A Guided Reading DREAM! {Joy Cowley Giveaway & Review}

Recently, the sweet folks at Hameray Publishing sent me a few treats to try out with my students. I was so excited to see the books they sent, especially when I knew they were going to be by Joy Cowley. I mean... is there anyone who writes better books for guided reading?

They sent over a few titles from 2 of Joy's newer characters - The Huggles and The Gruesome Ogres. You can click HERE to see the entire set of characters.

I have to admit this... I was nervous to try these books out with some of my older struggling readers. I have 3 different 4th graders on my caseload right now, and one of them in particular really struggles with reading.

I also had to make sure the books matched the levels my kids were working on at the moment. I visited the Hameray Publishing website and clicked on the series I had received from them.

Once I was viewing the series, I was able to find the guided reading level and word count for each book.

They also included a set of guided reading lessons ideas you can use in the back of each book. It made planning for this week so much easier!

At the end of last week, I asked my struggling reader friend to take a look at the new books I had. I invited him to pick one out for us to work on next week. He doesn't get excited about much, (Anyone else out there with some *too cool* 4th graders?) but he looked pretty close to happy about the Gruesome series books that I got to try out. He even asked if we could try two of them this week. (Sure!!)

We pulled out the first one he chose yesterday - The Gruesome House.

It was a hit! The vocabulary is rich for the lower-level text Joy writes, but it was still engaging for this big kid!

I also used The Huggles series with a 2nd grader I just added to my caseload not too long ago. We started with the first book in the set - The Huggles - last week. This week we added Huggles' Cold.

I love the vivid verbs, with lots of detailed illustrations to support her as she reads. It is the perfect set of texts to help ease her into the next reading level. There are also lots of opportunities to study conventions (varied end punctuation) and why authors are using them.

Wouldn't you LOVE to WIN the ENTIRE Joy Cowley collection??? You can!!

Click HERE or on the picture below to go straight to Hameray's website to enter. The Grand Prize is AMAZING - a set of character-based finger puppets, big books, guided reading sets, and MORE!  

The contest will run through April 13th and winners will be announced April 14th. Hurry over and enter today --- and tell your friends as well!


Sharing Sunday for April!

It's that time again!

My friends and I at The Primary Peach have gathered the best of the best so you can get started on your April planning! Just click on any of the pictures in this post to download a PDF file of links to all of these resources!

I've tried to add in more read-aloud suggestions for each set of resources when I could. I love to find any excuse to buy a new book for my classroom! (affiliate links included in PDF)

The Titanic freebie above is GREAT for upper grades this time of year. The Titanic sank 104 years ago this April, but my students are still just as obsessed about it as I was in 4th grade. How about yours?? I know they will lose their minds when I pull this out! :)


LOVE the freebies and ideas Jen shared in her Rainbow Week post. There are tons of freebie links, anchor charts, bulletin board ideas, and center ideas perfect for the beginning of Spring!

I'm also in love with the Spring Edition of Apply the Adjective. Newly updated, with extra noun cards, and 6 new practice pages!


Finally, a few extra fun freebies for you this month. You know I LOVE Rachel's Would You Rather questions for my morning meetings.

There's also a link to an observation log freebie you can use with your kids if you grow lima bean seedlings with them. I'm also in love with my friend Jen's lima bean nugget. :) SO CUTE!

Hope you've had a great weekend! I'm off to get ready for the week ahead! Make sure you check out the rest of our posts at The Primary Peach. Click the photo below to go directly to the link up!



Growing Readers and Writers with Spring Mentor Texts

Mentor texts are critical pieces of any classroom with a strong literacy program. This post focuses on my favorite spring mentor text, The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald. April is National Poetry Month, so Spring is the perfect time of year to try using The Best Part of Me in your own classroom!

