Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Asking Questions with Informational Texts—with FREE Download

Posted by Lyssa Sahadevan on Sep 20, 2017 5:01:35 PM


This is a guest post by Lyssa Sahadevan of Marietta, GA. She writes a blog called My Mommy Reads, which is about motherhood and teaching-related topics.

Readers ask themselves questions as they read to make sense of the text. When readers ask their own questions, the reader learns to search for answers and find deeper understanding. Asking questions while reading informational texts is just as important as when reading fiction. Here are three engaging ways to encourage asking questions with our earliest readers.  

  1. Model, model, model! Use the projector or a big book to model asking questions before, during, and after you read a nonfiction book. Choose your book wisely as this lesson will anchor the others. One of my favorites is Lions by Alan Trussell-Cullen. It has beautiful pictures and the chapter headings happen to be questions.
  2. Keep it interactive! Make a large chart divided into three sections — before, during, and after. Place three sticky notes on each student’s desk. Explain that they will need them later. This will build excitement! During morning meeting or a transition time, show the cover of your next informational read aloud. Read the title and share the table of contents if applicable. Invite your students to write a question they have about the text. They may not have a question, and that’s OK. Repeat the process during your read aloud and after you read. You can spread it out over an entire day… if the sticky notes last.
  3. Bring it to their level! Use question cards to guide students during guided reading or small group time. I have included a freebie set I use in my classroom. I laminate and cut these so I can use them again and again with many levels. I have students who love animals (Amazing Otters) and some who want to know more about weather (Wind.) These cards will work for many topics. I also print them 12 to a page so I can create bookmarks for my students to take with them as they read independently.


Asking questions supports retelling, monitoring for meaning, and making connections. Scaffolding our readers by modeling and keeping it engaging makes the journey a little more fun.


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.


For more information on the books mentioned in this blog post, click the series highlights images on the left below or click these links to visit our webpages for the Kaleidoscope Collection or Fables and The Real World series. To download the questioning cards, click the image to the right.

New Call-to-Action   New Call-to-Action  Question Cards             

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Topics: Lyssa Sahadevan, Kaleidoscope Collection, Reading Comprehension, Scaffolding, Fables and the Real World

Writing About the Self Leads to Learning About Others

Posted by Susan Weaver Jones on Sep 6, 2017 11:18:00 AM

susan-weaver-jones.jpgToday's guest blogger is Susan Weaver Jones, an elementary educator from Orlando, Florida, who currently works as an ESL teacher in Knoxville, Tennessee. She has taught students in Kindergarten through Eighth Grade as a Classroom Teacher, Reading Specialist, Reading Recovery Teacher, and Literacy Coach. She is also the author of three leveled readers in Hameray's Kaleidoscope Collection.


As a child, I eagerly read biographies about historical figures, especially those that featured women. I was fascinated to learn about the lives of women, such as Sacagawea, Phillis Wheatley, Maria Mitchell, and Liliuokalani, and their significance in United States history. I was especially interested in the life of Susan B. Anthony, since we shared the same first name! My understanding of our country's past was enriched through reading about many remarkable women and men and their contributions.

Unfortunately, many students today might not be familiar with the names and stories of those who lived long ago, despite their place in history. With a few exceptions, our predecessors often lack the name recognition of contemporary celebrities. The background and importance of our forebears may seem distant and irrelevant to our students. How can we as teachers help our students build meaningful connections between the past and the present?

One way to spark students' interest in biographies links the familiar with the unfamiliar. In this case, the known information involves the people the students know best: the students themselves! As an introductory activity to biographies, have students focus on autobiographical information. With the spotlight turned inward, students can use their vast amounts of expert knowledge about themselves.

To that end, I have modified a Bio Poem format intended for persons whose life histories and accomplishments are well known. The resulting Autobiographical Poem format works well for students whose adult lives and notable achievements are yet to come. You may want to prepare a sample Autobiographical Poem about yourself as a model for your students. Discuss with students possible ways of addressing the details needed to complete their own poems.  


Once students have worked through creating and sharing autobiographical poems about themselves, help them shift their focus to friends or family members. Students can interview their selected subjects to learn what information could be included when they write Biographical Poems about the other persons.

The Biographical Poem template shown below was adapted from the Autobiographical Poem format. Since both poems describe living persons, the descriptors are phrased in present tense.

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After students experience writing autobiographically about themselves and biographically about people they know, turn their attention to biographies about people they don't know. Choose a biography of a person likely to be unfamiliar to most, possibly all, of the students, and read it aloud to provide a common experience and basis for discussion. One source, the Hameray Biography Series, includes 30 different inspirational individuals who could be of interest to your students.

