Group size: Any

Time Required: 60 - 90 minutes

Learning Objective: Students will be able to identify evidence of a given theme using a graphic organizer 


Student Worksheet (attached)
"Identifying Theme" worksheet (attached) 
Overhead transparency of definitions (attached)
Overhead transparency of the graphic organizer (attached)
Post-it notes for coding the text
A children's book with a clear theme (ie: Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree
Chart paper and markers

OPTIONAL: For S who tend to struggle with synthesis, you may wish to scaffold learning by recording a possible theme from "Just a Tyke" on the student's notes and asking him/her to search for evidence supporting that theme rather than asking him/her to identify the theme itself.

Do Now: (Add a Do Now to the Student Notes so that students have something to complete upon entering the room. I like to use this opportunity to spiral skills from prior lessons or to ask students to journal about a life experience that might help them to make a connection with today's lesson.)

Connection: We spent all last week making inferences, or, as some of you might like to say, reading between the lines to figure out what the author is really trying to say. Today we're going to practice reading beyond the lines, finding the bigger message that the author might be trying to convey. That bigger message is called theme.

What do you remember about theme? (T will generate a list on the board to access prior knowledge.)

Direct Instruction/Guided Practice:  Instead of all agreeing upon one definition of theme, let's take a look at a couple. Pencils down, minds active. (T will review the definitions transparency on the overhead.) Does anyone have any questions about these definitions? (Allow time.) Please take a moment to record the definition with which you connect. (T will allow time as S record definitions on today's notes.) And let's take a look at a couple of smartcuts. (T will explain the subject/theme misconception.)

Today is going to be a little different.

The best way to understand theme is, not surprisingly to dig right in and practice identifying it by reading a children's book together. Then, I'm actually going to ask you to read a story and work to identify the theme of that story. This will probably take longer than usual, but that's okay. If you don't get to your regular independent reading, just ensure that you make up any assigned literature circle pages at home tonight so that you're not behind for your meetings.

Without further delay, let's take a look at an example of theme using a children's story.

(If classroom is equipped with a library, T may wish to move students to the library for this part of class.  S should come to the library with their notes and pencils.

T will model identification of theme on a large chart paper rendition of the graphic organizer by completing the graphic organizer as he/she reads the book aloud to students.  S should record ideas on today's notes along with the T.

Many different children's books will do, but I strongly recommend The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  

Feel free to employ gradual release as you progress with the book, permitting students to contribute their own observations to the graphic organizer.  Ask students to generate a likely theme at the conclusion of the reading.  

Finally, take questions, and move students back to their seats.)

Before you practice identifying themes in your lit circle books, I want you to try it for yourselves with another shared text. You're going to read a story called "Just a Tyke" by Joe White, and you're going to read it with your table partner. 

Please take 15 minutes to read the story and complete the graphic organizer. After 15 minutes, we'll reconvene to discuss what we found. Can someone remind me of the directions please? (Call on student.)

If you finish early, please read silently. (Allow time.)

(T will facilitate share-out using the overhead transparency of the graphic organizer.  S should add additional notes to their worksheets as classmates share.)

Link:  Again, today is just a little different. You have very little time remaining to read, but I want you to at least get started on looking for themes in your literature circle novels, because that's what you'll do for the rest of the week. Please take a look at the worksheet entitled "Identifying Theme." (T will distribute worksheets and review directions with S.)

As you read today, in addition to coding the text, please start to complete this worksheet. You'll be working on it all week, so you certainly shouldn't have it filled in by the end of the day today. You will be on track if you make perhaps one or two observations today.

Are there any questions?

Independent Practice: (S read silently, complete graphic organizers, and code the text.  Since all S should have selected literature circle novels and scheduled meetings with their literature circle groups for this week, small groups of S may be meeting at this time. T should be free to hold Reader's Workshop conferences with individual students and/or pull small groups guided reading or other interventions.)

Share: Our time for today is up. Please feel free to turn to your table partner or take a short walk to meet with your literature circle group so that you can share your work for today. Go over the observations you made as you  read, and critique each others' thinking. (T should allow time and circulate to check for understanding.  You may also wish to consider collecting students' graphic organizers for safekeeping or directing the students to place their graphic organizers in a specific place at this time.)

Closing:  Remember, themes are the profound messages we find in the books we read. It pays to look for themes because it enriches your experience as a reader.

It's time for million dollar question!

1. What theme did we identify in the children's story we read today? (Accept reasonable answers.)

2. Why do we ask questions? (To help us become more thoughtful critics, to push our own thinking and the thinking of our peers, etc.)

3. Note to the Instructor: Insert your own question here based upon objectives your students have mastered up until this point in the year.

4. What is a theme? (The big idea or message conveyed in a text)

Differentiation: Novels are differentiated by reading level and by choice. Active reading strategy: coding the text. Graphic organizer. Access prior knowledge with a "brain spill" before the lesson.  Pair/Share during Introduction to New Material and Guided Practice. Reader's Workshop conferences with students to encourage individualized goal-setting.  Scaffolded notes.


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