Mud Tortillas

By Barbara M. Flores
Illustrations by Michael Ramírez

Guided Reading Note:
Level I is the benchmark for the end of first grade. Children reading at this level are in an early fluent stage, and the focus emphasizes comprehension and independent reading. Most of the reading should be done silently. Children are encouraged to: 1) make connections between their own experiences and the story, 2) “get” the author’s message and be able to discuss it with other readers, and 3) apply their reading skills and strategies. Most importantly, children should feel confident and eager to read. This is a time to build fluency and independence as children read a variety of genres and develop a sense of reading for different purposes.


  • understanding the author’s message
  • connecting personal experiences with a story
  • reading and following conversation
  • using a glossary
  • following a longer, more complex story

Supportive Text Features:

  • familiar words and concepts
  • narrative sentence and text form
  • variety of sentence structures
  • sequential events

Essential Components of Reading Instruction:

Phonics: /ou/ vowel sound
Vocabulary: tortillas, comal, dough, delicious; expressions: not to worry, just pretend, no way, playing a dirty trick; compound words
Fluency: reread the story independently or with a partner
Comprehension: determine what is important, make connections, ask questions

High-frequency Words: two, and, to, in, their, of, the, day, as, they, did, one, were, make/making, would, but, how, will, we, some, them, find, all, that, not, I, of, said, water, then, a, she, had, on, when, her, no, way, this, is, it, if, you, so, was, out, with, for, then

Getting Ready to Read

  1. Introduce the concept and vocabulary by asking open-ended questions:
    • Who knows what tortillas are? Tell me what you know about tortillas.
    • What kinds of things do you like to pretend?
    • Have you ever tried to cook something? What did you cook? How did it taste?
  2. Connect children’s past experiences with the book vocabulary:
    • Turn to page 24 of the book and show children the pictures and glossary entries. Point out the pronunciation keys and definitions.
    • Call children’s attention to the title. Read: “Mud Tortillas.” Make sure children understand what tortillas are.
    • Ask children to use the title and picture on the cover to predict what might happen in the story.
    • Show the back cover and read the copy. Ask children to think about what might happen when the girls make their own tortillas.
    • Have children suggest some words they might read in the book.
    • Give children the book and have them look at the pictures. Ask them to find some hints about what happens in the story.
  3. Remind children of the strategies they know and can use with unfamiliar words:
    • Ask them, “What will you do if you come to a word you don’t know?”
    • Encourage children to look for chunks of words they know and to blend the sounds quickly.
    • Suggest that children read on past an unfamiliar word in order to use the context of the story to unlock the word.
    • Tell children also to think about what they know about pretend playing with a friend, sister, or brother. Then encourage them to choose a word that makes sense in the sentence.
  4. Be aware of the following book and text features:
    • The book contains numerous high-frequency words and many other familiar words.
    • The story is written in narrative form. Quotation marks indicate what the characters say in conversation.
    • Text placement and the amount of text on each page varies.
    • The story events are sequential and extend over several pages.
    • The illustrations support and extend the story, but most of the meaning is contained in the text.
    • A glossary on page 24 is provided as an aid to word pronunciation and meaning.
    • There is a message/lesson embedded in the story.

Reading the Book

  1. Set a purpose by telling children to read about two sisters who like to pretend.

  2. Have children read the story silently. Each child should be reading at his or her own pace. After the group has read a few pages, check for understanding with simple comments such as: “What is the story about?” or “Tell me how the story begins.” Also remind children to use the glossary. Then direct them to continue reading. As they read, watch for indications of comprehension: changes in facial expressions, giggles, audible comments, rereading, turning back to a page.

  3. Look for these reading behaviors during children’s first reading:
    • Do they rely on the print while reading?
    • Do they have a strong sight vocabulary?
    • Do they use known sound chunks to read unknown words?
    • Are they showing signs of understanding the story?
    • Are they monitoring meaning and rereading when they lose meaning?
    • Do they easily move from page to page?
    • Are they using punctuation and the glossary to gain meaning?
    • How are they dealing with the conversations in the text?
    • Do they make accurate predictions?
    • Are they connecting the text to their own experiences?
    • Do they react to the text even though they are reading silently?
  4. As children read, note what they are doing. Help them build independence by being available, but not intervening too quickly. Watch for changes in children’s facial expressions and use these as signals to ask questions such as: “What made you smile?” or “Do you need some help?” Also encourage children’s attempts by making comments such as: “I like how you are reading,” or “That was a good strategy.”

  5. Possible teaching points to address based on your observations:
    • Review how to find a known part or sound chunk in an unknown word.
    • Show children how to use analogies to move from the known to the unknown when encountering new words.
    • Review using grammar (syntax) to unlock words by considering the sentence structure or parts of speech in the sentence.
    • Model asking questions or making “I wonder . . .” statements to extend comprehension.
    • Review how to determine what is important in a story. Explore the message/lesson the author was trying to convey.
    • Review using the glossary as an aid to word pronunciation and meaning.
    • Review using punctuation marks to guide the meaning-making process. Talk about the use of quotation marks to indicate dialogue, and the role commas, question marks, and exclamation points as clues to reading with expression.
    • Work with words from the story with the /ou/ vowel sound spelled “ou” and “ow.”: outside, flour, how. Explore other words with this sound in initial, medial, and final positions.
    • Point out the following compound words: backyard, everything, cardboard. Review how compound words are formed and how this is sometimes a clue to their meanings.
    • Explore the meaning and use of the following expressions: not to worry, just pretend, no way, playing a dirty trick.
    • Model how to revisit the text to find specific examples or ideas in the story. Revisit MUD TORTILLAS to talk about the sisters’ relationship.

