Joy Cowley Classroom Giveaway

I have been a long-standing fan of Joy Cowley. I was first introduced to her work in the 1990's at a conference sponsored by The Wright Group. From that time on, I was on the lookout for more books written by this great author. But as the years flew by, that became more and more difficult as the Wright Group was absorbed by SRA.

I was so pleased to stumble on Hameray Publishing! Joy Cowley is back! At Hameray you can find great sequels to old favorites such as Mrs Wishy Washy, The Meanies, The Hungry Giant and More. In addition, Joy Cowley has introduced new characters like Oscar, The Gruesomes, Barbie the Wild Lamb and more! Like the Mrs. Washy stories I learned to love and cherish, these books are filled with humor and wit as they follow Joy's unique model for helping children to learn through laughter.

Beside my kindergartners, my three grandchildren beg for these books. My basket of Joy Cowley's books is well used when they come to visit! Their most favorite of all? Mrs. Wishy Washy on TV. I am sure that I have now read that book over 200 times!

Hameray Publishing Group is hosting a HUGE "Joy Cowley Classroom Giveaway." Click on the link below to enter.

Writing Center Task Cards: Famous Tales

I love thematic teaching and I look forward to each new adventure. Right now, my students are enjoying exploring, comparing, contrasting and discovering folk tales. 

Are you looking for some great writing activities, ready to print and go!

My students love these "Folk-Tale" based writing activities. Complete with "I Can- Task Cards."

Use these to complement our full Thematic Unit:

Strategically link the Common Core Standards to your curriculum by using this fun fabled unit, Giants, Trolls & The Big Bad Wolf! It is divided into areas of literature, music, art, literacy, math, science, creative writing, word wall, and guided reading. The activities are clearly written, easy to use, and need limited amounts of preparation.

Table of Contents


This Little Piggy
The Big Bad Wolf 

Literacy Activities
Up the Beanstalk: Writing Simple Words
The Three Little Pigs: Decoding CVC Words
Shake Little Piggy: Reading & Writing Sight Words
Big Bad Bingo: Identifying and Matching Consonant Digraphs
Cross The Bridge: Relating Verbs & Adjectives to Opposites

Shared Reading Whole Group Activities:
Identifying Story Elements
Beginning, Middle, End: Story Structure

Math Activities

Measuring-- Tall or Short: Comparing Size By Length
Measuring Giants and Trolls: Comparing Size 
Giants, Trolls & Wolves, Oh My! Writing Numerals
Going To Grandma's House: Counting Forward From Any Given Number 1-100

Art Projects

Cooperative Giant
Shape Giant
Billy Goat Hat
Puppets: Story Retelling

Science Projects
The Giant's Eyes: Using Scientific Tools


Word Wall
If I Met a Giant!
Up the Beanstalk?
The Big Bad Wolf

Geading Books
The Little Pigs

Data Walls: Helpful or Damaging?

Although I believe that Data Driven Instruction is the key to successful teaching, the use of a data wall is a horrible idea. Never should a student be compared with another student, or a teacher's data be compared with another teacher's.
I will never be convinced that using a data wall would ever boost student performance, I believe their effect to be quite the opposite. Even if these walls are hidden in closets and offices, if they are in view of anyone beside the teacher, child, parent, or administrator, confidences have been broken by use of this public humiliation system. 
Rather, use Excel, or whatever spreadsheet you desire to keep that important data. Keep it in your file drawer or on your computer where it belongs. This information is to inform your instruction, not for public scrutiny.

I still remember the data walls of my childhood, placing stickers on the chart as one conquers a skill. Yep! I was that student who had all of their stars. My ice cream scoops for reading books went from floor to ceiling! These visual displays were terrific! What was not to love about it?  Then, I reached 7th grade and met Mrs. Anderson. For some reason (probably had something to do with my older siblings), she hated me from the start. She had a data wall. She used her data wall to record mis-steps, talking, late homework, etc. I finally saw as a 12 year old what my academically struggling peers knew many years before. That wall was horrifying! Each time I sneezed, another check went on that data wall, and soon, my checks outnumbered my peers about 50 to 1. "I will have to make my chart bigger with Kathy in our class." She said one day with a chuckle. I went home that day destroyed! It took me two years before I would try in school again. Data Walls? No way!

