unaware of what is happening.

Page 8: Carlos lifts the bucket off a confused and soaked Ferdinand. Carlos says, “Oops! Ferdinand, I’m so sorry.”

 This is only one of five lessons included in the teacher's edition for this book. Each of the Zoozoo Storytellers books contains similar lessons, with an Oral Language Development lesson, as well as lessons for Story Retelling, Comprehension and Vocabulary Development, Concepts About Print, and a Review lesson.

Repeated exposure to the same story over the course of a week allows children to experience in-depth learning. Recurring characters across stories ensures that once it is time for an independent reading session, children will be eager to pick up the books and read the new stories featuring the familiar characters.

For a downloadable one-page summary of key points about this series, click below!

New Call-to-Action

Check back in tomorrow for more information on how to support oral language development in the classroom!

- Tara Rodriquez

*Paragraph text taken from the Oral Language Development Series Teacher's Guide, published by Cavallo Publishing and soon available on our website.

**This higher-level vocabulary is intended to challenge and engage your students. Other italicized words in the following example can also be used for this activity. These are examples only. Choose vocabulary based on the level of your students’ abilities.

Image credit: © Lanak Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
Read More

Topics: Oral Language Development, Alan Trussell-Cullen, Lance Gentile, Zoozoo Storytellers

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all

Follow Me