Teaching Theme Made Simple!
Review Theme With Ease!
Here is a quick connected lesson to help you foster students’ understanding of theme. As you know, theme is the overall message of the story or big idea the author wants to convey to the reader. It is sometimes referred to as the lesson or the moral of the story. To ensure that students are getting the gist of the theme, students respond or process information more adequately when a skill or concept is scaffold through connected lessons.
When I started thinking about how to review theme, I thought about connecting concepts that will lead to students’ understanding of theme. I came up with the following:
Characterization Central Message Theme
Characterization is a perfect place to begin scaffolding the learning, as characters reveal theme through looks, speech, actions, thoughts, and/or relationships with others. First, I focus the students’ attention by engaging them with a simple video that provide practical examples and definitions for each indicator. It’s perfect, especially for students who need visual support.
Choose a picture book, chapter book, or short passage to support students through guided practice. Read aloud the story to the students and mark off 3 to 5 pausing points to demonstrate the process for identifying key characters traits that lead to the theme and central message of the story.
Create a character map on chart paper. Write the character’s name in the center and ask students to share different traits that describe the character(s). A two or three column chart would work to compare and sum up the overall theme of the characters.
Discuss and highlight important events of the story, along with the themes. Encourage students to identify the characters’ actions, speech, thoughts, relationships, and looks. As you facilitate the discussion, chart and circle the traits that the characters have in common to help students sum up the theme and central message of the story.
For independent or small group practice, give students a simple version of a fable and a four-column chart. Instruct students to choose two characters to analyze and label each column with the main and secondary characters, Theme, and Central Message. In the columns labeled with the characters’ names, list traits to describe the characters. In the theme column, identify and list the theme(s) in the story. In the final column, write the central message(s). Bring everyone together, discuss the fable, responses, and review the meaning of theme.
Extended Characterization Activity: Students can create a personal character map and list personal traits to describe their character. They can compare themselves to other characters read about or discussed in class through the writing process, and show how they are alike and different. As an extra layer of support, give students a Venn diagram to categorize and analyze their thoughts, prior to writing their piece.
If you have suggestions on how to teach theme, please comment!