Teaching about Themes... using the cupcake analogy!

This blog post uses the cupcake analogy to define and explain story themes. Just as creme can be hidden inside the cupcake, the theme is hidden inside a story. This blog post includes free posters, too!

This anchor chart explains the cupcake analogy that I share with my students when I am teaching them about themes in literature.
Theme anchor chart- Use this to remind students how book themes are like filled cupcakes. (Includes TWO FREEBIES!)

This all started a few years ago, when my upper elementary students were struggling with the concept of "theme". Many of them were confusing "theme" with "main idea", even after all of our practice activities. I needed to try something different... something that would be catchy enough to stick with my fourth and fifth graders. I'm not sure how I came up with theme-filled cupcakes. I suppose I was rhyming words in my head, and realized "cream" rhymes with "theme". Anyway, when "theme-filled cupcakes" crossed my mind, I knew I was on to something.  After all, the theme of a book is usually hidden, just like the creme inside a cupcake. Theme is the central message of a book, just as creme is central to the cupcake.

If you have followed me for awhile, you already know that I have a sweet tooth and that I love food analogies. Also, I often design my anchor charts to match other activities I do with my students.  (I believe this helps students build connections and retain the huge amount of new learning they encounter each day!)

Click on any of the images below to download my freebies related to teaching about themes in literature!
FREE Themes in Reading Posters!   FREE Themes in Reading Posters!       

Notice that the word "selfishness" is underlined on the first poster. I point out to my students that any number of negative traits can be written in place of "selfishness". Therefore, these are a few more theme possibilities:
  • Dishonesty can lead to negative consequences.
  • Laziness can lead to negative consequences.
  • Rude behavior can lead to negative consequences.
FREEBIE for teaching about themes in literature! Students can glue this foldable into interactive notebooks and refer to it as needed!

If you would like to take a look at the theme resources available in my store, click HERE. My theme filled cupcake craftivity is one of my favorite activities of the year!

This theme activity was created to help students truly understand the meaning of themes in literature. (A theme is hidden in a book just like creme can be hidden inside a cupcake!) Four passages are included. Students lift the flap to reveal the theme of each passage!
Amy Candler took the lovely photographs for this image!

Possessives Anchor Chart

This anchor chart is designed to help students remember how to use the apostrophe to show ownership for singular and possessive nouns.
Compare and contrast singular possessives and plural possessives with this anchor chart.
The adorable bee clip art images are by Michael Rawls.
The girl image is by the talented From the Pond.

If you have followed my other Anchors Away posts, you already know that I often design my anchor charts to match other activities I do with my students.  (I believe this helps students build connections and retain the huge amount of new learning they encounter each day!)

Last spring I created these two PowerPoints using the BEE theme.
Singular Possessives: A PowerPoint lesson with 49 slides! It includes many practice opportunities!

Plural Possessives: A PowerPoint lesson with 48 slides! Students have many opportunities to identify the correctly formed possessive noun. It also includes a review of singular possessive nouns.

Both PowerPoints come with a worksheet companion so that students can follow along and be totally engaged in the PowerPoint presentations!

This is page 1 of the worksheet companion that goes with the Singular Possessive PowerPoint.

Favorite Pin Friday

I am linking up with Teaching (Powered by Caffeine) today for 
These are some of my favorite pins that I found this past week, and are now on my Pinterest boards!
What a clever way to discuss the theme of a book!  Upper elementary students would love making one of these phones!  I found this pin via The Science Penguin.

This pin is #14 of a list of 36 DIY Ways to Decorate a Bulletin Board by Buzz Feed.

Isn't this the coolest science bulletin board?   The photos along the sides show photos of experiments this class performed throughout the year!
I found this pin via  Dragon's Den Curriculum.

Isn't this so true?!?!?  I LOVE this pin!  Click on it, and it will take you to an article on Lifehack.org entitled "10 Great Lessons Highly Successful People Have Learned From Failure".  It includes quotes/life story snippets from famous people including Walt Disney, Elvis, Babe Ruth, Thomas Edison, Lucille Ball, and Michael Jordan.  It is a very inspirational article... you might even be able to share some of these stories with students!

Do YOU have a Pinterest account?  Please leave a link in the comments section so I can follow you!

Have a great Friday!

Technology Thursday:Saving Clear Images

I am linking up with Teaching Trio today for
Technology Thursday!  

Let me begin by saying that some of you (maybe most of you!!) will already know this trick.  But I want to go ahead and write this anyway for fellow bloggers like myself who might be stumped by the irritating problem of blurry photos! 

Yes, I admit that a month ago I did not know how the answer to this question...

