This lesson begins the culmination of our Overcoming Obstacles unit and starts to teach the concept of theme. Theme is the "author's message" or takeaway. It is a lesson that the author hopes you remember, years after reading his or her novel.
I like to break down understanding theme by using "central idea words." I give kids a list of Central Idea Words Relating to Theme and inform them that everyone can pick two that sum up the entire novel. Remember, these words should directly relate to things that the main characters do, say, feel, and think.
Then we take a couple of reminder Theme Notes.
As a class, we glance at the commonly used theme words and determine two "central idea words" that apply to So B. It. Kids are very familiar with the term central idea by this time in the year. It is one of our buzz terms at my school.
Class Generated List of "So B. It" Central Idea Words:
After kids choose two words that most closely relate to the central idea, they are told they need to "commit" to these two words. They will then be given a passage. They will need to relate these two big idea words to the passage given.
I pass out a passage from the story So B. It, which all students have heard read aloud.
The challenge comes when students are told that they committed to their central idea words. Whatever the passage is, which they don't know ahead of time, they'll have to read the passage on their own, with a purpose. This purpose is finding anything that the characters do, say, or think that relates to the central idea words of their choosing.
The end goal will be to come up with a theme statement.
Now they're given time to independently read their selected passage, annotate with a highlighter and pen things the characters do, say, and think that relate to their central idea words, and finally find the three most relevant examples to write in their theme maps.
I made this theme map using a website called Popplet.
They have awesome manipulative, map-making tools.
I circulate to answer questions about examples and clear up misconceptions.
To give kids further practice, using their independent text, I explain they'll need to find central idea words to describe theme in their independent reading.
Here is the special Parts of Plot & Theme Reading Log.