To read more check out this article on Conversation Ed.

The 100th Day of School: My 100 Year Photo

Our students probably think they'll never get old, but you can give them a preview of the future! Download an aging app such as AgingBooth, then take a picture of each of your students. The app will quickly add wrinkles and turn hair to gray or even white.

The pictures are funny and just a little scary - especially if you take picture of yourself! They will generate incredulous laughter and can lead to animated discussions. Follow this up with a writing assignment - When I Am 100!

Print the pictures to illustrate the writing, post on the wall (looking for a conference display?) and/or use as a fun portfolio page. The pictures even look good if you print them in black and white on your school copy machine.

This is a great 100th Day of School activity, but don't limit yourself to that time of the year. Try it anytime you want to spark the imagination of your students.

Looking for more 100th day activities? Check out our 100 Day Unit and/or or 100 Day Task Cards!

Mr. President: A Thematic Unit for Early Learners

Enjoy some presidential fun!

Enjoy teaching young children about Mr. President while practicing academic skills!

This 123 page thematic unit is strategically linked to common core standards!

Literacy Activities
A Call From Mr. President: Alphabet Letter Fluency
Race to the Capital: Identifying Alphabet Letters and Sounds or Reading CVC Words
Washington and Lincoln: Reading and Matching Sight Words
Bear Country Voters: Writing Alphabet Letters
Patriotic Sounds: Isolating the Beginning Sounds in Words
Rhyming Flags: Rhyming
The Flag: Sentence Tracing

Math Activities
Campaign Buttons: Ordering Numbers 0-12
Red, White, and Blue Party: Counting (or Adding) Objects
The Donkey and the Elephant: Comparing Numbers
Counting Stars: Counting Objects to Match a Given Number
Design a Flag: Recognizing Shapes Regardless of Orientation

Art Projects
Patriotic Art
Flag Construct

Social Studies
Let’s Vote
Campaign Buttons
Campaign Signs

Who Will Be Our President
If I Am President
Election Word Wall
Class Book: The Election

Guided Reading Books
The Flag
The Election


The Three Little Colors
Mr. President
Washington and Lincoln

Ocean Thematic Unit

This unit is packed with fun for the PreK-Kindergarten Student!

We had oceans of fun last week!

Teaching an Effective Guided Reading Lesson: Scaffold The Reading

Following the picture walk portion of a guided reading lesson, the teacher passes each student a copy of the guided reading book and invites students to point at each word as he/she reads the story. During this initial reading, the teacher models good reading behaviors such as tracking print, phrasing, inflection, etc. as students follow or read along.

Next, the group turns back to the cover and reads together as a group (choral reading). During this reading, the teacher guides, observes and supports the students. Following this reading, the students re-read independently as the teacher focuses on one student at a time. Next, the students should re-read the book at least one more time. One way to accomplish this is to have a basket of book-buddies (stuffed animal pets) available for the students to read the story to in the classroom library, at another table, or other location in the room, and then return back to the reading table when that task is completed. This will allow the teacher to keep one or two students at the table that may need additional scaffolding.

Check out these adorable space-themed guided readers. 

Contents Include

The Stars -- Level D
My Rocketship -- Level C
Space Explorer -- Level B
Rockets -- Level C
The Aliens -- Level B

Teaching an Effective Guided Reading Lesson: Building Background

Building Background

After the mini-lesson portion of a guided reading lesson, it is time to activate student’s prior background knowledge. For example, if the book is about the ocean, ask students what they already know about the ocean or sea life (you can simply accept responses and make it an oral conversation, or you may want to record responses and make a list or a spider graph. Next, make connections from their responses that will draw their interest toward the text that is about to be read. 

You may wish to follow student responses with a personal experience that you have had with the subject. My students always love to hear these personal stories, they find the notion that teacher’s having a life outside of the classroom is suspect, at best. I might relate an experience such as the following. (Holding a shell) I might say. “One time I was able to sail on a giant cruiseship across the ocean.” (I will show a personal picture of me on the ship). “One day as our ship was cruising, right out of my window I saw a large whale jump into the air.” “This trip on the ocean was so exciting for me, I brought back this seashell so I can better remember it and all of the great ocean creatures I was able to see.”

