Teaching Theme

THEME: The big idea, the message

Have never really done a good job in the past teaching or explaining theme. Changing that this year. Hopefully. 🙂

We’ve been talking about theme during our daily read aloud time. They’ve been identifying in their independent reading.

Today I took it a further step by showing them how to write about it and pull evidence from the text to support it.

They helped me write this. Then I had them copy it into their reading notebook so they would have an example.


Below is revised copy. 🙂


We then color coded it so they could SEE the intro, evidence, and expanding on evidence, and conclusion.

After independent reading, they had to write about a theme from their book.

Oh yeah, before all this, I explained difference between main idea and theme:


How do you teach theme?

Read, read, read

Our goal for 6th grade is to read at least 50 books-10 being picture books. I’m also requiring that they read from different genres so their reading diet can have a variety! 🙂

Here are my requirements (I also added them to my Reading Tools page):

Reading Requirements for 6th Grade

They will also have to keep a reading response notebook. This is where they will write 1 letter each week to me about the book they are reading. Here are the guidelines for the reading response letter so they will know what is expected:

Reading Response Notebook Guidelines

Next week will be when their 1st letter is due. I am going to essentially help them write part of it each day. I’ll post more about how it goes next week-I’ll also try to remember to take pictures of some of them toward the end of the week. This will be a 100 point grade each week (comparable to a test grade).


Summary vs. Reading Response

We have been trying to read a poem each week for our bell work (daily warm up). We partner read the poem each day and then look for interesting words (vocabulary), specific things related to our english skill/concept, etc. Today I asked them to write a response to the poem. Then we shared them with the rest of the class. Several thought that meant a summary so…….

I had them draw a t-chart and write summary on one side and reading response on the other side. We added our ideas about what each one is-they did real well with this (of course after I had already explained the difference between a summary and a response). 🙂

Now we will see how they do next week when I ask them to write a response. I think that sometimes I expect them to already know certain things-AND THEY DON’T KNOW THEM. Next year I am definitely going to back up and start with baby steps.

Reading Response Letters

I have required my students this year to write “literary letters” about the book they are reading. I started out making them write 6 letters each 6 weeks-3 to me and 3 to friends. Then I cut it down to 5 each 6 weeks. I did model for them how to write the letter at the beginning of the year and showed them 3 good examples, but it didn’t evolve into what I was really wanting. Plus, I got behind in reading and responding to them! 🙂

I am wanting to model for them again how to write it because I want the letters to have better content so I surfed the internet looking for anchor charts. I am going to make an anchor chart and display it in the room for them to refer to. I am also thinking about not requiring that many letters; however, if I could give them more time in class to read independently then I don’t think we would all feel so pushed for time. Anyway, here is a link to Angela Bunyi’s scholastic blog where she wrote about the setup of her reading notebooks. I’m going to use her anchor chart with stems to guide me in making my own.