Sunday, September 21, 2014

Teaching theme part 1

So, I have a confession to make at the beginning of this blog post.  I have always hated teaching theme.  When I was a youngster, this was a concept that I struggled with every single year.  I was a voracious reader-- I loved being transported to other times and places,  and gobbled up story after story.  Fairy tales were my number one genre and I would read them over and over again.   And I learned life lessons as I read---lessons that I definitely applied to my own life.   However, whenever I was asked "What is the theme of the story and how do you know?" I was never confident in my answer.  I felt like I was just guessing...making something up and hoping that I would fool the teacher.  Sometimes it worked, but most of the time it didn't.

But, I have had to teach it--and teach it at least well enough to have my kiddos be able to choose the correct answer on a standardized test.  I talk about coming up with a life lesson and making sure the theme could universally be applied.  We would look at a list of themes that I found on the Internet and find one that would work well with the novel that we were working with.  We would write responses that I was satisfied with--and every so often a student would blow me away by coming up with a unique theme and being able to support it with evidence from the text.  Kids are so amazing sometimes.

This year I vowed that I was not only going to teach what theme was but to figure out a way to teach kids how to determine the theme and to justify their opinion.  There are an incredible amount of  resources out there that teach what theme is, but not as many that help kids generate one on their own---especially not for kids that are so lacking in background experiences and a view of the world as a whole.  Many of the children I teach come from homes where parents love them dearly but don't understand the importance of taking them to libraries, museums, parks, etc.  The families work at surviving day by day in a world that isn't the safest or kindest place to grow up.  My kids tell me that their beds are couches and they didn't sleep very well last night because the television was too loud.  So, I knew that I had to really break it down for them.  

I found a great resource via Teaching with a Mountain View and looked up teaching theme on pinterest which had a lot of anchor charts that helped me formulate some ideas.  However, the real aha moment came when I was watching a YouTube video called "How to find a theme" by mistersato411.  I was finally ready to put the pages together that they would be able to glue in their interactive notebooks and when I finished, I felt like I finally understood how to teach theme.  We took it slowly, and it is clear that some kids still have a way to go, but I feel like we are on the right track.

No comments:

Post a Comment