Theme, Continued

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SWBAT: deepen their understanding of theme by applying it to their Personal Narratives.

Big Idea

In this second part of our instruction on theme, students pick a theme for their life in order to begin thinking about how theme can fit into their own Personal Narratives.

Guiding Question

5 minutes

For the previous lesson, my introduction on theme, the students kept bringing up theme songs. So, rather than fight it, I thought that I might as well use it to my benefit. I asked them to identify what they thought the theme of the story of their life might be. Even though it wasn't explicit on the Guiding Question prompt, if they were able to connect it to a song--I was okay with that because it's essentially a sophisticated text-to-text connection.


Mini Lesson

15 minutes

For the Mini Lesson, I again read aloud from Ninth Ward while thinking aloud and identifying some possible themes. Because I second-guess my ability to do this, I Googled "themes of Ninth Ward," and found this list of possible themes in the book: 

  • Growing Up
  • Courage, Bravery, Heroism
  • City Life
  • Adoption and Foster Care
  • Magic and Supernatural
  • Neighborhood Life
  • African American
  • Grandparents and Grandchildren
  • Survival

My students mostly identified the ones about the supernatural, survival, and bravery. I would also argue that friendship, overcoming obstacles, and overlooking differences are important themes. You really should read this book--it's wonderful and engaging!

Here is one student's list of possible themes in Ninth Ward.

Work Time

20 minutes

For the work time, I had the students go to their drafts of their Personal Narratives (their Memory Maps) and make the theme explicit. For example, if they wanted their theme to be "overcoming a challenge," I really wanted them to add narration or details to bring out that in them.

During this time, I circulated and conferred with kids. I hadn't really had a chance to read many of these narratives. I used this as a chance to "play a guessing game" to see if I could identify the theme of their Personal Narratives. In our conferences, I wrote down what I thought the theme was on a sticky note, then I had the student write down what they intended their theme to be. I counted to three, then we both flipped the note over. If they didn't match, then I suggested some places where they could make that theme explicit. I recorded my responses in my conferring notes.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

For their Wrap Up, or reflection, I did the same thing that I had done in the conferring sessions regarding guessing the theme. I had the students pair up, read each other's memory maps and guess the themes. If their partner was unable to do it, they knew that they had some revision to do. When I was conferring with students, and we were unable to agree on the theme of their Personal Narratives, we quickly brainstormed ways to make that explicit. For example, one student was writing about her experience on the first day of middle school, and thought that the theme was "growing," however I saw it as the theme of "overcoming fears," because she talked a lot about how nervous she was. She wanted to keep the theme of "growing," so I relayed that she may need to omit some of the nervousness that's relayed, and instead focus on specific examples of how she is growing during that day.

In their notebooks, students are keeping a running list of things to revise in their narratives. For example, they might need to add dialogue, change dialogue tags, use cause/effect, etc. If they needed to add a theme because their partner couldn't identify it, they used the last few minutes of class to add this to the list.