Teaching Theme

Teaching theme is one of my most favorite skills because students are not only learning how to deconstruct and understand text, but they are also learning valuable life lessons.

Theme is a tricky concept to teach, however. Some teachers teach theme as the moral or lesson. You will sometimes see it called "author's message" as well.  Some teachers teach using the “universal theme” concept which uses only one word such as “honestly” or “perseverance”. I like to make students aware of BOTH ideas.

This past week, I taught theme using fables. I LOVE using fables to teach theme because there are so many valuable life lessons that are pretty evident in most texts.  The students are super pumped to read fables too!  

A technique that I find really works in teaching students to understand theme includes looking at the main characters.  Usually the character/characters have some sort of problem they face that they end up overcoming.  The character/characters usually learn some sort of lesson from overcoming this problem.  If the students can identify what the character learned, they can most likely identify the author's message or theme of the story.  

On Friday, I wanted to formatively assess my students to see if they could relate theme to real word texts and not just fables.  I let them use tasks cards to practice identifying theme.  

I created two sets of task cards.  The first set provides a passage and the students must provide a theme statement on their own.  I only let my higher students practice using these cards since this was their first encounter with theme this year.  For the rest of the students, I gave them my set of task cards that gives the passage and 3 multiple choice options.  They read the passage, then record their answer on their recording sheet.  

*You can also project each task card on the board one at a time and have students write the answer on a white board then "show you" together as a class! 

I was very pleased with the progress my students have been making, and I am looking forward to seeing how they do next week with comparing themes in text!

How do you teach theme?? Do you have any tips or tricks that you have found works for your students? 

If you would like a copy of my differentiated theme task cards, you can download this pack by clicking the link below. 

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