Sunday, September 28, 2014

Teaching Theme part 2

So here is how I taught theme this year.....I think there is still room for improvement (don't we always feel that way?!?!?) BUT it was better than what I have done in the past.

Day 1:  We went through a general powerpoint on theme.  Then I read them a story called The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool.  I told them that in my opinion one theme of the story is "Take only what you need" and asked them to figure out why I thought that.  They had to write their responses on a post-it note and about half of the class put down some text evidence that could be used to support my thinking.  I looked at the post-its that evening and set aside the ones that used the text evidence.  (The most common mistake was that they tried to explain what the theme meant.)

Day 2:  We completed the first two pages for our notebook.  They had to write down their understanding of theme after we talked about it and about 8 kids were randomly selected to share what they had written down. 

Then I reminded them of the story we had read the day before and told them that I wanted to share some of the post-its from the day before.  I asked them to think about why I had chosen those particular post-it notes.  They figured out fairly easily that the ones I had selected proved the theme by referencing actual story details. (I hid their names.)  We discussed that themes needed to be proven with evidence from the text.

Day 3:  I wanted to make sure that they understood the difference between theme and main idea, so I had them work in partners to complete this activity from Teaching with a Mountain View.  They did the sort and the reflection.  It was a lot of fun for them and I loved hearing them debate about which category a card belonged in. 

Day 4:  We completed the next two pages for our notebook.  I made sure to stress that when determining theme there were three things that they needed to do:  develop a theme statement, prove it with text evidence, and make a generalization to real life.  I let them know that, for me, theme was a difficult concept to learn as a kid until one teacher taught me how to be successful by asking a series of questions (yes, I will change history to emphasize a point--in this case, I wished that mistersato411 was my teacher.)  

Then I shared a story about Carrie and her phone that a colleague found online here:
We went through the questions one at a time and I charted the responses.  Then each table group had to come up with a theme and write it on their desks with dry erase markers (blew their minds!)  The groups moved around the room from table group to table group in a gallery walk fashion, discussing the  themes that their classmates had come up with.  Some were incredible and some were way off base.  Each table group was then able to put a star by the three themes that they thought were the best--it was interesting to see the discussions when they were limited to picking only three (out of eight.)  Finally we shared out the top three star getters.

Day 5:

Finally we put it all together today.  Heading back to the story The Cloud Spinner,  we worked together to craft a theme response.  While many of my more advanced students would be able to construct an acceptable response on their own, about 70% of my class needs to have a framework with which to work--at least initially.  So, I gave them a different  theme from the story--"One can always try to make things right" and told them that we were going to need to prove that theme today.  They easily generated the evidence to the support the theme and then we wrote the response below.  After we wrote it (and they copied it down in their journals,) we went back and annotated it.  As we were writing the response, I purposefully made a change to make the connection back to the theme more obvious.  

The next week they had to write a response for a story we were reading from our anthology.  Lots of my kiddos used their notebooks to complete the assignment. While not all of the kids were able to do this successfully, many of them did a great job.  I think they will get stronger and stronger at this as we continue to work with theme as the year progresses.  The pages for their journal and a typed copy of the theme response are available on TPT here.

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