Teaching Theme

Theme is a large focus of our 4th grade Reading curriculum, and a skill students often struggle with.  We have spent two weeks working on theme and I am impressed with how well my students are grasping this skill, one week using poetry and this past week using literature.

I started with Nicole Shelby's Reading Interactive Notebook to teach the concept of theme, if you have not purchased this product I HIGHLY recommend it!  I usually start all my reading lessons with Nicole's notebook, this is what we do the first day and refer back to the information as we work on the skill.

I also used two sets of theme task cards this week in whole group, guided practice, and small group.  {I used Rachel Lynette's Find the Theme Task Cards & Deb Hanson's Theme Task Cards} On the second day I glued a task card to the center of a very large post-it note that was given to me from my BBB Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching.  Each student wrote down what they believed the theme was and provided evidence from the text to support their thinking.  Teams then shared with the class their task card, theme, and evidence.

On the third day I provided students a copy of "The Summer Table" from Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  {We are reading this aloud and my kiddos LOVE it}.  Students silently read the passage circling any unfamiliar words.  We then discussed the words and they read the chapter again with their partner.  Pairs then determined the theme of the chapter and supported their thinking by finding evidence from the text.

The fourth day we read "Weird Kids" from Wonder and followed the same steps as the day before.  Using these two chapters we then compared themes.  Again, my kids did great!

On the final day, I had a sub, and left her passages to use with my students to review the skill.  Learnzillion.com has some wonderful videos/power points for teaching theme as well.

What are some strategies, resources, books, etc. you use to teach theme?  Here are a few of my favorites!

Themes in Literature Activity
I use Nick's Themes in Literature for independent practice.


Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Great Mentor Text for Theme
Check out this post to see a resource I used for teaching theme of a poem....Freebie included!


  1. Wow! What a surprise to see my name included in this post! I love how you use a variety of resources to teach this concept...I hope your students benefited from the task cards I created...and I will certainly check out some of the other resources you have listed in this post. :) ~Deb
    Crafting Connections

  2. Thank you so much for sharing!!! I'm going over theme and am using Nicole's notebook!!! I am going to incorporate sine of what you did!! I have been blowing up the notebook sections to 135% and creating anchor charts while the kids put their pieces together. I will post some up on my blog when I get done!!

  3. Thanks for sharing all you resources to teach theme! I know it's often a little hard for our fifth graders to wrap their heads around because theme is not as concrete as many of the other things we notice in reading! Love all you resources and ideas! I'm bookmarking this post to mix it up a little bit as we get to our theme lesson soon! It's coming up next week!

    Thanks for sharing love new ideas!
    My Shoe String Life
    Follow me on Bloglovin'

  4. This looks great! I love that you used passages from your read aloud book! I'm going to read Wonder in the next few weeks I think as a read aloud! I'm very excited about it!

    I love those big aqua post its! I've had my eye on them! How sweet of Joanne!! :O)
    Collaboration Cuties

  5. This is wonderful, Jess! thank you so much for sharing. I am starting to teach theme in 5th grade in 2 weeks. So many of these things will work wonderfully for us. :) Plus, we are starting Wonder on Monday as our read aloud! Thank you. :)

    The Brown-Bag Teacher

  6. Umm, those are post-it notes? Where did they come from?

    Love to Learn

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