After the First Reading

  1. Have children confirm their predictions about what happened in the story.

  2. Connect the story with children’s experiences playing pretend or playing in the mud.

  3. Have children take turns reading aloud the conversations on pages 7, 13, and 19. Encourage children to make their reading sound like talking.

  4. Elicit children’s thoughts about the ending of the story. Do they agree with the aunties’ punishment? Why or why not? If not, what would they have done?

  5. What can children learn from this story? Discuss the lesson/message in the story.

Second Reading

  1. Have children reread the book silently or to a partner.

  2. This is a time for assessment. While they are reading, watch what children do and what they use from the teaching time. Alternatively, you might take a running record on one child as an assessment of the child’s reading behavior.

Cross-Curricular Activities

Art: Give children several different shades of brown crayons, pencils, or paint. Ask them to create a “mud” building, animal, or other item. Let them experiment with colors in just the brown family to suggest mud.

Music: Tell children that some people use a rolling pin or special press to make tortillas, but others pat out tortillas with their hands. Give children some clay or play-dough to pat into tortillas. Then challenge children to make up rhythms that would be good for helping people make a lot of tortillas quickly. Have them clap out their rhythms first, then repeat the rhythms while patting out their tortillas.

Science: Investigate the way water changes solids. Tortilla dough is made when cornmeal is mixed with water. The cornmeal does not dissolve in the water. Instead, it absorbs the water. Gather together other substances to experiment with, such as salt, pepper, sugar, flour, ketchup, and instant oatmeal. Ask children to predict whether each substance will dissolve in water or absorb water. Then let them experiment and compare the results with their predictions.

Math: If facilities and adequate supervision are available, have children make their own tortillas. (Here's a recipe.) Let children help with measuring ingredients and rolling the dough. At snack time, serve the tortillas plain or with a selection of fillings.

Social Studies: Read THE TORTILLA FACTORY by Gary Paulsen. This book tells how corn is harvested and made into tortillas. Compare how the aunties in MUD TORTILLAS make tortillas with the way tortillas are made in the factory. Elicit children’s ideas about the advantages and disadvantage of each way of making tortillas.

You may also wish to read EVERYBODY BAKES BREAD by Norah Dooley, in which a young girl samples seven different kinds of bread from around the world. Have children compare tortillas to the breads in the story.

Writing: If you have not made tortillas with children, have them sample some ready-made tortillas. Then have children write taste-tester reviews, describing the tortilla and their opinions of it.

Guided Reading with

Guided Reading™: I        EDL/DRA: 16        Intervention: 15
24 pages, 288 words, plus Glossary

Guided reading level I is the benchmark for the end of first grade. Children reading at this level are in an early fluent stage. All the directions given for the introduction, first reading, and second reading of the English edition can be used with the Spanish edition of the book. The focus of the teacher’s support should be on building comprehension, fluency, confidence, and independence. To read the book successfully, children need the same kinds of support as their English-speaking classmates. Second language learners often benefit from acting out new words, seeing pictures, and talking about them using concrete examples.

The Spanish edition has many familiar words. If children do not know some of the words, present them with synonyms to help deepen their comprehension of the new words and the poems. You may also use real objects to support children’s learning of new vocabulary.

Help children find a way to read the text with expression, emphasizing that poems are read differently that stories. Hand movements or props could be added to increase the students’ comprehension of the poems.

The book language used may differ from children’s oral language. Comparing any differences will help children read and understand the poems. Also help children understand that we often speak differently than we write, and that both ways of using language are important.


About This Title

Guided Reading:




Interest Level:

Grades 2 - 2

Reading Level:

Grades 2 - 2


Comparing/Classifying/Measuring, Nature/Science, Nonfiction, Classroom Activities, Similarities and Differences, Siblings, Identity/Self Esteem/Confidence, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican Interest, Imagination, Games/Toys, Friendship, Food, Families, Environment/Nature, Childhood Experiences and Memories, Beginning Concepts, Art, Exploring Ecosystems, How To, Optimism/Enthusiasm, Realistic Fiction


Teachers College Reading Assessment Kit for Grades K-2: Add-On Pack, Early Fluent Dual Language, Early Fluent English, Bebop Latin American English Grades PreK-2, Bebop Realistic Fiction Collection Grades PreK-2, Bebop Assessment Set, Dual Language Levels J-M Collection, Latin American Collection English 6PK, English Guided Reading Level J, Multicultural Collection 9 , Multicultural Collection 10, Multicultural Collection 12, Multicultural Collection 13, Multicultural Collection 14, Multicultural Collection 15, Multicultural Collection 11, Multicultural Collection 16, Teachers College Reading Assessment Kit for Grades K-2: Library, Lexile Bebop Books Decoding Collection, Bebop English Fiction

Want to know more about us or have specific questions regarding our Teacher's Guides?

Please write us!


Terms of Use