Let's get started!
The Best Part of Me is a collection of photographs and student writing pieces focused on the parts of themselves they love the most. The book is the result of a collaboration between award-winning photographer Wendy Ewald and Durham Public Schools in North Carolina. This text is a great way to use student writing as a model in your own classroom. You can click my affiliate link on the picture below or on this hyperlink to take a peek!


I'm sharing the first couple of lessons from a unit I have that are on based on this text. I've used this unit for over a decade in my own classroom, and I've seen great success with it. I love the way it scaffolds the steps of writing a poem for students.

The first lesson is simply an opportunity to share pieces of the book with your students and have them brainstorm a list of favorite parts of themselves they might like to write about.

This isn't really a book you're going to sit down and read with your kids all in one lesson. I'm a big believer in keeping a mini-lesson as "mini" as possible. We want our kids to spend the majority of their Writer's Workshop time writing, right?

On the first day, I introduce the text and choose a couple of my favorite pieces and photographs to share with my students. This is so they have an "end in mind" as they're working over the next few days.
First, I model the task of brainstorming a list of my favorite parts. Step out on the writing limb with me, friends! We have to MODEL what we want our kids to do during their independent work time. This means lots of thinking aloud, modeling recording our thoughts, and fixing a few mistakes along the way. You can do this with a document camera if you're lucky enough to be able to use one every day, or print the page out as a poster and do it on a larger scale.

I'm also including a Bonus Lesson today! In fact, I wrote the first two lessons and went back and added this one shortly afterwards. It will help your students "narrow their focus" before they begin drafting the next day.

You'll model the task by choosing one of 6 body part picture cards. Glue it to a piece of chart paper and make a list of adjectives and descriptive phrases underneath that describe this part on your body.

You could also use one of your students as a "model" and have the class describe that part of their body.

After the students repeat this activity in a small group, your students will practice the skill independently with a "Describe Your Part" work page. You can differentiate the levels of support your students will require with one of three work pages. This kind of tiered work is especially helpful for my ESOL and EC students.

To grab a copy of this lesson sampler for yourself, click HERE to grab it from Teachers Pay Teachers. To purchase the unit, follow this link!


I hope this encourages you to try out some poetry writing with your students! It's one of my favorite writer's workshop units all year long!

Don't forget to check out the other lessons in the link-up here:


Adding Captions to YouTube Videos + An Updated FUN Freebie!

One of our super-awesome Kindergarten teachers was playing my FAVORITE morning meeting song when I stopped by last week...

Don't tell my principal, but I miss singing this song with my kids. When I walked into that kinder room last week, I had to bust out some moves and sing along. :) 

My friend and I were talking and I mentioned I had a set of lyrics for this song as a freebie in my store. When I went to send them to her, two things happened. 

1. I had to redo the freebie. It hurt my feelings to look at it. :) 

2. On a search for the video, I learned a new trick that I'm sharing with you today! I may be a little behind on this trick, but I hadn't heard about it yet, so I'm guessing some of you are missing this little gem of knowledge too. Ha!!

I found a way to ADD CAPTIONS to You Tube videos! 

So, as you search for videos on You Tube you can filter through your results, right? Today I noticed "Subtitles/CC" as a filter feature.

Once I clicked on Subtitles/CC, it only showed videos that would play with Subtitles or Closed Captioning! 

When the video started playing, I rolled my mouse over to adjust the volume and I noticed the CC icon. Once I clicked on it, the subtitles/captioning appeared for the duration of the video! 

I hope that little trick helps you!

I'm also sharing my updated freebie for this video. I put a copy of this song in our Leadership Notebooks. I also sent it home in our homework journals so that our kids could look it up and sing it with their families (probably annoying them to death, but at least it worked!).

We also printed this out poster size and hung it in our room. 

Click the picture above to grab the freebie from my Teachers Pay Teachers store

If you'd like to see more Morning Meeting tricks and tips, be sure to follow my Morning Meetings Pinterest board! 

Follow Abby Spann 's board Morning Meetings on Pinterest.