Finding the Theme
From OpenContent Curriculum
Students will be able to identify the theme in a story.
When I did this with my upper level readers, I began by asking them how they find the theme in a story. I asked them if they were ever frustrated when it came time to find the theme, and most of them said yes, agreeing that they didn't really have a method. This, and knowing the standard number, seemed to make them interested in learning it. (They also really like story time.)
- Define 'theme' - "A theme is a story’s message. It is what the author of a piece of text wants you to remember most. The theme of a fable is its moral. The theme of a parable is its teaching. The theme of a piece of fiction is its view about life and how people behave." Source
- Note ways that you can identify the theme. Source
- Follow the protagonist. Anything s/he is supposed to learn about life or him/herself is usually an important theme.
- Look for any patterns or repeating ideas.
- Look at the genre - often, genres have a prepackaged theme.
- What mistakes must characters learn from or difficult decisions must they wrestle with?
- Analyze the conflict - at the heart of the conflict is often a theme the author wants you to chew on.
- Character vs. Character
- Character vs. Nature
- Character vs. Self
- Character vs. Society
Here are some guided notes for teaching the above as well as some guided questions for reading "The Lorax" and finding the theme.
Read a short children's book, such as a Dr. Seuss book, and look for the theme using the methods above as a class. These are books that I have read out loud to my classes, and the themes were fairly easy to find. Both books provide lessons for all age groups. I read them to my high school students, and it's fun to go in depth and do more close reading.
Either assign stories to groups or individuals, or use a story or book that everyone has read. Have each student identify something that s/he believes is a theme. This might be a good opportunity for a Think - Pair - Share.
- What is the theme of this story?
- How do you know?
This is often assessed in Book Clubs, but can be assessed separately, as well.