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What Is Theme
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What Is Theme


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Teaching students about theme in literature.

Teaching students about theme in literature.

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  • 1. Objective: Explain how the theme represents a view or comment on life. Warm-Up: What popular songs can you think of that are about FRIENDSHIP ? List as many titles and artists as you can in 5 minutes.
  • 2. Check out these well-known story titles (Yes, some are movies). What are the themes of these stories?
    • Beauty and the Beast
    • Where the Red Fern Grows
    • Cinderella
    • Goldilocks and the Three Bears
    • Monsters, Inc.
    • The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf
    • Harry Potter Series
    • Peter Pan
    • Finding Nemo
    • Three Little Pigs
    • Little Red Riding Hood
  • 3.
    • Beauty and the Beast: Beauty
    • Where the Red Fern Grows: Friendship
    • Cinderella: Good vs. Evil
    • Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Respect
    • Monsters, Inc.: Helping Others
    • The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf: Honesty
    • Harry Potter Series: Good vs. Evil
    • Peter Pan: Growing Up
    • Finding Nemo: Growing Up/Honoring Parents
    • Three Little Pigs: Planning Ahead
    • Little Red Riding Hood: Strangers
  • 4. But what IS theme??
  • 5. Theme is . . . a common thread or repeated idea that is incorporated throughout a literary work
  • 6. Great, complex works of literature have more than one theme and we can never pin down their meanings with absolute certainty. Some works are deliberately vague or ambiguous (suggesting more than one alternate meaning).
  • 7.
    • Our interpretations of theme must always be supported by evidence from the text. Themes may be revealed in a number of ways:
    • Does the title indicate theme?
    • Are themes revealed in direct statements by the author?
    • Nonfiction usually states its ideas and arguments explicitly. 
      • Most imaginative literature presents theme indirectly and dramatically, although in some works the theme is quite obvious and in others it is more difficult to detect.
    • Are themes revealed in direct statements by a narrator in the work?
    • Are themes revealed through actions, dramatic statements or personalities of characters?
    • Are there other symbols, images, and descriptive details in the work that suggest themes? Look for repeated words and images as clues to theme.
    • Are there characters or events or other details that seem to have no importance in the plot of a story? In good literature, these details are there for a reason; they probably have a special thematic significance.
    • What ideas are implied by the total impression of the whole work?
    • Sometimes theme is revealed only when the work is viewed as a whole.
  • 8. Your handout will have more details. Questions?
  • 9.