Sunday, August 30, 2015

Story Elements and Theme

We are departmentalized beginning in fourth grade, so each of us teaches our own homeroom reading - except in the beginning of the year. Because I am the fourth grade language arts teacher, I cover the summer reading in this class, and when we're done, the other homeroom teacher will take over for her kiddos. So, today I wanted to share what we've covered the first two weeks of school.

I had my incoming fourth graders read Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo as one of their required books over the summer. I don't require specific books or even genres throughout the year, but by having everyone read the same book, this allows me to teach story elements easily because we can use the events and characters of one book that everyone already knows.

We began by discussing characters in the story. My kiddos named the characters and gave descriptions which included both internal and external traits.

After discussing the characters in the story, we defined internal vs external conflict. We then went through each character and gave examples of each type of conflict for our main characters.

We discussed setting, defined it and then the kiddos gave their ideas of setting from the story.

From there we focused on plot - looking at the events that take place in the story and creating a plot diagram. This was new for them and they really caught on quickly.

Following the plot discussion, we focused topics the author develops in the story. A few that the students came up with were loneliness, friendship, family and love.

During our second week of school, we defined and discussed what a theme is in a story and how the students can use events in the story to show support for these themes in the story. I wanted the students to move from a general topic they think is in the story to develop the idea into a theme. We focused on the topic of friendship.

My read aloud for the second week was You and Me by Susan Verde.  After reading the book, the students took the topic of friendship and generated a theme statement: You can find friendship in unexpected places and at unexpected times.

We then discussed what it means to have a friend, how do you make friends, how do you keep friends, and what makes a good friend. Finally, students created "Friend Wanted" ads where they stated reasons to support the statement: I make a good friend because...

Here are a few:

How do you teach your students about topics and theme in reading?

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