I love to teach theme – it really is what literature is all about. Students often have trouble understanding it, so I go over it with just about every text I teach. I use a simple formula: topic + insight = theme. It seems to help students understand that constructing theme statements can be as easy as solving a simple equation – you just have to put the pieces together.
This lesson plan is part of my Ultimate To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Plan. It includes everything you need to teach the entire novel.
You can download it at http://englishunitplans.com/tokillamockingbird/
- Begin by defining theme and briefly discussing what it means: The central message of a text, a theme says something about life. A theme is more than just a topic, and is different than a moral. Whereas a moral is a lesson, a theme doesn’t instruct someone, it is merely an observation of the human condition.
- Ask your students to make a list of topics in To Kill a Mockingbird:
- growing up
- Explain that to make each of these topics into a theme, you have to add insight.
- Topic + Insight = Theme
- Ask students to add insight to the topics they have listed. What does To Kill a Mockingbird says about each of the topics?
- Answers should follow this structure: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird shows that …
- Ask your students to write three theme statements using the above structure.
- Have students share their theme statements with the class.
- You can then have students write theme paragraphs using one of the theme statements as the first sentence and thesis. The paragraph should explain how Harper Lee Conveys the theme in To Kill a Mockingbird.