How can I avoid images that look like this?!
Ugh!  It's so blurry, but I really wanted to add that blog button in the upper left corner! The only way I used to know how to do was to open the image in my "Paint" program, and then save it as a PNG file.

Here is ONE way to make clear, crisp images.  (I don't doubt there are other ways that I am not aware of!)

Step 1:
Insert your image into PowerPoint, and make any changes you wish.  (For this photo, I really wanted my blog button to be in the upper left corner of the image, so I added that.)

Step 2:
Select "Save as".  Give your image a file name.
Select "PNG Portable Network Graphics Format".
Select "Save".

Step 3:
A pop-up will appear.  Select "Current Slide Only". 

A clearer, crisper image is now saved!  Upload it and.... Voila!  Isn't it amazing how much clearer this version is?!?!

Here are the two versions side by side!  The blurriness is not too noticeable here, but the images are medium sized.  The larger the image is, the more blurry it gets for the picture on the left.

I hope that helps someone out there!  If you happen to know an even easier way to accomplish the same goal, please share!

Subjects & Predicates Anchor Chart

Last fall, the third grade teacher team that I co-taught with was on a mission.  We decided that we needed to do something about the frustrating fragments that often plagued our third graders' writing.  Therefore, we started the school year by teaching the four types of sentences during writing time.  Immediately after that, we tackled subjects & predicates.  

We wanted to provide meaningful experiences that would engage third grade students... a somewhat daunting goal at times when grammar is the task at hand.  We sat there, puzzled, for several minutes. 

Slowly, my ideas started chugging. When brainstorming, I often try to come up with some sort of visual that students can apply to a new concept. Thinking while I spoke, I suggested that we try using a train analogy to teach subjects and predicates this year.  We could teach students to think of a complete sentence as a train, with the subject being the train's engine, and the predicate serving as the train's caboose.

Subject and Predicate Anchor Chart- using the train analogy!

Then, in true Deb fashion, I started to envision a craftivity.... and then a PowerPoint... and then a page for their interactive notebooks... and within a matter of minutes, I had volunteered to create a series of train-themed subject and predicate materials.  One of the things I loved about working with the third grade team at my school was that even when they didn't quite "see" the vision that I tried to explain to them, they always supported my elaborate visions and let me run with my ideas and create!

Subject and Predicate PowerPoint! Use a train engine and a caboose to help your students understand the concept of subjects and predicates!
This interactive PowerPoint contains 30 slides. After the introductory slides, students are given the opportunity to identify the subject and predicate within 15 practice sentences. 
Subject and Predicate Activity- Use the train engine and caboose analogy to help your students understand subjects and predicates! Includes a teaching poster, worksheets, craftivity, and more!

Not only did our third graders really seemed to enjoy the subject & predicate activities we did last year, I can honestly say that they really seemed to latch onto the train analogy!  As teachers, we were very pleased with their progress following this unit.  Best of all, it seemed to make a difference!  Although we still had students who occasionally used fragments, these incomplete sentences didn't seem to plague the students' writing to the extent they had in years past. Furthermore, once we brought the fragment to their attention, students understood how to fix the problem almost immediately!  

Greek and Latin Roots Anchor Chart

Anchor your students' understanding of Greek and Latin roots with this anchor chart!

I absolutely love, love, LOVE teaching Greek and Latin roots!  I admit, I have always enjoyed learning the meaning of word parts. When I  learned these root meanings when I was younger, I recall feeling like the pieces of a puzzle magically fell into place and formed a picture.

As an ELL teacher, though, teaching these roots is even more rewarding because they empower students! I get excited when I see students notice a word with a certain root we have studied.  I do a little happy dance when I hear a student say something like, "Well, I know that word (pointing at the word "monologue") must mean one in some way, because I see the root mono, and we learned that mono means one."

Although I cycle through many of my anchor charts throughout the year (click here to read about how I save my anchor charts), my Greek and Latin root anchor chart is a permanent fixture in my ESL classroom. In fact, as we learn more roots, another attachment is added to the end of the anchor chart to highlight additional roots.
Anchor your students' understanding of Greek and Latin roots with this anchor chart!

Make learning Greek and Latin ROOTS meaningful! After students complete the worksheets, the assemble the flowerpots. Words with common roots are written on the flower petals, and when you open the flower pot, the root and its meaning is revealed! Includes three worksheets!

One year, a student asked me if she could make her own root/flower drawing like I had created on the anchor chart. When her classmates joined in on the request, I promised to create a matching craftivity that would allow them to create four flowers of their own (two are on the front, and two more are on the back).
Those of you who have followed me for a while will not be surprised to know that I couldn't stop there. I created a few more Greek and Latin root resources that are related to the flower image. Feel free to take a look at the bundle or any of my individual resources.
Greek and Latin Roots Bundle