Once you have read and discussed the chosen biography with your students, guide them through the process of completing Biographical Poems about the person. You may opt to allow some differences between students' poems, as long as the information included in their poems is accurate.

An example of a Biographical Poem about Eleanor Roosevelt is shown below. The details in the poem reflect the content included in Eleanor Roosevelt: A Modern First Lady by Dvora Klein, which is part of the Hameray Biography Series.

Roosevelt Example Biography396.jpg 

After students have finished listening to the read-aloud biography and have written their Biographical Poems about the subject, provide them with the opportunity to work individually or in small groups. Use multiple biographies on different reading levels about several other historical figures to accommodate students' interests and reading proficiencies. Students who read different biographies about the same person can work together to share information.


To follow up reading and learning about other well-known individuals, students can begin working on Biographical Poems independently or with students working on the same person. Using their familiarity with the Biographical Poem format, students can locate pertinent details to complete poems about their current subjects. (A past tense Biographical Poem template for persons who are no longer living can be downloaded.)

Historical Biography396.jpg

            By the time students finish their last Biographical Poem, they will have participated in several opportunities to develop appreciation for, interest in, and understanding of the genre of biography. Writing about themselves first allowed them to make connections to other people through Biographical Poems.   

eleanor-roosevelt245.jpg              martin-luther-king-jr245.jpg


walt-disney245.jpg               sacagawea245.jpg





To download Susan's activity, or an information sheet with key features about the Hameray Biography Series, which contains the books mentioned in this post, click the images below.


     Biography Series Highlights     Bio Poems Packet



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Topics: Teaching Writing, Biography Series, Poetry, Writing Activity

Using Nonfiction and Fiction Texts for Fluency in First Grade

Posted by Cindy Price on Aug 25, 2017 4:08:15 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!

In today’s classroom, there is a lot of focus on fluency. Children are supposed to be able to read to us as if they were talking to us. So we begin in the primary grades to focus on fluency using easy text.

In my room, I wanted my children to read fluently but not just fiction books. I wanted them to read nonfiction books as well. This is why I love the Zoozoo Into the Wild series by Hameray Publishing!

This series has a nonfiction section as well as a fiction section. This allows us to bring in various texts that will pique their interests and ones that we can use during our guided reading groups as well.

The books we read were Zebra, Oh, Zebra!, Frog, and Frogs Play.

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As usual, we began by reviewing the vocabulary. Each book had some awesome words to review with my kids! I love having my kids come up with synonyms for the vocabulary words.

We made inferences about the fiction stories. They looked at the cover and told me what they thought would happen. With the nonfiction stories, they shared all that they thought they knew about the animal. We completed can, have, and are charts using the nonfiction texts.


The text in both the fiction and the nonfiction books were perfect for my small group and my low readers. But all of my kids gravitate towards these books! They love the pictures and the easy to read text.

As I read the text to them, I stop and ask them questions. I also allow them to ask questions and to talk with a partner throughout the book. I love these pages. Look below and click on the picture for the link to the series.

The Nonfiction Texts

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After we discussed the books we then completed some activities! The pages that we completed are below! Click on the photo for the link to worksheets.

The Fiction Texts


I love how we can compare and contrast the two series. That is a common core standard for first grade. Comparing and contrasting two texts about the same topic. But we could also compare the texts against each other, frogs and zebras. Students were able to discuss the differences in environments and storylines as well as diet and life cycles.

After we discussed the books, we then completed some activities. The pages that we completed are below. Click on worksheet image at the bottom of the page to .




Click on the image below to learn more about the Zoozoo Into the Wild Series that is featured in this post.

New Call-to-Action Frog and Zebra Activity Packet

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Topics: Leveled Readers, Zoozoo Into the Wild, Nonfiction, First Grade, Cindy Price, fiction, Fluency

Congratulations to This Year's Teacher Leader Scholarship Recipient!

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Aug 22, 2017 4:34:23 PM

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We at Hameray Publishing are pleased to announce the recipient of this year's Hameray Publishing Group/Yuen Family Foundation Reading Recovery Teacher Leader Training Scholarship: Erin Nock of Farmington Public Schools. Erin will be attending the University of Connecticut, where she will study how to best help young struggling readers. Her scholarship includes $15,000, plus $1,000 worth of books to be used as tools with her students.

