Students arrive to class today with last night’s homework completed: the Identifying Theme worksheets. As predicted, the high interest topics have something for everyone so the discussion that follows is lively.
One thing I notice is that many students continue to have problems stating theme in a way that does not contain details specific to the particular story. To do address this we discuss that the theme should be stated in a way that anyone can relate to, not just readers familiar with this story. Therefore, the characters names and specific events from the story should only appear in the response to the second question for each narrative. Before continuing on, everyone has an opportunity to make changes to their responses. Then student volunteers come forward and discuss their work with the class one story at a time. From this experience, I conclude this to be a useful activity that uncovers some underlying misconceptions. The answer key appears here and a marked up copy of the answer key appears here.
The second short story students read as part of this unit is “The Stone” by Lloyd Alexander, which is found in Literature: Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes: Copper Level (Prentice Hall, 1999). In it Maibon, a farmer, passes an elderly man on the road and starts thinking about the physical problems of old age. Later he frees a dwarf from a predicament and asks that he be granted a wish. He asks for a stone that will stop him from growing old even though the dwarf tries to persuade him to ask for a more useful reward. Not only does the stone keep Maibon from changing, everything around him also stays the same: his crops don’t grow, his cow doesn’t have a calf, and his baby’s teeth don’t come in. He tries to get rid of the stone but it keeps coming back until Maibon finally meets up with the dwarf again and demands that he take back. The dwarf explains that Maibon’s problem is that he doesn’t really want to get rid of it. Once he stops hoping that he will never grown old, he is able to throw the stone away.
Some points to consider when reading this story appear here:
To demonstrate understanding students answer the Check Your Comprehension questions and the Critical Thinking questions on page 531. The expectation is to arrive for class tomorrow with this work completed. If there is time before the end of class, students can begin the homework.