To understand what a theme is, I felt it was important to first identify an example from Number the Stars to help me model it. I chose to start with Prejudice. I wrote the word Prejudice onto the white board and asked the class if anyone knew what the word meant. Students remembered the word from when we learned about Martin Luther King Jr.
I then asked the class to tell me if they felt that this was something that could be used to describe what happened in Number the Stars. When the class agreed, I asked them to give me examples of when we saw prejudice in the book. We discussed how the Jews were treated and how it affected Ellen. To help them further understand theme, I explain it as a key idea, idea, subject, or message that keeps occurring in a book. In many novels, we can see multiple themes.
I ask them to keep some notes on their paper to the themes that we might be able to find within our story. I let them know that Number the Stars has more than one theme. When we determine a theme, I ask them to help me create a note that will jog my memory on why we decided this was a theme. My class is not very comfortable with selecting the themes, but I have a few brave students who give it shot. I continuously prompt and ask questions until we identify friendship, fear, courage, truth, and fantasy vs reality.
Now that we have determined some themes from the story, I want to evaluate their thinking and how well they understood the story. I could give them an assessment, but feel asking them to choose two of the themes we identified to write evidence on would show how well they connected and comprehended the story. I ask the class to choose the two themes they feel best describe the book, and then give two pieces of evidence from the story that supports their thinking and theme choice.
I have used a graphic organizer from a Number the Stars Unit I purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers. I liked how it was laid out with Star of David and felt it supported the story better then just using lined paper. At the end if there is time, I allow of students to share their thoughts and give their examples. This can be a very fun discussion and they enjoy what each other has to say and can give lots of feedback in regards to student's connections.