Monday, November 1, 2010

Teaching Theme

**We're working in our literature circle groups, which means that students will soon be starting to talk about theme.

Theme presents a new challenge for transitional readers. It's not enough to just read the words and figure out who did what to whom in the story. Now they need to synthesize everything from the story to come up with a deeper meaning. For students who are just beginning to think abstractly, this is a tough task.

Students can have several problems with finding theme. At first, many students try to talk about theme by using characters and events from the plot. After all, teachers say, "Use specific details!" These students are confusing theme with summarizing. Students also tend to confuse "theme" with "moral". Many stories, especially fables, have morals. But a moral is not quite the same as a theme. When authors write a story with a clear moral, there is an underlying assumption of right and wrong, and the author clearly wants the reader to do something. Theme is more open to interpretation, and doesn't have as much of an action component.

Here are some things that I do to help students learn about themes:

Universal Themes Chart: Give students a list of common themes. Then, they can try to match stories to the themes. I've had students return to this chart again and again as they read new books throughout the year. (Write to me if you'd like a copy.)

Classroom themes chart: Use a long roll of paper and write themes across the top. Then, students can write titles that they've read (or titles from a class reading list) under the appropriate themes. The same title may appear under different themes, launching a good discussion. I love to hear students talking to each other about books that they have read and the themes they show. Students can write the titles of appropriate movies, also.

Great books for teaching theme: It's so sad that picture books go out of print so quickly! I love Mole and the Baby Bird, which you might be able to find at your local library. Pumpkins, which is still in print, is a lovely little story with an easy to recognize theme.  Older students have enjoyed Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting and The Memory Coat by Elvira Woodruff.

Theme in different genres: Help students to see that biographies, poems, and stories can all express themes. It's eye-opening for students to see how two texts from different genres and with different topics can express the same themes.

Questions about theme: These can bring about interesting conversations.
-Can a story have more than one theme? Why or why not?
-Can a story have a theme that the author didn't intend?
-Are there stories that don't have themes? What are they like?

Theme Powerpoint: I'm trying to make my Powerpoints shorter. :) Here is one that I made to be a very simple introduction to theme.

You can download the presentation at this link:

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Finding-Theme-Powerpoint

October 2012 Update: Thank you for all of your comments! Due to the volume of the responses, I can no longer email theme resources individually. You can still get the themes chart in 2 ways:
1. Download the free preview for my Teaching About Theme unit here at TeachersPayTeachers. (You will need to create an account. The universal themes chart is included in the free preview download.)
2. Look in my book, Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Retelling.

74 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas for teaching theme. I find this to be more difficult than some things we teach. I will definitely use this powerpoint! Thanks. :)

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  2. Thank You for this post on teaching theme.. I was wondering if you could send me the list of universal themes. Here is my email kmunioz@gmail.com. I teach 6th grade at a middle school. This is my first year and theme is VERY confusing.. would love all the help I could get :)

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  3. Please send me the Universal Themes Chart - thanks, sheila.dove@fairfield.k12.tx.us or sheila.dove@fairfieldisd.org

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  4. Thanks so much for writing this post. Please send me the universal themes list. My email address is Jparrott@paulcharter.org.

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  5. Emily, Thank you so much. I used this PowerPoint for teaching theme, and my students did so well!
    I would like to continue the lesson so if you could send me the Universal Themes list, I would be grateful. My email address is: Ddimperio@Twpunionschools.org

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  6. Thanks so much for this post. I plan on using the powerpoint tomorrow to introduce identifying the theme to my second grade class. Could you please send me a copy of the Universal Themes List.
    Thanks so much.
    email address: robinsongd@mcsk12.net

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  7. Thank you so much for posting this powerpoint! Can you send me a copy of the universal themes chart. My email is cswederska@ollwashingtonmo.com

    Thanks!

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  8. Thank you so much for posting this powerpoint on theme. I would very much like the universal theme chart. My email is templetonev@mcsk12.net

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  9. I would love a list of universal themes. I teach 3rd grade and it is confusing between theme and morals. My email is tarters@duvalschools.org.

    Thanks!

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  10. I would love a copy of your list of universal themes! My email address is: amymarieplowe@yahoo.com. I am a high school special education teacher -- but this would be so incredibly helpful for my classroom! Thank you! :)

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  11. I would love to have the universal theme chart. I think you powerpoint will be very helpful. Email is tgmoynihan@bellsouth.net Thanks!

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  12. Thank you for this! I will use the powerpoint for my 8th grade class. I would also like the universal themes chart. kpatik@yahoo.com. Thank you so much!