From the Reading Recovery Council of North America:

Erin brings 17 years of teaching experience to her training, with 11 in Reading Recovery. She is an active advocate for Reading Recovery and plans to be an accessible teacher leader who will train new teachers and support and expand the program. Farmington Public Schools has implemented Reading Recovery for 24 years. In 2017-18, 2,874 students were enrolled in K-8, with 440 students qualifying for free and reduced lunch.

The Reading Recovery Council of North America (RRCNA) is a not-for-profit association of Reading Recovery professionals and partners. The Council provides a network of professional development opportunities and is an advocate for Reading Recovery in the United States and Canada.

More than 2.3 million struggling first-grade readers and writers in North America have benefitted from the one-to-one teaching expertise of Reading Recovery professionals. The intervention, introduced to North America in 1984 by educators at The Ohio State University, has more research proving its effectiveness than any other beginning reading program.

From 2009 to 2017, the Hameray/Yuen Family Foundation has donated $245,000 in scholarships funds and $18,000 for recipients to purchase learning materials for the training of 18 Teacher Leaders, of which Erin is only the latest. Since their training, the preceding 17 Teacher Leaders have trained over 1,750 teachers (Reading Recovery, Literacy Coaches, and classroom teachers), and, together with the teachers they have trained, they have impacted over 18,330 students.

Three of these Teacher Leaders are also involved with Dual Language Learners programs. One teaches in a major Reading Recovery district in Canada. Four are no longer involved in Reading Recovery but have moved on to be reading interventionists or occupy similar positions where they are still of great help to teachers and students.

Want to learn more about Reading Recovery? Visit the website for the Reading Recovery Council of North America!

If you wish to apply for the 2018/2019 Teacher Leader Scholarship, you can send us an e-mail at info@hameraypublishing.com, and we will put you on a list to send information when next year's scholarships are announced.

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Topics: Yuen Family Foundation Scholarship

Dr. Richard Gentry Explains Why Students Can't Write

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Aug 16, 2017 4:29:43 PM


Dr. Richard Gentry, "America's Spelling Guru" and one of the authors of the new professional book Kid Writing in the 21st Century, shared a blog post on Psychology Today yesterday explaining why students can't write, what to do about it, and how to use this great new tool to accomplish more in the classrom than you may have imagined possible. Here's an excerpt from his post:

Kid_Writing_Book_250.jpgSo what do educators need?

We need to be child-centered in the context of meeting kids where they are functioning—when they enter kindergarten. We need to motivate children as writers. It’s crucial to teach basic skills like spelling and handwriting explicitly. Children need a dictionary of academic words in their brains that they can retrieve for writing. Children have to listen to or read poetry as well as good fiction and nonfiction literature to feed their brains as writers. Writers have to have academic vocabularies and deep knowledge for thinking. And vocabulary and background knowledge have to be taught—especially for children in low-income neighborhoods and for English Language Learners who don’t grow up in an English language-rich environment.

To accomplish these curricular objectives teachers need proven, evidence-based practices that have grown from both progressive education and basic skills movements.

The not-so-new wakeup call exposes an important education policy problem on which all educators see eye to eye: “The root of the problem, educators agree, is that teachers have little training in how to teach writing and are often weak or unconfident writers themselves.” (Goldstein, p. 8) The problem—lack of preparation for teaching writing at their grade levels and lack of “knowing how to get started”—is evidence-based and reported by educators in both approaches' camps, with multiple studies showing that (1) how to teach writing isn’t taught in teacher preparation programs and (2) teachers in both camps report lack of confidence.

The Goldsteinaug article poses the question: “Could there be a better, less soul-crushing way to enforce the basics?” For kindergarten and first grade teachers or anyone working with beginning literacy, the answer is “Yes, there is a way.”

Want to know more? You can read the rest of Dr. Gentry's Psychology Today post by clicking here.




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Topics: Kindergarten, Teaching Writing, First Grade, Kid Writing, J. Richard Gentry

Summer Reading Challenge—with FREE Download!

Posted by Lyssa Sahadevan on Jul 7, 2017 3:59:10 PM


This is a guest post by Lyssa Sahadevan of Marietta, GA. She writes a blog called My Mommy Reads, which is about motherhood and teaching-related topics.

My first graders are readers. They love books, stories, magazine articles, graphic novels, e-books, and so on. When it came to summer reading though, I knew I had to be creative. I want them to have an amazing summer filled with playing outside and spending time with their families. I also want them to READ!

