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 and Write 180-Day 43

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The good, the bad, and the ugly……

Today started out great. Then it got a little bad. Then it went to ugly. Then it got good again. The wheels on the bus go round and round…..

This is the sentence that we labeled in English today:

The fragile, white skeletons were swinging eerily from the tall trees beside Helen’s house.

The students are getting GOOD at labeling!!!! I’m also hoping that it will end up exposing them to lots of vocabulary which will in turn help them in their writing!

I also gave out a “helping verb” handout (song) that they can learn and sing to me by this Friday for a 100 point grade in english. Here is the song(sung to the tune of Jingle Bells). Very catchy tune! 🙂

The Helping Verb Song

For word study today, I had them work with a partner to write a paragraph using 2 words of their choice from our spicy vocabulary words. They shared some good ones! 🙂

I took up graded papers(signed by parents) and checked homework. One class was 100% on the homework, but the other class was not. What is up with kids not doing homework nowadays????? This is the homework for my class: Read at least 15 minutes and complete 1 tiny box on the comprehension thinking sheet. What is so hard about that? They don’t have spelling homework. They don’t have english homework. They don’t have to read the same story EVERY night until test time. They just have to read (choice), think about what they are reading, and write about their thinking. So there you have it-that’s where the “bad” came in-my bad mood! 🙂

Since I was on a roll, I decided to check their reading record sheets. Our goal is to read at least 40 chapter books this year(with the understanding that not all kids will reach that goal). But, seriously….only about 8 of my 47 students have read 7 or more books and this is the 9th week of school. I had LOTS of students that had only read 1 book, or 2 books. That is where they “ugly” came in. How do kids and parents think they are going to become better readers if THEY DON’T READ? It almost made me want to just start dishing out the workbooks and having them work independently not talking and not reading what they want to read. It sure would be easier for me to do that instead of spending my personal time after school and at night finding fun things for them to do, creating ways to hopefully make the learning stick, etc…..

OK-so now I’m back to the good. Enough of the bad and ugly. 🙂

We began the 1st reading story out of our reading textbook that we have done all year-Old Yeller. We only read 1 page today. Thinking I’m crazy at this point??? Well, I’m trying something new this year. The kids don’t do so well on the weekly selection tests with this reading series, so I thought I would stretch the story out to 2 weeks and analyze the entire story page by page. :):)

Here is the study guide sheet that we used today to guide our thinking:


Here is what we did:

1. Visualized what the setting looked like, smelled like, sounded like, etc. We wrote it down and shared a couple.

2. I read the 1st paragraph aloud and had them make an inference about Little Arliss and write it down.

3. They had to read the 2nd paragraph while looking for the 5 words that are on their sheet. I then read it aloud, and we talked about what the words meant.

4. I read the last paragraph aloud and they had to think of 1 word-1 character trait- that best described Little Arliss from that 3rd paragraph. Some of the ones they came up with were: stubborn, determined, troublemaker, hardheaded, outdoorsy.

For writing we:

Generated the main idea from that page in Old Yeller using our hand graphic organizer. They traced their hand on the back of the study guide and labeled it WHO?DID WHAT?WHEN?WHERE?WHY?.

They filled in the hand with the general information from the page. Then they wrote a summary which included the main idea and a couple of more details to support the main idea. I have tried to explain to them that a summary does NOT include inferences, predicition, thinking, etc. It is just CUT and DRY and BLACK and WHITE-Just the facts ma’am! It allows someone to know what the text is about without having to read it.

Oh, and we worked in groups to come up with interview questions for our trucker buddy. I’ll tell you more about that in a later post!

We did a couple of short rounds of FAB FIVE. I had individual conferences with a total of 4 students-I’ve got to get quicker with those! :)Maybe it’s just taking me awhile with each student because these are the 1st conferences and we’re having to set routines, pick a goal, etc. You can really tell A LOT about a student in an individual conference!! And really have a conversation with them! And notice things! I love it! I almost wish that I could teach just through individual conferences! 🙂

So there you have it-the good, the bad, the ugly, and the good again. Full circle! 🙂