Details, Details, Details - Finding the Theme and Details in 3 Versions of a Story

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SWBAT compare and contrast the theme and details of 3 versions of the same story by different authors and make a connections to the world.

Big Idea

The fables differ in their plot and theme – let’s look at the versions and make connections.



You could use 3 versions of another fable if you want, but make sure they are different in their themes and plots

Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)


Engage students:

“I have some stories today to read for you.  Tell me what you think as I write and read the titles.”

  • The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig
  • The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs
  • The Three Little Pigs


Bring students to a common starting point:

  • “So what do you think?  We’ve talked about different versions of the same story before.  Here are 3 versions of the story by different authors.”
  • “Today we’ll compare the plot and theme of the stories.”

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Review concepts:

  • Review 'plot'.  How you use the headers for story elements. Using a visual reminder of the story elements helps for the kids generalize how the characters, events, problems and solutions interact in a story.
  • Plot includes the key details of the story - what is really important.“  I reviewed a 'math problem' from a previous lesson.          Character + problem + solution = plot
  • Review 'theme'-‘big message’ that the author is trying to teach.  (4-5 words long)
  • I used this connecting plot and theme chart as a reminder of plot vs theme.


Model the strategy:

  • Draw 3 houses on the whiteboard. "I have 3 houses here because there were 3 pigs.  There were also 3 stories that I read." 
  • "We'll find the plot and theme for the 1st story. Key details for the plot are in the words and illustrations.
  • Quickly read one of the books and have students brainstorm with you – THINK OUT LOUD  - “The pigs built 3 houses – yes that’s a key detail.  The pig has a flute - does that help me understand the story better?  So let’s do our math problem – characters + problem + solution.  What is the key detail about the problem?  What detail could you write for the solution?  Let’s make a ‘plot sentence’ that makes sense." Here's the whiteboard example for this book.
  • "What’s the theme of the story?  We’ll have to infer– the author does not tell us.  It's the big idea. Let’s write the theme inside this triangle.”

Students Take A Turn

20 minutes

Guided practice:

  • “Now let's write the key details to make a plot and theme for the second book together."
  • Pass out 'details, details organizer' worksheet. Let's fill in the first house with what we already have on the board." (Give students time to copy)
  • Read book 2, making comments as you go… that seems like an important detail…. I don’t think that part is a key detail.  The problem seems to be…..  This story seems to be about….  As you finish a story, give them a moment to write down their connection and reasoning."  (I read the next story to the kids because there was not time to have the kids read them and they were above their reading level.) I also did do considerable prompting with the second story. Here's the whiteboard example book 2 and a video of some prompting for theme.


Independent practice

  • Repeat with the third book
  • See if you can figure out the details, theme and connections yourselves."  
  • I did put up ideas after the kids were mostly finished for my struggling students. Here are the prompts on the whiteboard for book 3 and how I prompted to get a connection.
  • Here's an example of student artifact.


The emphasis in the Common Core Standards toward the ability to compare and contrast versions of a story (RL.2.9). Fables are a great choice for this because there are usually several versions. I chose this fable because the students are very familiar with it, but enjoy hearing the different versions. They are familiar with the details of the basic story, but the versions vary in theme and some plot details.

These fables are fun to examine for character development (RL.2.2), helping the students learn how to read closely and examine text to verify answers to questions. The characters change and develop in different ways in these versions and the students can understand the humor of the newer versions.

Apply What You've Learned

15 minutes

Discussion and reflection:

  • Students share their favorite version was and why they liked it. Give explicit text evidence.  
  • Students share their connections and why they picked the theme.


Encourage students to share their ideas and connections. You can gauge student understanding by listening to their connections.  Were they shallow connections (I like the pigs’ houses ) or deeper connections (The plot of this story switched the characters and we saw a different point of view.)  Make comments on the kinds of connections that the students made. Also ask them to verify the reasons why they liked or didn’t like the stories.


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be easily scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

For students with academic challenges more prompting will be needed. I did go through the organizer pieces with them to help them fill it out. I also ‘modeled out loud’ my thinking when I read – “I can make a connection to those beautiful flowers because I went to a garden and loved the smell!”.  Encourage them to make those deeper connections, even if you have to lead them through the process.

This is a great lesson for students with more academic ability. I would expect them to be able to write themes with higher level vocabulary (‘do a favor for a friend’ vs ‘help your friend’) and to create connections that are deeper (‘he called the cops when he saw the wolf like the boy who cried wolf called the townspeople')