I had seen several reading challenges on Twitter and decided to discuss the possibilities with my class. Could first graders come up with categories to support their own summer reading? Yes! There was much debate and then a bit of voting. They decided to go with favorites, community, and award winners. Favorites included any books they already loved. The community category was centered on learning more about our world—the people and places. As our class has really celebrated award-winning books this year, I was thrilled with their third category: award winners of all kinds. My students even had the idea to make a challenge for their friends. We decided to create bookmarks so they could check off the books as they read them over the summer.

Once the challenge was in place and the bookmarks were made, we needed to discuss each category in detail. Hands quickly went up. Joy Cowley Collection books were especially popular. One reader wanted to borrow the Mr. Tang set because there are three books and they are his favorites. Another reader wanted a Mrs. Wishy-Washy book because she has always wanted to live on a farm. The lists were growing, and this teacher could not have been happier.


While I do want my students to read over the summer, I want their reading to be personal and full of choice. I want them to broaden their horizons. I want them to continue to love reading. I want them to know their teacher will be taking the challenge, too! Will you join us? Download our reading challenge bookmarks below!


For more information on the books mentioned in this blog post, click the series highlights images on the left below or click this link to visit our webpage for the Joy Cowley Collection series. To download the reading challenge bookmarks, click the image to the right.

New Call-to-Action      Nonfiction Notes                                  

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Topics: Joy Cowley Collection, Mrs. Wishy-Washy, Lyssa Sahadevan, Mr. Tang, Summer Reading

Nonfiction Spanish Books for ELL Students

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Jun 15, 2017 3:12:00 PM

ELL students in the reading classroom face two important objectives: they must learn how to read in accordance with the Common Core, and they must also learn how to read in a nonnative language.

In efforts to improve English fluency, some ELL classrooms focus their efforts on grammar and language skills. While no one denies that it’s difficult to read English without knowing English, repetitive language exercises prevent young ELL students from gaining knowledge through reading. As they miss out on the real world- and subject-specific knowledge gained through books, the achievement gap between ELL students and native English students widens.

Hameray’s Spanish titles allow ELL students to simultaneously gain content knowledge and improve their English. Mundo Real, Fábulas mundo real, Zoozoo En la selva, and Zoozoo Mundo Animal all feature Spanish nonfiction texts that deepen readers’ knowledge of the world around them.

For example, when Spanish ELL students read about gorillas and doplhins n a familiar language, they can learn important information. Then, by reading the English counterparts from Zoozoo Animal World, their comprehension and understanding of the English language deepens.


For very young ELL students, Zoozoo En la selva offers simple yet humorous texts. For older ELL students, Mundo Real and Fábulas Mundo Real contain longer, more grade-appropriate information about social studies and science.


One of the fundamental, often forgotten truths is that ELL students are just as bright, inquisitive, and impressive as any other student. Their unfamiliarity with the English language shouldn’t prevent them from extending their real-world knowledge!


Click the images below to download information about Hameray's many Spanish series. 

 Zoozoo Mundo Animal Sales Sheet  Zoozoo En La Selva Sales Sheet  

Fabulas y el Mundo Real Sales Sheet  Mundo de los Cuentos Mundo Real Sales Sheet

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Topics: Zoozoo Mundo Animal, Spanish, ELL, Nonfiction, Fabulas y el mundo real

Writing Prompts for Kids!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Jun 8, 2017 2:12:00 PM

Writing activities are essential for both the teacher and the student. With creative writing prompts, the student practices language and writing skills while the teacher gets a glimpse into the thoughts of every student, even the shy and quiet ones!

To make sure that writing remains fresh and exciting for children, it’s important to present different writing prompts throughout the year. Kid Writing in the 21st Century, Hameray’s newest professional book, provides a plethora of creative and unique writing prompts for any classroom: 

Kid_Writing_Book_500.jpg1. New Adventure Books. If students don’t know what to write about, encourage them to create new stories about their favorite fictional characters like Mrs. Wishy-Washy or Mickey Mouse!

2. Author Studies. Have students research the author of their favorite book by reading the back flap or looking at the author’s online website. Then, have students compile the information they learned into writing!

3. The Ouch Pouch. If students experience an injury or illness, have them write about their experiences on a paper shaped like a Band-Aid. Place the writing into a bag labeled the Ouch Pouch and allow the student to share their writing with the class.

4. Personal News Stories. Allow each student to make their own newspaper centered on their life: what is good news, bad news, and entertainment news that they think is newsworthy? By creating a multi-article newspaper, children will be writing informational stories about various aspects of their personal life. Journalism also encourages students to think about their audience while writing.

