Lesson: Theme: Through Character Actions/Thoughts

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Lesson Objective

Students will determine the theme of a story by tracking a character's emotions across a narrative.

Lesson Plan

Warm Up (3-5 mins) Students are seated on the carpet with a partner.  Students will be expected to turn and talk with this partner during guided practice. Students read the objective.  Readers, for the past few weeks you have become experts as studying characters.  You have become really close with characters in your books and have even predicted their actions because you knew them so well.  Today, we will learn how to find a theme of a story. 

Instruction (3-5 mins) The theme of the story is the author’s message, or what they want you to take away from a story.  Sometimes a theme is can be a lesson or moral the author wants us to learn.  It’s important to remember that a theme is a broad statement so it should never include character’s names or actions.  You want to zoom out of the story to determine the big idea.  Today, we will find the theme of a story by tracking changes in how a character feels.  This is why it was so important to become close with characters.  We become close to characters so that we understand them, this allows us to take a step back from the story and determine theme.

Modeling/Guided Practice (10-15 mins) Watch me as I use this chart to help me determine theme.  Teacher uncovers teaching chart for the day (this chart is a larger copy of the worksheet students will complete during independent reading time, refer to the attachment).  We have read the Name Jar many times throughout this unit.  Today, we will read The Name Jar by Sanjook Choi one more time with the specific purpose of discovering the theme.  Since we have read this book many times we can already complete Step 1 on our finding theme chart.  Step one is to retell the main events of the story.  Turn and retell the main events of the story to your partner.  Students share our main events and teacher adds to chart.  (Students should include Unhei was picked on because of her name, students in her room created a name jar for new names, Unhei chose her own name in the end) 

Great! We are already finished with the first step.  Teacher reads aloud from text and stops on page seven.  The second step in our chart is to notice how character’s emotions change in the story.  I just read aloud to you the beginning of the story.  I’m thinking Unhei is feeling upset because all of the students are picking on her.  She is upset because her name is so different.  I will add this to the chart.

Now it’s your turn.  Teacher reads aloud to page 19.  Turn and tell a partner how you think Unhei was feeling in the middle part of the story I just read.  Students turn and talk.  Students share out responses.  Teacher adds response to chart.  (The correct response would be similar to this one: Unhei is still upset that he name is so different but she is glad everyone is helping her find a new name)

Teacher reads aloud to the end of the book.  I noticed Unhei has changed a lot from the beginning of the book until now.  Turn and tell your partner how you think Unhei was feeling at the end of the book.  Students share out responses and teacher adds to chart.  (correct response: Unhei is happy with her own name and feels comfortable enough to teach the kids how to pronounce it). 

Wow we did such a great job tracking Unhei’s emotions across the book.  Now it’s time for the best part.  We need to determine the theme of the story.  Watch me as I walk through the process.  I know that Unhei was very upset and unhappy in the beginning of the book because she did not like her Korean name.  However, in the end of the book she is confident and chooses her own name instead of ones from the name jar.  I think the author wanted us to learn that even if we are different we should be happy with ourselves.  I think this because Unhei learns to love her name and she accepts who she is rather than choosing a different name that’s not unique. 

Readers, did you notice that I didn’t’ say the theme of the story is that Unhei learned to love her name.  I made sure to zoom out from the story and create a broad statement that didn’t talk about specific characters or actions.  You all did such a great job finding the theme of our story.  Remember it’s important to read with a purpose and to walk away from the story with a message, the theme of the story.

Independent Practice (15-20 mins) Students return to their seats to complete their own “how to find theme” worksheet.  This is a very difficult skill so I actually pick a story to read aloud while students fill out their charts independently at their seats.  For example, I read aloud Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats.  I stopped at the beginning, middle, and end to allow students time to reflect and write how the characters were feeling.  They were expected to complete the entire worksheet when the read aloud was complete.

Exit Slip (3-5 mins) Students complete the theme chart as an exit slip to ensure all students mastered the objective for the lesson.  Teacher should review the chart to determine which students did not master the skill.

Reflection: Students often have difficulty zooming out of the story.  The first time I teach this lesson I always have students who refer to characters by name or specific events in the story.  I generally teach this lesson two days in a row modeling with a different story and allowing students multiple times to practice.  I have found this to be helpful with student mastery. 

Lesson Resources

How do we find the theme of a story   Activity


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