6th Grade - Identify Literary Themes

 
     
 
     
 
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6th
Stories and Literature
Identify literary themes
Identify and analyze features of themes conveyed through characters, actions, and images.
Understand how theme is illustrated through characters, the actions of characters, and imagery in a text.
 

Sample Problems

(1)

What is a theme in literature? (the central, underlying, and controlling idea or insight of a work of literature; the author’s view of the world or human nature. Themes explore timeless and universal ideas. Most themes are implied rather than explicitly stated. They can be expressed in a sentence but not in one word. They are not the same as a moral.)


(2)

Why can’t theme be expressed in one word?

A theme is a perspective, not a topic. Theme = topic + author’s attitude. Find the major topic of the work (e.g. poverty) and then determine the author’s attitude toward it (e.g. it does not stand in the way of success). Then express that in a sentence: “Poverty is not an obstacle to success.”


(3)

How can you find the theme of a piece of literature? Does the author start with, “This book is about war?” (No, the theme is expressed indirectly through what happens in the story, the author’s language, and lessons learned by the characters.)


(4)

What are some examples of themes in books or stories you have read, or in movies you’ve seen? (“Love conquers all.” “Life is short but precious.” “Humans can overcome any adversity.” “There’s no place like home.”)



(5)

How is a theme different from a moral? (A moral is meant to teach a lesson; a theme is the author’s view of the world or human nature.)


Learning Tips

(1)

Birdfoot's Grampa

by Joseph Bruchac (Native American poet)

The Old Man

must have

stopped our car


two dozen times to climb out


and gather into his hands

the small toads blinded


by our lights and leaping


like live drops of rain.

The rain was falling,


a mist around his white hair,


and I kept saying,

"You can't save them all,


accept it, get in,


we've got places to go."

But, leathery hands full


of wet brown life,


knee deep in the summer


roadside grass,


he just smiled and said,


"They have places to go, too."



Available at http://heatheranne.freeservers.com/childrens/birdfootsgramps.htm

(2)

Questions to ask when looking for theme (adapted from http://www.iacademy.org/districtreading/les1.html)


  1. Has the main character changed? (Yes)

  2. What lessons has he or she learned? (Humans are no more important than other creatures)

  3. Does the title reveal anything special about the story? (Wise elder, animal name)

  4. What is the conflict in the passage? (Youth vs. age; hurry vs. care)

  5. What imagery could be symbolic or relevant to the theme? (leaping toads, mist around old man’s hair, “wet brown life”)

  6. Does the narrator make any key statements about life or people? (“They have places to go, too”)

  7. Can this idea be supported by details in the passage? (toads described as “live” and “life”)

Are the author's choice of plot, character, conflict connected or controlled by this idea? (yes)


(3)

Using your answers to the previous questions, state a possible theme for this poem. (“All life is precious” or something similar)

Extra Help Problems

(1)

THE HEN AND THE GOLDEN EGGS.

A fable by Aesop.

A COTTAGER and his wife had a Hen, which laid every
 day a golden egg. They supposed that it must contain a great lump of gold in its inside, and killed it in 
order that they might get it, when to their surprise they found that the Hen differed in no respect from
 their other hens. The foolish pair, thus hoping to become rich all at once, deprived themselves of the
 gain of which they were day by day assured.


Available at http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=78423878

(2)


  1. Has the main character changed?

  2. What lessons has he or she learned?

  3. Does the title reveal anything special about the story?

  4. What is the conflict in the passage?

  5. Does the narrator make any key statements about life or people?

  6. Can this idea be supported by details in the passage?

Are the author's choice of plot, character, conflict connected or controlled by this idea?


(3)

Using your answers to the previous questions, state a possible theme for this fable. (“Fools rush in”; “Greed leads to impoverishment” or something similar)

(4)

Rewrite the fable using humans instead of animals, and set it in the city where you live now.

 

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