Key Details and a Theme - Make a connection

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SWBAT assemble the key details of a story and examine story structure in collaborative conversations to report ideas, the theme of a chapter, and connect the theme to the world.

Big Idea

Retell the key details, determine a theme, and connect to the real world by reporting to the class.


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 the students: 

  • Bring in background knowledge with the Little Bear book and slide (slide 2
  • “Do any of you know this character?**  Did you see the tv show with this character?  What is this character like?”


Bring students to a common learning point:

  • "Today we will look at this story in 3 ways. What do these 3 things have to do with reading?  Any ideas?”  (slide 3)
  • Explain the concepts -  “The key represents ‘key ideas’. The lock represents the ‘theme’ of the story, and the door represents the ‘connection’ to your world.”


**I like to show this book (and the powerpoint slide) because my students are familiar with this character or have seen the TV show. They immediately voice that what they've seen, what they know about this character and some books that they've read. By bringing all of the students to this interest level and to the same common knowledge, they are ready to move on and learn a new skill.

Teacher's Turn

20 minutes

Introduce the lesson:

(I taught identifying details and connecting to a story in 2 previous lessons- “Connecting to the Theme With Elmer” and “Details, Details, Details".

  • Discuss key details - powerpoint slides 4-5  
    • The hand visual shows how many key details to retell for a story. (I use the idea of fingers for key details because my students tend to tell too many details.  I tell them if I run out of fingers, I have too many details.)
    • Review what details to include with the headers for story elements.
    • I try to make this very concrete for my kids. Some students can go beyond this concept and do a good job of identifying key details, but as an introduction, I use the finger visual with story element details.
  • Discuss theme - slide 6  


**I used fairy tales in these slide because they are common knowledge for my students. I showed the book and we reviewed what happened in the story.  Since this is a new skill, I wanted to use known text/illustrations to practice the novel questioning.


Modeling and Guided Practice:

  • Preview the picture or book. Previewing helps us connect to the story and bring in what we know. "I remember that this story - it was about....."
  • "Let's figure out the key details of these stories".  (slide 7-12) Let's count on our fingers
    • (Flip out the first finger) – “I need to know the character and setting”. 
    • (Second finger out) “What was the problem?”
    • (Third and fourth finger out)  “What were 2 more events?” 
    • (Last finger out) “What was the solution?”
  • "What's the theme - the big idea?  What lesson can we learn from this?  Sometimes we call this the 'moral' of the fairy tale.  Get student ideas


The shift in Common Core standards to ‘close reading’ and using text features to answer questions if evidenced here.  The students must look at story elements to verify information in the text. (RL.2.5)  They must also determine the theme and key details (RL.2.2) by analyzing the author’s purpose and finding details in the illustrations and text.

Students Take A Turn

20 minutes

Assign the task

  • Students determine key details and theme in groups 
  • Students will work in groups. Review rules using the group rules posterUse predetermined groups or assign as necessary – make sure there is mixed ability in the group.  There are 4 chapters, so plan accordingly).
  • Students preview the chapter and look over the pictures and headings. “Previewing is a great way to start ‘connecting'.  This is a video of how this looks when we preview the chapter


Students work in groups

  • Students fill out the organizer   Here are examples of a student artifact and another student artifact.
  • During group work, walk around and ask students them to explain their answers.  Ask for text examples and look at their reasoning – “What is that a good connection?  Why did they pick that theme?” – See one of my student explaining answers in this video.


When students work together collaboratively and follow agreed-upon rules, they are exemplifying the Common Core Standard SL.2.1.  The Standards encourage students to shift from individual work to ‘rich structured conversations’ with diverse partners.

Apply What You've Learned

10 minutes

Explain the task

  • Each group will come up and present their organizer to the class.”  Call out the chapters and let the kids present.

Reflect on what we learned:

  • Wow it was great to hear the whole story.  Since each group reported the details and theme, we can understand the whole story.”
  • What was different in each chapter? (details, theme, connections)?  What was the same? Did this story have more than one theme?  Stories often have multiple themes.”


When students have the chance to recount details with supporting evidence, they are productive members of productive conversations, a new shift in the Common Core standards toward collaborative learning. (SL.2.4)


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

Groups should be of mixed ability. Kids with high and low language levels can always learn from each other when working collaboratively. Make sure the special education students can copy answers on the organizer or get help from a friend.  When reading the book, groups will have a 'reader'. Attention to group roles (reader, timekeeper, etc) should be well thought out so the students’ skills sets are appropriately accommodated for – higher student as reader, lower student as timekeeper).