Teaching Theme

Did you just cringe a little when you read that post title?  I know every time I hear that concept come up, it makes me cringe.  Why?  Cause it's just so darn hard for kids to get, that's why.

So, I had a mini-break through this year with theme. (As opposed to a break down, which was earlier in the year trying to teach theme.)  Here's how the lesson went:

Hey guys and gals!  Can anyone explain what the theme of the story is?
(Blank stares)
(More blank stares)
(One brave soul) It's what the story is about?
No, not quite.

Sound familiar so far?


Then, I pulled up some billboards from values.com.  I know you've seen them on the Interstate before.

I shared several of these over the next few days.  We discussed the story behind the billboard and how one word was chosen as an idea that the story could teach others about.  I read several to them throughout the week.  After the first day or two, I asked them to put themselves in the role of teacher.  If you were the teacher, what idea would you use the story to teach?

Voila!  Theme.  During this time, we also did an author study of Patricia Polacco.  Her books are wonderful for teaching theme.  She's one of my very favorite authors.  I loved listening to their conversations about which idea the story could be used to teach about and why.  On Friday, I let them get on the values.com website to see all the different billboards.  It was a big hit.  These billboards made a huge difference in my classroom!


  1. I've definitely been there while teaching theme!!! Thanks for sharing your great idea!!!

  2. What a great idea! I only hope I remember it when it's that time!

    Inside this Book

  3. This is an awesome idea! Thanks for sharing! :)

    Live, Laugh, Love, Teach

  4. Love, love, love this! I'm going to pin this so I don't forget about it!

    Fifth Grade Dugout

  5. This seems like a creative way to teach theme!
    The Idea Backpack

  6. Great blog, I'm your newest follower. Please check out my blog if you have time. Calling Plays in the 2nd grade.


  7. Thanks, ladies! I'm not dreading theme next year like I usually do!


  8. Another award to bestow upon my blogging guru! I have nominated you for the Leibster Award! Comeby and grab it!

    Teaching with Moxie

  9. Adorable blog! I love the name of it... so true!

  10. oh.my.gosh!! I am copying that into a SB lesson for day 1 ... sooo great! :) Thank you!

    Always A Lesson

  11. Unfortunately, one word is not theme... A single noun used to describe a piece would be a topic or subject. Theme is a statement.

    1. Actually, according to the dictionary, it can be one word.

      Theme: The subject of a talk, a piece of writing, a person's thoughts, or an exhibition; a topic: "the theme of the sermon was reverence".

      Thank you for sharing your concerns.

  12. Hi,

    I am a preservice teacher and I am in the process off completing my field expereinc hours for this semester. I have been assigned to teach a lesson about theme to my 4th graders! However, everything I am reading online about theme and students grasping the concept is making me think that the moral of my story is not to pick theme to teach!!!! Thank you for posting this idea!!! "Any other words of wisdom or pointer about them would be greatly appreciated," said the newbie!! :)

  13. I am in the same boat as Corey, I'm going to be teaching my sponsor class (4/5's) theme next week! Thanks for the tip!

  14. I love the pictures you have used! What a great way to introduce theme, especially to ELLs. Love it!

  15. I'm totally stealing this idea! Thank you :)

  16. Amazing! Teaching theme (along with tone and mood) can be such a hard task! I am adding this to my lessons ~ Thank You!!!