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  13. Hi there, Emily!

    I really appreciate what you've put on this site! It is helpful to me since it's my first year teaching some of this stuff. I would love to get a copy of your universal themes chart if you'd be willing to mail it to me at dwright@d15.us. Thanks so much!

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  14. I'm getting ready to tutor for a 4th grade FCAT group, I would love to have the list of universal themes!
    sandybeach1267@yahoo.com
    Thank you for sharing your awesome powerpoints!

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  15. Great ideas! Can you send me the universal themes chart? pagep@gvsu.edu Thank you!

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  16. I would love a copy of your universal themes chart.
    jstrasburg@usd495.k12.ks.us
    Thank you.

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  17. Nice Ideas!

    I wondered if you could send me a copy of your universal themes chart? Thank you so much! hayleykimbrue@gmail.com

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  18. Can you send me a copy of your universal theme chart? Thanks for your time and for your blog.
    jennademauro25@gmail.com

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  19. I would like a copy of your universal themes. Thank you so much for the powerpoint and great ideas!
    erin_eliz_ross@hotmail.com

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  20. Thank you for the wonderful powerpoint on theme. Please send me your universal theme chart. Thanks!!
    dadyj@optonline.net

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  21. Hi Emily I LOVE your work! Could you please email me the universal theme chart at tigrpooboo@aol.com

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  22. Thanks so much for sharing this! Please send me the universal themes list. My email address is staciekayseiler@wi.rr.com

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  23. I would love a copy of the Universal Themes list. My email is christine.bonilla20@gmail.com

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  24. Note from Emily, August 2012: I've uploaded a formatted set of common themes to Slideshare. You can find it at this link:
    http://www.slideshare.net/elkissn/common-themes-formatted
    Enjoy!

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  25. I love the powerpoint. I would love a copy of the Universal Themes List. My email is dljohn15@louisville.edu.

    Thank you

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  26. Pleasee send me the universal theme's list to danielle.delahoussaye@cobbk12.org
    Thanks,

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  27. Please send me a copy of the universal theme list. My e-mail is twhitcraft@od.k12.in.us Thank you.....I love your powerpoint.

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  28. Great powerpoint! I would love a copy of the universal theme list. My email is eamiller302@gmail.com. Thank you!

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  29. I have to re-teach theme to some high school students and am going to use your PP. May I also have a copy of your universal themes list? Please send it to whiteh@highlands.k12.fl.us. Thanks!

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  30. Could I get a copy of your universal theme list? Thank you - my email is azito@alpinedistrict.org. I really love your ideas and have used several in my class! Thanks for a great blog :)

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  31. I have been teaching for many years, but this is my first year teaching 7th grade.I think this powerpoint is great. Theme is presented in a way that my students will understand. Please send me a copy of your universal themes list. If it is as wonderful as your powerpoint, I know I will love it. dorseye@pitt.k12.nc.us

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  32. This is a great blog I stumbled across while looking for ideas on teaching theme to my 4th graders. Could I get a copy of your universal theme list? My email is kprice@washoeschools.net

    Thanks so much!

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  33. Please send me a copy of the universal themes list. kelly_drum@catawbaschools.net

    Thank you!

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  34. I have been looking for some ideas to teach theme to my Jr. High Special Education class. Thanks for the ideas. Could you please send me a copy of your universal theme list ? Thanks so much!! jmiller@csd190.com

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  35. I love your powerpoint! I will definitely use it next week when I begin teaching theme to my third graders! Could I have a copy of the universal themes chart? My email is alisonvinson@gmail.com

    Thanks so much!! :)

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  36. Thanks for the great powerpoint! Please send me your universal themes chart.
    My email address is allisonsmithfisher@gmail.com

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  37. The power point is excellent:) It gives a powerful yet understandable explanation of a difficult topic for kids to grasp. I would love to have a copy of the universal themes chart. We will be teaching theme next week. My email is bejobeek@siouxlan.net. Thank you so very much:)

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  38. Thank you for this helpful tip. I am working with a small group intervention on "theme" this week. I would love a copy of your universal themes chart. Please send to tasbill@seneca.k12.mo.us

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  39. Great ideas! May I have a copy of the universal themes chart? galloma@watertownps.org Thank you!

