Theme can be a challenging concept for students. They often confuse it with topics or morals.
I find that every year, no matter which grade level I am teaching, I have to go over theme several times to make it stick.
For The Giver, I use a three-part lesson plan to teach theme: notes, statements, paragraphs.
I start by asking student to make a list of topics from The Giver.
After a few minutes, I get them to share their lists, and I write several topics on the board (freedom, individuality, memory, repression, etc.)
Once we have a good list to work with, we go through each topic and discuss what the novel says about it.
What does The Giver say about memory?
What does The Giver say about individuality?
And so on.
I then explain that these are themes. Themes are what a story says about a topic.
Then I hit them with the following formula: TOPIC + INSIGHT = THEME
I explain that a theme is a central idea or concept within a text. It says something about life. Unlike a moral, a theme is not a lesson. It is more of an observation about life or humanity.
Once the students have the list of topics and the formula for theme in their notes, we get started on writing theme statements.
I give them the following structure to use:
The Giver by Lois Lowry shows that…[insert theme].
We then turn back to our list of topics and try to form a theme statement for one of them together.
Here’s an example: The Giver by Lois Lowry shows that some people will risk everything to stand up for what is right.
I try to use a fairly obvious theme, so that the students “get it,” and so they still have several good topics to work into theme statements themselves.
When I am confident they understand how to formulate a theme, I ask them to go through the list of topics and write at least three more theme statements.
When they are done, I invite students to share their theme statements with the class, and I write a few of the stronger statements on the board to provide clear examples for the students who might still be struggling.
Now that the students understand theme (hopefully), and can write a theme statement (hopefully), it is time to write theme paragraphs for The Giver.
Each student selects one theme statements to use as the first sentence of a persuasive paragraph. This becomes their thesis, or topic sentence.
The rest of the paragraph should consist of specific examples from the text to support their statement.
After we go over proper paragraph structure, it’s writing time!
How do you teach theme?
If you have any ideas for improving this lesson, or any other lesson plans for The Giver, please share them in the comments section.
And if you want more great lessons, and everything else to you need to teach the entire novel, have a look at my Ultimate Unit Plan for The Giver.