Teaching theme in upper elementary?! At first, I thought this would be a daunting task.
When I saw theme come up in our standards – I was backpedaling. Luckily over the years putting together all the best resources, books, poems, and passages to teach theme my lessons about theme have gotten stronger and my students have mastered.
How to teach theme in 4th grade
My first big struggle with teaching theme was how to teach that main idea was a different concept. Main Idea vs. theme taught together students could really see the differences.
Themes are overarching and main ideas are tied to a specific book. An anchor chart using stories or poems to teach theme really helps differentiate the two!
- reference themes in your read alouds
- reference themes in any model short stories or texts
- reference themes in passages you read
Pretty soon students see and grasp the concept while theme is a moral/lesson the main idea is what the story is mostly about.
What are the best books and poems to teach theme?
Wanting theme mini lessons? Here are some great books with easy to spot theme and discuss ideas for teachers!
The Empty Pot – while a folktale, this book has a great theme for all students! I like the cultural aspect which explores deeper connections to themes across books as well.
Mr. Peabody’s Apples – fantastic for upper elementary! Deep seated in how much a rumor can change and not get it back! This touches more on social-emotional learning AND theme!
Miss Rumphius – Gosh I smile thinking about this one. How making the world a better place starts with one of us and ends with all of us. The illustrations….the message….dynamite!
The Day the Crayons Quit – definitely for upper grades too! or read through a different lens looking for theme. While easy to spot, the discussion points again lead to great connections between students and social emotional learning!
Each Kindness – Talk about a stand out book for teaching theme! What missed opportunity means for one girl and how you can use it for the future. Great lessons for students and direct application to the school setting!
I love incorporating books and videos for teaching theme in a listening center!
You can grab your FREE Miss Rumphius listening center – packed with rigor and all about learning THEME below!
Save yourself time while squeezing in test prep and grab your QR Listening Centers NOW!
If you like engaging 3-5 ELA materials check out more from me (Amber!) at SSSTeaching!