Theme Triangle


In this activity, adapted from Gallagher’s Deeper Reading (2004), students will explore theme through a variety of media. After students have finished a novel they will identify one of the themes of the novel. After they have identified the theme they will watch a movie with a similar theme and find an example of the theme in some other medium (song, poem, or art) with a modern focus. The purpose of this activity is to help students make the high-level thematic connections between the text and other media.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Determining Importance
  • Inferring
  • Visualizing

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA

Learning Strands 

  • Reading

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Academic Vocabulary
  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline
  • Text-Based Answers


Students will need to complete the text prior to this activity. Create a sample triangle to share with students. Create groups of three students. Create a peer feedback rubric for presentations

Activity Steps 
  1. Introduce Theme Triangle.

    Share a model theme triangle with students. For example, if students read All Quiet on the Western Front, the theme could be “War brings out the best in people; war brings out the worst in people.” The top of the triangle would be the name of the novel. The two other points on the triangle should be other materials that have the same theme. For example, the movie Platoon has the same theme. The final point on the triangle could be a photo essay on the war in Iraq.

  2. Model writing a theme statement.

    Brainstorm with students the themes from the novel. Model taking one of those words and writing a theme statement. War is a theme of All Quiet on the Western Front, but a theme statement requires students to expand to “War brings out the best in people; war brings out the worst in people.”

  3. In groups, students write theme statements.

    In groups, students write a variety of theme statements based on the brainstormed list. The group selects the best theme statement, which will become the focus of their work and the center of the triangle.

  4. Conduct theme statement share-out.

    Each group shares their best theme statement. The teacher can provide feedback to each group at this point to make sure each group has a quality statement.

  5. Identify theme statement evidence.

    Each group will find textual evidence to support their theme statement. This can be written on index cards, flip chart paper, or a Google doc. Students should go through the text and find passages that support their theme statement.

  6. Research and watch a movie with the same theme.

    Students will need to research and watch a movie that has the same theme, outside of class time. While watching the movie the students should be taking notes on evidence that supports the theme, the same way they did with the text. Students may need support in finding a related movie or the teacher may want to give students a list of movies to choose from that have related themes.

  7. Research and analyze a modern example in a different genre.

    The final point of the triangle could be a poem, song, photograph, or painting. Students will analyze this document for evidence of the theme. Remind students that this must be a modern example. For example, if the theme is related to war, this document must focus on current or recent wars. Again students may need support in finding a related example or the teacher may want to give students a list of websites or examples to choose from that have related themes.

  8. Model triangle connections.

    Like the sides of a triangle are connected to each other, these three media are connected. Share a sample visual with students that shows your triangle with the theme in the middle, novel at the top, movie at the bottom left, and art/poem at the bottom right. Think aloud as you explain the connections between the novel, the movie, and the modern example and how they all relate to your theme.

  9. Create triangle connections.

    In groups, students will make their triangle connections using their notes from the novel, the movie, and the modern example. These connections will become the basis for the group presentation. · How is each of these connected to the theme? · What evidence can we use to support our connections? · How are they connected to each other? You may want to have students write these out in a paragraph or an essay that supports their triangle image.

  10. Prepare for presentation.

    Each group will prepare to share their triangle with the class and present evidence from all three points (novel, movie, modern example). · What are the main points to make? · Who will present which points?

  11. Make presentations.

    Each group will present their triangle. The audience will give feedback on the quality of connections the group made to the theme and overall presentation skills.

  12. Reflect.

    The independent reflection should include two components. First, students should evaluate their work as a group. · What were some things your group did well? · What are some areas of growth for your group? Secondly, students should reflect on the content. · How did your understanding of the theme change as you analyzed different media? · Did the movie or art change the way you thought about the theme?

Downloadable Resources 
Login to See More