There is Something in Common: Finding Common Themes

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SWBAT identify common themes among multiple texts.

Big Idea

Students synthesize the information from multiple historical fiction books to find common themes and support them with evidence from the text.


5 minutes

Students have spent a lot of time studying characters, setting, and events. They have also developed theories about meaning in a particular book. In this lesson, I want students to think about the ideas that the author might want the reader to understand or know and then to check if that idea is universal or could apply to a different book. 

Main Activity

30 minutes

In order to model what I want students to do, I use the last two read aloud books, Sing Down the Moon by Scott O'Dell and A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. I start with the most recent one because its fresh in the students' minds. In A Long Walk to Water, the main character is faced with many obstacles but develops perseverence in order to reach their home. If one theme is that perseverence is necessary for someone to overcome their obstacles I can try to use that with the other text.

I think out loud and use evidence from the other book to support that theme. The main character from Sing Down the Moon also had to persevere in order to get through hard times. Therefore, both of these books have a theme in common.

Now, students will try it out with a partner. Students who are not in the same book club share a common theme across their books. One partner starts by sharing one theme from a book they have read with evidence to support their idea. Then the other students tries to match their book with the theme, again, using evidence. If there is time, they can switch.

Before students go off to work on this skill using their book club books, I explain to students that its not a coincidence that so many of their themes could be supported by evidence from many books. Because these ideas are from real life, they apply to many life stories and fictional stories and therefore are themes. As they read in the future, they should keep hold of the themes they are finding in the their books and check to see if they apply to other stories or even life.


5 minutes

To close this lesson, students share one or two of the common themes they found in their books. If other student groups had the same one, they can voice it with a raised hand. This reinforces the idea that themes can be universal. 

If there is time, you can also have students share their book or books with students from other book clubs. They might choose to pick it up as their next independent reading book.