Today's lesson starts with a brainstorming session: list as many human problems, like facing fear or finding one's identity, as you can.
After attendance, I ask students to count up their human problems. The winner earns a prize (a bit of friendly competition can be fun and motivating, after all). More importantly, we start with the winner's list and create a whole-class list of human problems. I ask the winner to share, taking notes on a word document projected for everyone to see. Then I ask others to chime in with problems not yet listed. We will be able to refer back to this list as we practice identifying themes today and for the rest of the school year.
When our list is as complete as it can be (no more additions), I ask, what are these human problems when we see them in a novel? If students do not arrive on the answer (themes) on their own, I may ask follow-up questions: for example, what is love in Romeo and Juliet? Justice in To Kill a Mockingbird? (Students are familiar with these works from previous English classes.) Once the connection between human problems and themes is made, I segue into our study of the day: multiple themes in a text.
Students have been finding themes in literature for years, so this particular skill alone is not necessarily a great challenge; however, the theme standard for juniors and seniors asks for more than theme identification. It asks for multiple themes and an explanation of how those themes are connected. From watching students struggle with connecting multiple claims in informational texts, I know this will take some practice.
I start by looking at the learning target, highlighting the key shifts of the new target--multiple themes and how they connect. Then I provide tips for success, first review of how to find themes and second how to connect themes.
Lecture is fine for introducing a skill, but practice makes perfect. We'll run an I do-we do-ya'll do on this skill to get started (referenced in the strategies section). I start by using a think aloud to model how I would find and connect two themes using a short poem. Then I will present a second poem and ask for student input to analyze it.
The final practice for today will be in book groups; students will break into their groups and work together to create an early analysis of themes of their novels. This analysis will be submitted at the end of the hour for feedback.