Lesson Plan

Analyzing Theme in Fictional Texts

Objectives

This lesson will build on students’ experience in identifying how different elements work together to develop the theme. Students will:

  • identify the theme of a fiction text.
  • explain how theme is developed through literary elements.

Essential Questions

How do strategic readers create meaning from informational and literary text?
How does interaction with text provoke thinking and response?
What is this text really about?
  • How do strategic readers create meaning from informational and literary text?
  • What is this text really about?
  • How does interaction with text provoke thinking and response?

Vocabulary

  • Characterization: The method an author uses to reveal characters and their various personalities.
  • Dialogue: In its widest sense, dialogue is simply conversation between people in a literary work; in its most restricted sense, it refers specifically to the speech of characters in a drama.
  • Theme: A topic of discussion or writing; a major idea broad enough to cover the entire scope of a literary work.
  • Moral: The lesson in a story.

Duration

60–120 minutes/1–2 class periods

Prerequisite Skills

Prerequisite Skills haven't been entered into the lesson plan.

Materials

“The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs is a commonly anthologized short story of high interest and suspense that uses several techniques readers may use to infer theme.

  • Alternatives include excerpts from Animal Farm by George Orwell and short stories such as “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe, and “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.
  • Teachers may substitute other texts to provide a range of reading and level of text complexity.

Related Unit and Lesson Plans

Related Materials & Resources

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“The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs is a commonly anthologized short story of high interest and suspense that uses several techniques readers may use to infer theme.

  • Alternatives include excerpts from Animal Farm by George Orwell and short stories such as “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe, and “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.
  • Teachers may substitute other texts to provide a range of reading and level of text complexity.

Formative Assessment

  • View
    • During the lesson, keep the focus on identifying the theme. Assess students’ understanding through observation of their participation in discussions.
    • Provide opportunities for additional practice by having students identify the theme of familiar fairy tales or fables. Have students provide evidence from the text to support their response by explaining how literary elements help convey the theme.

Suggested Instructional Supports

  • View
    Active Engagement, Explicit Instruction
    W: Demonstrate how to identify the theme of a fictional text. 
    H: Have students analyze the theme of a familiar story, such as an Aesop fable. 
    E: Provide opportunities for students to explore and evaluate how individuals are motivated to action in real life and in fiction. Help students identify movies and their themes to help solidify the concept of theme. 
    R: Allow students to revisit their decisions about theme through small-group discussion. 
    E: Encourage students to revise their understanding and the accuracy of their identified theme by making sure they have at least four appropriate pieces of evidence to support the theme. 
    T: Provide learning activities based on students’ instructional reading levels and incorporate extension activities for all levels by suggesting materials for further practice as well as more rigorous materials to extend thinking to a higher level. 
    O: The learning activities in this lesson provide for large-group instruction and discussion, small-group exploration, partner interaction, and individual application of the concepts. 

Instructional Procedures

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    Focus Question: How is the theme of a story developed?

    Part 1

    Say: “Analyzing a story is like being a detective. You search for clues that will help you understand the meaning or theme of the story. Setting, characterization, plot, and figurative language are all possible clues that work together to develop the theme.”

    Choose an Aesop fable such as “The Lion and the Mouse” to introduce theme. Read the story aloud and have partners discuss the theme of the fable. Explain that the theme of the fable is called a moral, a guideline for appropriate human behavior. Ask students to state the moral or theme and explain what it means. (Examples: A good deed is never wasted. Actions have unexpected results. Be kind to others because you never know when you may need their help.) Discuss how the words and actions of the lion and mouse help develop the theme and how the use of personification helps convey the theme.

    Part 2

    Say, “We are going to read the short story ‘The Monkey’s Paw.’ Read closely for clues that point to a theme. Use think-pair-share to identify the theme.” Instruct students first to think independently about the story’s theme, next to share their ideas in pairs, and then have pairs share their ideas with the class.

    “Now write what you think is the theme at the top of a sheet of paper. Underneath the theme, list the clues from the story that helped you identify the theme. Then decide which literary element the clues represent.” [For example, the dialogue and the actions of the sergeant-major and the father represent characterization. Setting helps create the uneasy mood of the story. Imagery such as the woman’s “burning eyes” and the candle’s “pulsating shadows” underscore the impending doom.] “Review the story to see if you can find at least four different clues that support the theme.”

    When students have finished, use one of the following strategies to assess understanding:

    • Have small groups use cooperative learning to compare their answers. Tell students to discuss answers and come to mutual agreement on theme possibilities with accurate evidence from the story.
    • Discuss students’ ideas for the theme. List on the board/interactive whiteboard the theme and clues that support the theme.

    You may wish to modify the theme search by proposing three potential themes before students read and then have students prove or disprove the themes with evidence from the story. A sample theme could be “Be careful what you wish for.”

    Ask, “What are a few ways writers give clues to a theme?” (Examples: dialogue, actions, shifts in mood) “Many stories have a lesson or message about human behavior. What we can learn from what these characters have gone through? How can we apply the theme from ‘A Monkey’s Paw’ to our own lives and situations? How are we alike or different from these characters? What would we have done in their situation? As readers, that is the point of analyzing a story for a theme.” Help students see that the story is a “cautionary tale,” one that shows what can happen if humans do not pay attention to their moral compass or to the consequences of their actions.

    Extension:

    • For students who need additional practice, suggest small-group brainstorming on a movie such as Star Wars or a fairy tale such as “Hansel and Gretel.” Help students understand the importance of characterization to theme.
    • Have students who are ready to move beyond the standard listen to a radio adaptation of “The Monkey’s Paw.” Discuss whether a performance of the story aids their understanding or influences their perception of the theme.

Related Instructional Videos

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Final 05/10/2013
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