The kids are now ready! They want to know more about the ocean! At this time, show the students the selected book (teacher holding the copy), and take a "picture walk" (an important tool which builds confidence and support for the reading strategy of using pictures as context clues). To do this, turn through the book page by page calling attention to the pictures. Ask questions such as “What do you see on this page?”; “What do you think is happening on this page?” and “Do you know what this is a picture of?”

Before you turn the last page, allow students to predict what picture might be on the last page to represent the ending of the story. Remember to guide this activity with great care and thought, intentionally implanting important vocabulary words along the way.

Check out these great thematic guided readers:


Teaching an Effective Guided Reading Lesson: The Mini Lesson

Contains Seven Leveled B or C Guided Readers

Guiding Their Reading: The Mini-Lesson

A guided reading lesson usually opens with a brief mini-lesson. The objective of the lesson is generally something that will help students read the text to be presented. And most generally, will look different for each reading group. For example, if you are going to read the book "Little Hearts," found in our February Guided Books,  you could choose from limitless mini-lessons. Following are a few suggestions.

Tracking Print
The strategy of tracking print can be practiced by printing simple sight words on cards and using picture cards or small objects for support in reading the sentence. 

Place the word cards in a row to construct a sentence. “Think Aloud” as you place the cards, talking about the words (and cards/objects), drawing attention to the space between words. “Okay. I now have a sentence. I will take my finger and point under each word that my voice is saying.” Point at each word one by one in a slightly exaggerated fashion. Ask students to read the sentence one by one pointing at each word as the word is spoken. After the activity, remind students that when you read today’s book, point at each word as it is read. *Note. For lower level groups, use only objects rather than words and allow students to practice naming an object only when their finger is pointing at it as they practice the skill of tracking.

Sight words: 
To practice the sight words included in your chosen guided reading selection, have the words ready to go, printed on cards. First show the students each word in flash-card style. Next, pull out a small deck of cards (about 3 or 4 of each word) with the words printed on them. “We are going to play Hot-Potato-Word!” “To play, I will draw the top card and read it. I will then pass it to ____ (the person at my left), and then he will read it and pass it, and he will read and pass until it gets back to me. I will then put the card in a container to cool it down.” After play, remind students to look for the sight words just practiced as they read the day’s book.

Valentine Thematic Unit

The sweetest of holidays is just around the corner! For some great valentine themed learning in your classroom, try our thematic unit: Valentines Red, Valentines Blue: Sweet Thematic Curriculum Essentials (Download preview here).

Table of Contents:

Literacy Activities
Speedy Heart: Naming Alphabet Letter Sounds Fluently
Valentine YOYO: Reading Sight Words
Postal Race: Reading and Alphabetizing Names
Valentine Sounds: Blending Sounds Together
Capital Clash: Building Alphabet Letter and Sound Fluency
Vanishing Hearts: Reading Alphabet Letter Sounds Fluently
Vanishing Hearts: Reading CVC Words Fluently
Conversation Hearts: Reading and Writing High-Frequency Words
Sorting Mail: Reading and Writing Various Fonts

Math Activities

Find a Heart: Identifying Numbers
Valentine Count: Making Numbers Equal to 10
Cupcake Wars: Adding and Subtracting on a Number Line Using the Signs + and -.
Draw a Shape: Drawing Shapes
Symmetry: Making a Heart
Candy Heart Graph: Gathering and Interpreting Data

Art Projects

Valentine Animals
Valentine Mouse
Valentine Puzzle

Kitchen Science

Sweetheart Pudding
Decorate a Valentine Cookie


My Friend
Love Dust
Bushel and a Peck


Valentine Word Wall Words
Writing Prompts:
My Friends
Things I Love
I Can:
Label It
Write a List
Write Word Wall Words

Guided Reading Books

My Valentine

Enjoy this free song poster as our valentine treat to you!