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Reader's Workshop: Theme

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by

Jessica Quap

on 7 October 2012

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Transcript of Reader's Workshop: Theme

Theme
A Theme is a message about life or human nature that a writer wants readers to understand. In today's lesson, you will learn how to figure out what the stories, poems, and plays you read really mean. "Winning isn't everything." "Follow your heart." You've probably learned lessons like these at one time or another. Your own experience is usually the best teacher, but literature can also communicate important truths, or themes. Have you heard a fairy tale about a duckling who doesn't fit in? His siblings called him the "ugly ducking' because he looks different from them. In the end, the duckling discovers that he is actually a beautiful swan. The story of the ugly duckling is about being different. But that is not the theme of the story. That is simply the topic - one or two words that sum up what a story is about.


A theme is the writer's message about the topic. Two possible themes for the story are "It's important to accept people for who they are" and "Differences are what make people special." While a topic can explain in one or two words, it takes a complete sentence to describe a theme, as you will notice in the following example... the drum

daddy says the world is

a drum tight and hard

and i told him

i’m gonna beat

out my own rhythm

by Nikki Giovanni
Topics:Individuality
being yourself
Theme statements:
It's important to be yourself.
People should march to the beat of their own drum.
Individuality is about doing your own thing.
More Examples...

Use a notecard to write theme statements for the following fable and poem Example 1: Fables are stories that teach lessons about human nature through the actions of animal characters. These lessons communicate important themes. As you read this fable, notice the mistake the dog makes... The Dog and his Reflection

A Dog, to whom the butcher had thrown a bone, was hurrying home with his prize as fast as he could go. As he crossed a narrow footbridge, he happened to look down and saw himself reflected in the quiet water as if in a mirror. But the greedy Dog thought he saw a real Dog carrying a bone much bigger than his own.

If he had stopped to think he would have known better. But instead of thinking, he dropped his bone and sprang at the Dog in the river, only to find himself swimming for dear life to reach the shore. At last he managed to scramble out, and as he stood sadly thinking about the good bone he had lost, he realized what a stupid Dog he had been.

1. Explain how the dog loses the steak he stole from the butcher.

2. What lesson can readers learn from the dog's failed plan to get another steak when he already had one? State the theme to this fable in a sentence. The Stray Cat
Poem by Eve Merriam

It's just an old alley cat
that has followed us all the way home.

It hasn't a star on its forehead,
or a silky satiny coat.

No proud tiger stripes, no dainty tread,
no elegant velvet throat.

It's splitchy, blotchy
city cat, not a pretty cat,
a rough little tough little bag of old bones.

"Beauty," we shall call you.
"Beauty, come in". 1. Notice the way the cat is described. Would most people consider this cat beautiful? Explain.

2. Write a theme statement for this poem. Answers:

The Dog and His Reflection:
People should be satisfied with what they have.
Nothing good can come of greed.

The Stray Cat:
People have different ideas on what is beautiful.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Example 2: Theme in a poem

This contemporary poem has a message about beauty.
Full transcript