Assessing Theme

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SWBAT choose two "central idea words" that sum up the theme of our read aloud, take notes, and begin their theme maps.

Big Idea

To understand the theme, students must understand the author's message, or takeaway.

Theme: Note Taking & Introduce Central Idea Words

15 minutes

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.

Class Generated List of Words

5 minutes

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:













moving on



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.

Theme Analysis: What do the character's say and do that relate to the words?

5 minutes

I pass out a passage from the story So B. It, which all students have heard read aloud.

Here is a possible "So B. It" excerpt used in theme analysis.

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.

Read, Annotate, & Complete Theme Map

25 minutes

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.

Student Sample, partially completed theme map.

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.

Special Reading Log Explanation

5 minutes

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.