Sunday, March 6, 2011

Teaching Students to Identify Themes

One of the more challenging skills that I've attempted to teach my students is how to identify the themes in stories.  In the past, I defined the term, provided an example or two, and asked students to identify the theme in a story.  Then we would hit a wall.  Some students would readily locate and express challenging themes in texts, and some just wouldn't be able to wrap their heads around the concept.  I would become frustrated, and we would move onto something like homophones, homonyms, and homographs.  But this year I had something of a breakthrough: by teaching students theme in the more understandable terms of "the big world lesson" and "the small world of the story," I was able to reach more of my students this year than in the past.  Using this new method of teaching theme, I resolved some of the problems that my students were having with understanding theme.  The last challenge I faced was giving students enough practice with identifying themes that they would reliably identify themes in texts.  Immediately after learning theme, students need more practice identifying themes than one story can provide.  So while we attempted to identify the theme in each text that we studied as a class throughout the year, I found it useful to compile very short stories into theme worksheets, where students would read examples, identify themes, and explain their answers.  I hope that these methods and resources will help your students to better identify themes in texts, and thanks for paying attention.


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