Determining Theme


The lesson includes strategies to determine the theme of stories, fables, novels, and other types of text.  Many students read a piece of writing for the entertainment or informational value, but they often do not recognize or understand the theme of the piece.  Determining theme will allow students to bring more value to their reading choices, whether it’s a story, fable, article or another type of text.  The lesson may be used in conjunction with other lessons related to reading comprehension.

Determining Theme Lesson Plan Includes:

  • Full Teacher Guidelines with Creative Teaching Ideas
  • Instructional Content Pages about Determining Themes
  • Hands-on homework activities giving students practice on Determining Themes
  • Answer Keys
  • Common Core State Standards
  • Many Additional Links and Resources
  • Built for Grades 4-6 but can be adapted for other grade levels.

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The lesson includes strategies for determining the theme of stories, fables, novels, and other types of text. The lesson introduction reviews the definitions for theme and inference. Then four steps are provided, which includes students can ask as they read, to assist in determining the theme of the piece. Students are reminded to consider the “big picture” in order to discover the theme, and that even if they do not agree with the theme that does not mean it is incorrect. The lesson may be used in conjunction with other reading comprehension lessons.

Sample Classroom Procedure / Teacher Instruction:  

  1. Ask students: When you watch a TV show or movie or read a story or novel, do you ever learn anything about life? Share an example.
  2. Allow for responses and discussion. Ask students: Why do authors or writers include messages for readers and viewers?  What is the purpose?
  3. Allow for response and discussion. What is another word for the message of a story?
  4. Allow for responses. Introduce Determining Theme to the class.
  5. Distribute Determining Theme content pages. Read and review the information with the students.  Use current reading content allowing students to identify the themes.  Save the final question for the lesson closing.  Use the additional resources to enhance understanding.
  6. Distribute Activity page. Read and review the instructions.  Pair students.  Allow students to create a short story.  Once completed, the students will exchange their story with another pair of students.  Each pair of students will then try to identify the theme of the story.
  7. Once completed. Ask the class to share exceptional stories with themes to be read aloud to the entire class.  Students then identify the themes.
  8. Distribute Practice pages. Check and review the students’ responses.
  9. Distribute the Homework page. The next day, check and review the students’ responses.  Students correct the false statements to make them true.
  10. In closing, ask students: What important theme or message do you recall from a story that made a big impact on your life?

Common Core Standards:


Additional Resources:

Many more teacher resources in Download!

Want more reading resources?  Check out our other Reading Lesson Plans!

Additional information

Grade Level

4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade