The Common Language of Theme: Left Side Interactive Student Notebook Activity

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SWBAT identify eight major themes in literature and match some books to the proper theme.

Big Idea

Understanding theme is essential to deep understanding of fictional texts.

What Is Theme?

10 minutes

Today we begin a new study of another element of fiction- theme.  This is a new idea for my students.  In looking at the elements of fiction, my students were essentially reviewing everything but plot and theme.  Because I know that theme is new for them,  I need to start at the very beginning.  

The beginning for us is always the Interactive Student Notebook.  Today's activity will be a left side activity- the information side.  When the students enter the room, they grab their Interactive Student Notebook and wait for instructions.

I tell the students that today we're going to watch a video about theme.  The video is going to give us some helpful tips on what theme is and how to find it.  After the video, we're going to discuss some common themes found in literature and make a foldable to represent those themes. 

 After we watch the video, I review with students the two most important things I want them to get from it- what is theme and how can we find it.  I think this video does a nice job of teaching both points.

Under Construction....

10 minutes

After discussing theme, it's time for the foldable.  As always, I show students the model- the one I created and wait for the excitement.  This foldable is two pieces and spins on a brad, so it's like a magic trick to the kiddos!!

I hand out one circle at a time- the one that looks like a pizza- along with a Sharpie marker of their choice and instruct the students to trace over the lines of the circle.  I then have the students cut AROUND the circle.  I have to warn them NOT to cut on the pizza lines.  

I then hand out the second circle.  On this circle, I instruct students to line the circles up and trace one of the triangles in the open space and cut it out so it ends up looking like Pac Man.  


Some Assembly Required

25 minutes

Once the circles are prepared, I ask students what theme is again.  They can all tell me that it's the message the author wants you to learn or what the character learns at the end of the text. I have them write that on the front of the Pac Man circle.  

I tell them next that theme is not specific to any book or character- that it's more like the lessons their moms and dads teach them at home.  Lessons like, "Treat others the way you want to be treated", "Never give up", etc.  I ask the students to tell me some lessons their parents teach them.  They say, "Don't talk to strangers" and I tell them, "Yes, that's a lesson, but not a big life lesson to make you a better person."  They seem to understand and someone replies, "Always tell the truth".  B- I- N- G- O!!!  Yep, that's exactly it!!

I show them the Smartboard slide with some common themes of literature and I have them write them- one in each section of their circle.  I have to warn the students not to take up the whole space because they also need to write an example of the theme with it.  

I give them time to put all the themes in their pizza pieces before we discuss what each piece means.  After all the words are copied in, we discuss each one and give examples.  I put a cheat sheet for this in the resource section.  I write the definitions on each piece and have the students copy.  As we work, I wonder aloud if we know any books that fit each description. Some we can think of and some we can't which is OK for now.

After the discussion takes place about the common themes in literature, it's time to assemble the rest of the foldable.  I instruct the students to line up the circles and I hand out brads.  Most students can just poke the brads through both circles, but some do need some assistance.  The students are then able to glue their foldables to the left side of their notebook.

Once all foldables are glued in, students receive an exit ticket.


Exit Ticket

10 minutes

The last activity for the day is an exit ticket.  I want to give the students a chance to practice with the concept of theme in a quick, non judgmental kind of way.  I would hope that they would be able to match at least those four books, but if they can't then I know where to start tomorrow.  

I hand out the exit tickets and let the students work.  After a few minutes, I collect the papers and send the students on their way.