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  40. Please send me the universal themes chart! Thanks.
    j.berlin11@gmail.com

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  41. I would love to get a copy of your universal theme chart. Thanks!! esylvstr@gmail.com

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  42. I would love a copy of the universal them chart. Thanks! This helped alot.

    hodelfamily@juno.com

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  43. The power point is excellent! May I please have a copy of your universal theme chart?
    Thank you so much for sharing

    donna.clement@stpsb.org

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  44. I really appreciate you sharing thepresentation. I think my kiddos are really going to enjoy this. If possible could you send me the universal themes chart? Thanks in advance.
    phillipsst@pearlandisd.org

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  45. Great tips for teaching theme! I'm a student teacher and I'm supposed to be doing a lesson on theme with my 10th grade English classes two days from now. Kind of nervous, as it's my first solo lesson, but I'm confident. =)
    Can you send me the list of universal themes too? Really appreciate the help - thanks!
    fqamar@mail.uh.edu

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  46. Thanks for sharing the PP. My kids loved the practice last year and I plan on using it this year. Could I have a copy of the Universal Themes chart?? Thanks in advance for your help!! I teach 5th grade reading!! swoolard@central51.net

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  47. Hi There,
    So glad I stumbled across your blog! I am working on theme with my students and would LOVE a copy of your Universal Themes chart. Keep up the great work!
    Jenn

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  48. i would love the chart if you have time!
    kim.adams@ketteringschools.org

    thanks!

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  49. I would love a copy of the themes list that you references above. Please send to mdusdal@jeffco.k12.co.us
    Thanks!

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  50. Love this! I am working on theme and would love a copy of your universal theme chart. My email is carrute@gcsnc.com.
    Thank you!

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  51. I would really appreciate a copy of your universal theme chart. My email is katiemacdiarmid@gmail.com
    Thanks!

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  52. Could you please send me a copy of the Universal Themes Chart? My email is m.garcia30@ljisd.com. Thanks

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  53. Could you please send me a copy of the Universal Themes Chart? My email is marija.crosson@dc.gov.

    Thank you!

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  54. I would like to have a copy of your universal themes chart. Your clarification between theme and moral made a great deal of sense to me. I find so many differing definitions and your's has made the most sense! Thanks!!! ashley.holloman@anderson.kyschools.us

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  55. I would really appreciate a copy of your universal themes chart. Thank You so much for your blog! I find it very helpful in the teaching of reading. My email is dgrebner@schools.mtco.com. Thank YOU!

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  56. Hi,

    I would love a copy of the universal themes chart. It would be a wonderful resource for my students. My email address is thinkpositivethoughts07@gmail.com. Thank you!

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  57. Hi,

    I would love a copy of the universal themes chart. It would be a wonderful resource for my students. My email address is olivatirsa@yahoo.com Thank you!

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  58. Would love a chart. Many thanks for the wonderful guidance.
    mrsmilne@stjohnregional.org

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  59. Would love the Universal Theme Chart please. It will be greatly appreciated. jared.s@newlandsint.school.nz
    Regards

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  60. I would also love the chart! Thanks for the help! brooke.walters@pike.kyschools.us

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  61. This is a great start! Please send me your universal theme chart :) savpederson@gmail.com

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  62. It would be really wonderful to have your universal theme chart. If you could please send it to me, I would be forever grateful. My email is jeremyharrison00@gmail.com. Thanks!!!

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  63. Terrific powerpoint, Succinct and clear! Can you send me your universal theme list please?
    My email is acalabrese@acsdny.org

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  64. I, too, would like the universal theme list.
    teachergirl1962@yahoo.com
    Thanks!

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  65. Please send me the list of universal themes. fondrenms@ccscards.org

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  66. Hi Emily,

    Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge. I found this post really helpful! Would you please send me the Universal Themes Chart?

    Much appreciated!
    Anya
    ashvartsman@architectsforlearning.com

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  67. I am also interested in receiving your Universal Themes Chart. Thank you for offering it to those who contact you. Hope I'm not too late. I enjoyed your Themes slideshow too.


    anderson_m@ccsdistrict.org

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  68. Will you please send me the universal theme chart? Thanks so much!

    brittany_wilfong@nccs.k12.nc.us

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  69. I would love the universal themes chart. Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. I'd be happy to send it, but I need an email address. :)

      Delete
  70. Please send me the universal theme chart. My address is jana.ketner@mps.k12.al.us Thank you for being willing to share. :)

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  71. I would love a copy of your universal theme chart. My address is jfoster@copiague.net. Thanks

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  72. I would appreciate a copy of your universal theme chart. Send to cleyva@phoenixunion.org Thanks so much. Oftentimes even the experts don't give the correct information; they end up mentioning subject/topics and claims those ideas as themes.

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  73. Love your powerpoint! Could you send me a copy of the universal theme chart to jbalzano@lbeach.org. Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete