3 steps to help you find your story's theme

Analyzing the themes in a literary work can be tricky for students, but a simple formula can scaffold the process.

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Theme is slippery. As with irony, we know it when we see it, and though it’s easier khổng lồ define than irony, it still poses a challenge for students. Discussions of theme, then, can be times when students feel they’re not up to the challenge of literary analysis—& this is true particularly for students who tover to struggle with reading và writing.

This presents ELA educators with a challenge, since students as early as fourth grade are asked to identify và analyze themes in text.

So what is a teacher to lớn do? How can we teach our students about theme in such a way that we’re not skipping over reading comprehension, insisting on a “correct” answer, or unintentionally doing the heavy lifting for our students?

Over the course of more than a decade in the classroom, I developed a methodology for empowering students with a process for not only identifying a text’s thematic components but also constructing original thematic arguments.


Thematic Triads

The first thing students need lớn know is that, generally, works of literature are about ideas that are larger than the actions or events involving the characters, and very often these ideas pop up over & over again. One place to start with thematic analysis is to create ever-growing lists of these ideas, called thematic components—love sầu, revenge, & so on.

The process I came khổng lồ Điện thoại tư vấn thematic triads boils down to this: Have sầu students identify many thematic components in a text, put them inlớn groups of three, turn one of these triads inlớn a sentence, & voilà, they have an original thematic argument.

This gives students a systematic process for identifying thematic components & thematic statements, a process that enables them to build their skills, & one that shifts analyzing theme away from something intimidating khổng lồ something that is doable.

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But what does this actually look like? The process starts with a definition of a thematic component—a large idea present within a text—& a brainstormed danh mục of some common thematic components: love sầu and revenge, as mentioned above, but also power, greed, freedom, corruption, fate, không tính phí will, ambition, lust, violence, youth, family, pain, fear, etc. The list of possibilities is probably endless.

It’s very useful lớn have anchor charts with lists of these ideas in classrooms so that students can, as they read, refer to the charts and identify thematic components as they arise in texts. As students read, they can transfer these thematic components to lớn the inside bachồng cover of their book, for instance, ensuring that the themes are always at hand & student-generated.

The next step in the process is lớn turn these thematic component lists into groups of three, or triads. When beginning this process, it’s important to lớn emphakích thước that there are not correct and incorrect triads, & that the goal is not lớn find a single correct thematic statement. This can empower students, particularly those who have sầu struggled in ELA classrooms in the past. Let students know that it can be highly instructive to lớn choose a triad at random, see whether it works or not, & then try again.

An Example of a Thematic Triad

For the sake of illustration, let’s imagine that we’re reading Animal Farm with students, & that a classroom discussion surfaces these thematic components: power, greed, freedom, corruption, law, and camaraderie. Students might decide to lớn group together greed, freedom, & corruption.

The final step is khổng lồ turn the triad inlớn a sentence—the thematic statement. Students often struggle with this, wondering in particular how to lớn start. I would advise them lớn start each sentence with the word when, and think of the thematic statement as running along the lines of “When this happens, then that happens.” This is a great time to lớn Mã Sản Phẩm a think-aloud strategy that gets students to lớn see và hear how a scholar goes about using this process khổng lồ identify theme.

Let’s take a look at what a thematic statement for Animal Farm might look like, using the triad that students chose. One possibility: “When one’s greed overtakes one’s desire for freedom, it can lead to corruption.”

This may not be the most insightful, original thematic statement in the world, and in all likelihood the first few times students go through this exercise, they will struggle và not be satisfied. That’s good—it means they’re invested in the process & will try again, & improve sầu every time they try.

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What all of this requires of teachers is a thorough, insightful, and nuanced understanding of any text they’re teaching. We cannot stay one chapter ahead of our students and expect lớn guide them lớn an authentic cấp độ of analysis—we need lớn know what thematic components are located in the text, và which thematic statements are viable & which are not. In short, we must be the literary scholars we are grooming our students to lớn be.


Chuyên mục: literature