Five Ways to Teach Theme in Literature

Five Ways to Teach Theme

Teaching students to find the theme of a book can be both fun and frustrating. Some students understand the concept immediately. For others, it can be a real challenge.

General Summarizing Rules

Story Elements - Ideas and Printables for Upper Elementary Students

 

This anchor chart hangs in my classroom when I first introduce a lesson on finding the theme. The steps are really simple, but I often hear students quoting the 4 ideas for finding themes, so I know it is helpful. You’ll find these 4 ideas in the printable.

Get all printable activities from this post here.

5 Ways to Teach Theme

#1 Teaching Theme with Visuals

Story Elements - Ideas and Printables for Upper Elementary Students

 

Use the visual THE MEssage to help students remember that the theme is the message of a book, movie, song, etc. 

The second chart can be completed as part of a lesson. Students select two themes from the story. They write the themes on the arrow shapes. In the boxes on each side of the arrows, students explain and/or find a quote from the text to support the theme.

These anchor charts can be printed as 20 by 30-inch classroom displays or 8.5 by 11-inches for individual student use.

Get all printable activities from this post here.

#2 Teaching Theme with Fables

Teaching Theme- Ideas and Printables for Upper Elementary Students

Fables are easy for students to understand. Due to their short-to-the-point message, students catch on to the idea of the theme quickly.

Take any fable and cover up the moral at the end. Have students come up with the moral (theme).

Here are a few good fables to use:

  • The Country Mouse and the City Mouse
  • The Lion and the Mouse
  • The Boy who Cried Wolf

 

Grab this printable handout or Google Slides to practice this technique.

 

Get all printable activities from this post here.

 

 

#3 Teaching Theme with Songs

Story Elements - Ideas and Printables for Upper Elementary Students

Any song that tells a story works well for this activity. Here are few great songs to try:

    • “Hero” by Mariah Carey
    • “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day
    • “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus
    • “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack
    • “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin
    • “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips
    • “Help” by the Beatles
    • “Wheel of the World” by Carrie Underwood
    • “The Dance” by Garth Brooks

#4 Teaching Theme with Movies

Teaching Theme- Ideas and Printables for Upper Elementary Students

A chart is provided for students to check which movies they have seen. Use the chart to divide students into small groups of students who have all seen the same film. Have students complete the printable to pinpoint the theme and provide proof that the theme is an important part of the overall plot of the film. The chart is provided both in the pdf and as an editable Google Slide for you to add/delete movies you want the class to discuss.

Here are few great movies to use for discussion:

  • The Emperor’s New Groove
  • Antz
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Hoot
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

#5 Teaching Story Elements with Animated Shorts 

Story Elements - Ideas and Printables for Upper Elementary Students


Mater pulls a number of pranks on the other cars in Radiator Springs including moving Red’s flowers and jumping out of tires to frighten Guido and Luigi. He also dresses up as a cone vampire to scare Sally. After a while, the cars pull together to teach Mater a lesson.

Because this is a relatively new Pixar Film, the film is constantly added and removed from Youtube. I recommended searching if Youtube is your preferred video viewing channel. The printable includes several links where the film can be found.

[Length 7:10]

 

Get all printable activities from this post here.

Click on these buttons to go to other posts in this series.

Teaching Character Traits to Upper Elementary Students

Teaching Story Setting to Upper Elementary Students

Teaching Story Mapping to Upper Elementary Students

 

 

Teaching Point of View to Upper Elementary Students

Teaching Perspective to Upper Elementary Students

Teaching Tone vs Mood to Upper Elementary Students

 

Teaching Plot Development to Upper Elementary Students

Teaching Theme to Upper Elementary Students

Teaching Summarizing to Upper Elementary Students

 

 

 

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