Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Teaching Theme in the Secondary English Classroom

There are many topics of teaching that I am weak in, but one of the topics I feel that I excel at is teach theme. I thought I would share with you my process for teaching theme. 

Doodle Notes

When I am talking to students about theme, I like to start out with handing students a copy of my Theme Doodle Notes. As we go through the notes, we talk about how theme is a universal truth that MANY people can relate to. Theme is not necessarily the moral of the story (as many students think that it is) but a hidden message the author of the story it trying to relate to the reader. 

I tell my students that there are three steps to determining theme:
  1. Determine the topic of a piece of writing by choosing an abstract noun (Brave, evil, love, etc..).
  2. Take that topic and S-T-R-E-T-C-H it out like a giraffe into a complete sentence with a universal truth. (What is the author trying to tell the reader about bravery?).
  3. Find textual evidence to back up your theme statement.
Example of a completed doodle notes:
We transition from the doodle notes into my fortune cookie theme prezi that talks about finding theme in greater detail. We also do a small craftivity in which students write their own short story and determine the theme. They then "hide" the theme inside of a fortune cookie they have created. 

Theme Songs
After I think that students have a pretty good grasp on how to find theme, I have the students practice finding the theme of T.V. show theme songs (there is a reason they call them THEME songs) and movie clips!

Theme in Popular Songs
We then move on to finding the theme of popular songs #1 & popular songs #2. I have them listen to the song, determine the topic, stretch out the topic, and find textual evidence within the lyrics. The kids love it!

Theme in the Twilight Zone
I love using Twilight Zone episodes in the classroom so I show 'The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" and students fill out a movie/episode guide targeted at theme.

Potential themes:
  • Fear and suspicion can cause peaceful people to turn on one another.
  • Mankind is its own worst enemy.
  • Prejudices can kill.
  • Suspicion can destroy
  • Thoughtless, frightened searching for a scapegoat will have a fallout.

Fun companion idea: 
Have the students read “They’re Made out of Meat” and compare the two stories. 

Practice in short stories
We then move on to my theme practice. I tape up stories that I have collected around the classroom. The students then work their way through the stories and determine the theme of each following the three step process we have discussed. 

I also like to take the stories that students created for their craftivity and have the students determine the theme of these as well. They love checking themselves by pulling out the hidden fortune in each of the cookies. 

Computer Lab
I usually like to book a lab when I know we are going to cover theme so we can work on my theme computer lab activity. In this activity, students get to find the theme of different fables, find the theme of more T.V. show theme songs, determine the theme of different THEME parks, and find books the exemplify give themes. This activity really lets me know who needs a little extra help before the theme test since they work on it independently. 

Theme Test
I have two differentiated theme testing scenarios that I choose from each year. 

Scenario #1:
I take the theme stories from the "practice in short stories" above. 

Lower Level: I have do a matching test and I let them use the notes they took on the stories. 
Mid Level: I have do a matching test and I do not let them use their notes. 
High Level: I give a multiple choice test on the theme practice stories. 

Scenario #2:
For lower level students I give a 9 question test with shorter passages. 
For higher level students I give a 5 question test with longer passages. 

Products discussed:






1 comment:

  1. You've got some very creative and fun ideas here. I wish I would have had opportunities to learn like this in middle school. I need to see what I can apply to my 3rd grade classroom.