Saturday, February 9, 2013

Teaching Theme in the Upper Grades and a FREEBIE!

The weekend is here! I don't know about you guys, but this teacher has been BUSY! Last week we finished our state writing assessment and now we are preparing for our 2nd Constructed Response Assessment. We finished up a week long unit on theme, and for the first time ever, it went fabulous! This is my 3rd time teaching theme of a text, and I have always struggled to find materials to help my students understand this tricky concept. Well this year, the stars aligned and everything fell into place. Let's take a look!

 We started off with a couple of anchor charts. I had started the anchor chart with some common themes and then we added to it as the students discovered more. I really stressed how theme was a real world connection so they would understand that it was not specific to the story.


As we added more themes, I still had a few students confusing it with a summary, so we made a quick IS and IS NOT chart on the bottom of this anchor chart.


 So, what did we use as text to discover theme? These AMAZING task cards from Rachel Lynette:


She has provided a few options for how to use these cards in the classroom, but here is how we used them:

First, I LOVED them so much that I made a class set of the entire set....yes a class set! This way the students had lots of practice and could write all over the text. The students completed two stories a day during reading time. They read the text and wrote what they thought the theme of the text was on the paper. Then, they provided another sentence supporting their answer with evidence from the text (using evidence based terms!).  Here are some examples:


 
After reading groups were over, we shared out possible themes for the texts. Then, we would look at the multiple choice answer sheet that Rachel provided and choose from the choices. The students also had to support their choice with evidence.

I also sent two of the stories for homework each night for even more practice! Midway through the week, I had my eye on those struggling students and knew I needed to get them in a small group before we moved on to passages that were 1 and 1/2 pages in length. The biggest problem they had was not understanding what a theme was and how that theme related to a story. So, I used a pictorial representation sort to help them understand. We looked at some pictures that represented common themes. We discussed what was going on in the picture and connected that to a story. I would then ask them what can you learn from this picture. We shared out ideas and then looked for the card that contained a theme that best represented the picture. We continued sorting the pictorial representation of the theme with the theme itself while I asked probing questions and connected what they were doing to what they would do with a story. When I thought they had a good grasp on it, we did one of Rachel Lynette's stories together. Then, they did the other story on the page. Success!

 

While this small group re-teaching was going on, the other students were writing short stories (modeled after Rachel's awesome task cards) with a theme of their choosing from our chart. They had a good time with this! I had them write them on index cards for two reasons: index cards are FUN to write on and I let them trade their cards with a partner and try to discover each other's themes.

 
After all of this, they were finally ready to tackle a long text and discover the theme. To make it interesting (and a little fun), I also gave them a flippable to go with the text. Basically, the students read this page and half story from my Theme Unit, answered the question about theme, and then made this super cute, super simple flippable. 


Don't you just love foldables?


 


  
They did a fabulous job! However, I know that if I would have started the unit with long passages instead of the task cards, I would not have had so much success. We finished the week with a few more long passages (There are 4 in all in my Theme Unit.) and then took the assessment....which they all passed!

 And now for the freebie! I made the flippable using 4mulafun's flippable template pack. You can check it out here! It was so easy to make the flippable. All I had to do was insert the text boxes. She even includes the directions for student cutting. Can't get any easier than that! Click on the picture to download your free flippable today.



Well that was my week in reading, what are you teaching in reading?
 

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18 comments:

  1. We just did a theme unit last week too! I wish I had known you were doing it too and I would have emailed you my theme task cards! If I get around to blogging about it, I will link to you so people can see what you did.

    I love me some Rachel Lynette. She is my task card mentor, and she doesn't even know! lol

    Love that flippable. I needed something like that!

    Brandi
    My Teacher Friend

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    1. Rachel's task cards are great, aren't they? Task cards are so much fun for kids....so less intimidating then passages. I would love to see a post about your theme cards!

      Jennifer

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  2. Hey Jennifer-
    Your week in theme looks great! Lots of great reinforcement and hands-on activities.

    Thanks for the freebie - definitely storing that away for when we teach theme in a couple weeks.

    We're focusing on cause and effect this week. I'm mixing in Valentine's Day and 100th day in there too, so it should be a very festive week!

    ~Jessica
    Joy in the Journey

    ~Jessica

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    Replies
    1. Jessica, cause and effect is a good skill to do during Valentine's Day week! I could see some integration going on with that!

      Jennifer

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  3. My district has completely dove into Common Core (stressful now, but think it will be good in the long run) and theme has been a hard concept for my 4th and 5th grade classes. I loved teaching theme when I was in the classroom, so it took me a bit to figure out why with Common Core many 4th and 5th grade classrooms were struggling. I found that it was because they were missing the foundations of teaching theme which are in the previous standards (at least this is what I think). So long story short, those task cards and pictorial representations would be a great resource. Plus the flippable... Thank you so much for sharing it. I am happy your kiddos were successful with this. It is such a great feeling. :)
    Antoinette

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    1. Antoinette, this was the first year that theme wasn't a struggle for my kids. However in the past the only resources I had were fables to use. Having better resources really makes a difference!

      Jennifer

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    2. I love the idea of the pictorial representations as well, however, I could not find them in your TPT store. Are they easily accessible?

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  4. Love me some Flippable magic! Off to post it on Facebook!

    Jennifer Smith-Sloane
    4mulaFun

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  5. I am your newest follower from the snowy state of WI. I love your post about teaching theme...it is a real tough skill for many kids, especially the struggling kids in my classroom. Thanks for these great ideas and a aidenote--my sister also lives in Dalton....so it was meant for me to find your site :) Thanks for your generosity.
    eugenezirk@centurytel.net

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  6. Jennifer,

    WOW! It looks like your students really got a lot of quality instruction in Reading this week. I will definitely be working to use these ideas in my classroom. They make so much sense! I also love Rachel Lynette's products. They are genius! Thanks for sharing your ideas with us :)

    Terry
    Terry's Teaching Tidbits

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  7. Using pictures with struggling students is a great way to differentiate. Thanks for the tip!

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  8. This is such a great post about teaching theme! We are currently working with nonfiction in my classroom. We have already done theme, but I know once we're done with nonfiction and main idea, my kiddos are going to confused it with theme. I am so going to use your suggestions to reteach it!

    Thank you for the lesson and freebie!

    Amelia
    wherethewildthingslearn

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  9. Wow, thanks for the shout out, Jennifer! I just found this post on Pinterest today and clearly, I am late for the party. It was fun reading the other comments! I am so glad these worked so well for you. I will be sure to pass your post along to my followers on Pinterest and Facebook.

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  10. Thanks for the freebie! I'll be using it this week.

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  11. Do you have the pictures and the theme to match those pictures?

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  12. Do you have the pictures and the theme to match those pictures?

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  13. Awesome post! It was exactly what I needed as we start our Theme Unit. Thank you so much for the wonderful post (I know it was a long time ago... but still helpful!)

    MsBouchersbunch.blogspot.com

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