Lesson: 1: Identifying Universal Themes Across Cultures

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Lesson Objective

Students will be able to identify the universal theme of a story, and be able to compare and contrast stories with the same universal theme.

Lesson Plan

(I)       will review with students that the theme of a story is the message the author is trying to convey about life. I will explain that universal themes are themes that are relevant to all people and cultures, such as love, friendship, family, society, and nature. Universal themes are the topics of the message that the author is trying to convey. For example, if the theme of The Three Little Pigs is that “hard work now will pay off later”, then the universal theme would be “hard work”. Stories in different cultures may have different details but the themes are similar across cultures. I will explain that by looking at the problem and solution in the story (plot), we can identify the author’s message or the theme of the story. By thinking about the theme, we can identify the universal theme (or topic).  I will read “Munna and the Grain of Rice” (p. 8) aloud, from Indian Children’s Favorite Stories retold by Rosemarie Somaiah. I will chart the problem, solution, and theme of the story. (Example chart is provided.) I will model identifying the universal theme in the story based on the plot and author’s message (or theme). Since the story is about how a young girl tricks her greedy king and the theme is that kindness wins over greed, I think the universal theme is “greed”. Greed exists everywhere and in all cultures and stories may be told with different details and in different ways but there are many stories in the world with the universal theme of “greed”. For example, this story reminds me of another story that I know with the universal theme of “greed.” In a Christmas Carol, Scrooge is very greedy and learns that kindness leads to a happier life. The universal theme of that story is also greed. The details of the story and even the author’s message or theme are slightly different, but the universal theme of “greed” is the same. 
 
(We)       will read “A Feast of Gold” (p. 37) from Filipino Children’s Favorite Stories retold by Liana Romulo. We will identify the problem and solution in the story and use these to identify the author’s message or the theme of the story. We will then identify the universal theme of the story. (Example chart is provided.) We will compare and contrast this story to the story of “Munna and the Grain of Rice”. For example: Both stories share the universal theme of “greed”, but in “A Feast of Gold”, the greed destroys the main characters. In “Munna and the Grain of Rice” Munna is clever and kind enough to trick the greedy king and save the people from starvation. The author’s message is somewhat different in the two stories but the universal theme of “greed” is the same. 
 

(You)             will read “The Magic Lake” (p. 50) from Filipino Children’s Favorite Stories retold by Liana Romulo. You will identify the problem, solution, and theme (author’s message) of the story. You will then identify the universal theme and compare and contrast this story to “A Feast of Gold”. (Independent Practice is provided.) 

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Lesson Resources

Direct Teaching Teacher Example Chart   Notes
8
Guided Practice Teacher Example Chart  
8
Student Independent Practice Worksheet   Classwork
5

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