Friday, April 21, 2017

Teaching Theme with Cloudette (A Mentor Text Lesson)

Theme. We know it when we see it, right?

But it's one of the most challenging skills to teach kids, in my opinion. Kids tend to say, "Overcome challenges!" is the theme, no matter what the text says. Or maybe that was just my class...

Either way, getting kids to dig a little deeper requires a lot of think alouds, modeling, and breaking down of the thought that goes into deducing a theme!

That's why, when the Reading Crew opened up this awesome spring mentor text link-up, I decided to use Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld.

Cloudette is the story of a teeny tiny cloud who feels like she's too small to help anyone with rain or snow. It's a feeling that kids often recognize!

Cloudette is perfect for teaching theme because the character's traits, motivations, problems, and solution is so perfectly lined up. It's a very explicit way to introduce a complicated skill!

Before Reading: Set a purpose
Before you read, set a purpose for reading with your students. Your purpose is to analyze the

character throughout the story to figure out what lesson we can learn from their actions and changes.

During Reading: Gather evidence
Use the handy-dandy graphic organizer provided in the freebie below to record your evidence from the text and your thinking about it. Model noticing how the character changes and solves her problem, especially.

After Reading: Model thinking about theme
Introduce the idea of "theme": the message or lesson you can learn from a text. It's usually some positive advice that is good to know! Themes (in children's picture books, anyway) tend to be feel-good messages that you'd want children to have as a set of beliefs. Use the evidence you gathered to model how to figure out the lesson you can learn from Cloudette's actions.

Handy Tip!
Sometimes, when students struggle to figure out the theme of a text (especially when the world is full of themes), it can help to provide them with a short list of possible themes. This is a good scaffold for starting to figure out theme and it will help students feel more successful at first!

The handout included in the freebie below helps students by providing a table of character changes and possible themes associated with those changes.

Grab the entire lesson freebie on TPT!

Enter the big giveaway! My code word is: cloud! And be sure to check out some of the other great posts & freebies for teaching with mentor texts!

The gradual release model is the way to go when teaching new strategies to kids. Enter your email address to get a gradual release freebie!

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  1. This books looks adorable! Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas :)
    The Techie Teacher

  2. Thank you for sharing. I can't wait to check out this book. Theme is one of my favorite things to teach my first graders.

  3. This seems like such a great book! I love your resources - thank you for sharing!

  4. Thank you for sharing your ideas and resources for teaching Theme! The reference sheet and materials will be very helpful for my struggling readers. I look forward to checking out this book and trying out your lesson. :)

  5. Another great post! Theme can be such a struggle. Thank you so much for the fantastic resource!

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