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Identify Theme_Reflective


How can I find the theme(s) of a text?
Learn to identify the primary theme(s) of a piece of text.


Time To Complete 

4-6 hours

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.R.1
  • CCRA.R.10
  • CCRA.R.2

I Can Statements 

  • I can:
    • Determine what’s important in a text, and to whom, to clarify and extend my understanding of a text                             
    • Find clues in the text that allow me to identify its central idea or theme
    • Distinguish between ideas I think are important and ideas the author believes are important
    • Generate and articulate the specific criteria I use to identify the important ideas, patterns, or questions in a text that help me to determine its theme
  • I will know my identification of themes is of high quality when it:
    • Accurately and completely reveals what is important to understanding a text

Suggestions for Assessing Student Readiness to Move Forward:

  • Confer with students, asking them to identify the main ideas or important details in the text and the criteria they used to identify them.
  • Ask students to self-evaluate their work after completing one of the activities below. 


Possible Activities 
    • Model reading a text aloud, while displaying it to the students.  As you read, stop occasionally to identify the topic, to think aloud about the different pieces of information that you have read so far, and to think aloud about what’s most important, what’s a detail, and what can be synthesized into an overarching idea.  Be very specific about identifying the exact words in a text that let you know something is important, or that let you group information together.  Then, think about the big, universal ideas that this text relates to, and identify these as themes.  Try following these steps:
      • Make a list of all the ideas you notice as you read. What is this idea about? What idea does this connect to? 
      • Put a check mark next to each idea that comes up more than once. 
      • When you are done look over your list. See which ideas repeat, and which ideas are related. Group these together. 
      • Cross out ideas that don’t repeat, that don’t seem central to the text, or that aren’t important.  The important, repeating ideas are the themes of the text.
  1. In groups or individually, students should read texts and note all the ideas they notice on Post-its. (It’s fine if they repeat—they should write one each time they notice it.)  When they are done they should sort the ideas into important/not important, and group repeating or closely related ideas.  They should identify the most important and repeating ideas, and discuss whether these are the theme(s) of the text.

  2. Students should practice finding themes in groups and individually by reading texts and stopping periodically to identify potential themes.

  3. Divide students into groups, and give each group one of the poetry anthologies curated by Paul Janeczko (or another thematically-arranged collection).  Ask them to identify how the poems are grouped, and to explain what theme ties together each group of poems.  Then, ask them to discuss how each poem within a grouping deals with the target theme.  Ask each group to present its findings to the class

  4. In groups, have students read a short text together, and brainstorm a list of important themes that they notice.  Then, together, they should identify one or two main themes and discuss how the text addresses this theme.  Have them present their findings to the entire class.

  5. Have students read a text individually, and record themes of each section in two-column notes.  When they are done, they should record the main themes of the entire text

  6. Students should continue various forms of practice until they are adept at finding a theme.

  7. After several days of practice and once they have achieved mastery, students should write a reflective summary that includes a summary of the text and an analysis of the theme.

Downloadable Resources 
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