5. Yuck Menu. After reading Mud Soup from the Kaleidoscope Collection, ask each student writes and draws something yucky to add to the soup. Compile their work into one big class book called Yuck Soup!


This blog post only features 5 of the countless writing prompts included in Kid Writing in the 21st Century. For more classroom writing ideas, make sure to check out the book!


Click the left image below to download information about Kid Writing in the 21st Century, a professional book written by Eileen Feldgus, Isabell Cardonick, and Richard Gentry. 

 Kid Writing in the 21st Century Brochure

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Topics: Creative Activities, Writing Activity, Kid Writing

5 Research-Based Practices for Kindergarten and First Grade

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Jun 5, 2017 3:35:57 PM

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Kid Writing in the 21st Century authors Richard Gentry, Eileen Feldgus, and Isabell Cardonick have been featured in a guest post over on the Psychology Today blog. The post details some of the research-based, classroom-tested practices and strategies that have been shown to help kids learn to write. Here's an excerpt from the post:

1.  Use invented spelling. We found invented spelling to be joyful, motivational for our students, and wonderful in terms of providing opportunities for scaffolding and systematically teaching almost all important aspects of the kindergarten literacy curriculum including phonics, phonemic awareness, knowledge of the alphabet, writing conventions, and vocabulary development. But perhaps the most amazing discovery throughout our journey was that kids had remarkable capacities to make meaning if we supported them in the process and allowed their creative juices to flow.

2. Abandon teaching letter of the week. Teaching one letter per week was standard practice in kindergarten when we began teaching. We tried our best to jazz up our teaching of the alphabetic principle because we knew it was essential to breaking the code and reading.

3.  Use a developmental writing scale to monitor progress. Even before we published the first book on Kid Writing, we were collaborating with Richard Gentry on how to use a developmental spelling/writing assessment along with a developmental rubric to show how young children’s progression through five phases of developmental spelling revealed—among other things—the individual child’s understanding of phonics and his or her invented spellings as evidence of what the child knew or did not know.

4.  Let go of worksheets! We found that teaching and learning in our classrooms improved when we abandoned worksheets.

5. Teach children to stretch though a word with a moving target. Our stretching through technique helped kids move from l for lady in Phase 2 to lad in Phase 3 to ladee in syllable chunks in Phase 4, on the way to conventional lady. The stretching through technique met kids where they were and supported them in moving to higher levels of spelling sophistication from phase to phase.

(read more)

The book Kid Writing in the 21st Century explains in great detail how to most effectively implement these practices and strategies. It includes reproducibles and a strategy guide to make adopting this process in your classroom quite simple.


For more information on the book, click the image below to view or download a brochure.

Kid Writing in the 21st Century Brochure


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Topics: Kindergarten, First Grade, Kid Writing, J. Richard Gentry, Eileen Feldgus, Isabell Cardonick

Hameray's Middle School Level Books

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on Jun 1, 2017 2:12:00 PM

Reluctant readers exist at every grade level, from kindergarten to twelfth grade. While they are plenty of lower-leveled guided reading books in the educational market, it can be difficult to find higher-leveled books. This problem is especially difficult for middle school English teachers, where the school literacy program may not be as robust as their elementary school counterparts.

Hameray offers leveled books from Guided Reading Level A through Y. The two highest-level book series are the Download Series and the Extraordinary Files—together, they make a great combination of nonfiction and fiction books for your classroom! Best of all, every book in the series is clearly leveled, so you never need to guess about the textual complexity of a book.


Extraordinary Files is a fast-paced fiction series, where two FBI agents tackle various supernatural mysteries. The titles in the series range from Guided Reading Level T–Y, allowing students to continue enjoying the series as their reading skills develop. 

The relationships between characters are complex and contain romantic elements that will appeal to a middle school audience. With 48 pages in each book, the Extraordinary Files series offers a substantive and accessible option for teen students.



The Download Series titles range from levels Q to T. Each title focuses on a high-interest topic, such as Motorcycles (level T) and Basketball (level S). In addition to informational facts, the books also contain fictional stories featuring older characters—the protagonist in Cool Brands (level T) uses aftershave, something that older students can relate to.


Other Hameray series like Underwater Encounters and Hameray Biography Series contain titles up to Guided Reading Level S. Look no further for middle school leveld books!


Click the left image below to download information about Extraordinary Files. Click the right image below to download information about Download

Extraordinary Files Sales sheet  Download Series Highlights


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Topics: Leveled Readers, Download, Extraordinary Files, Hi-Lo, Middle School

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