Theme Vs. Lesson

One of the things my students have struggled with this year is to identify the theme and the lesson in a story.

We use the DRA to monitor students' reading progress throughout the year and I noticed I was always creating strategy groups for students to who needed to explain the theme or lesson in a story.

I found this anchor chart on Pinterest earlier in the year and it has become a staple in our classroom:

{Click} to visit the original blog!
My co-teacher and I make a point to refer to the theme chart every time we finish a read-aloud. We ask the kids about the BIG themes and the smaller themes they notice in the book. They also have to explain (justify) why they thought _____ was a theme in the book.

Even so, we still have a few students who are struggling to identify the main theme in a story, as well as the lesson (author's message). So, we decided to approach this lesson in parallel teaching groups. Everyone listened to the story Library Lion in a whole group. Then, my co-teacher took the group that still needed to work on theme and I took the group that was ready to move on to the lesson (or author's message) in a story.

Click this picture to check it out on Amazon! *affiliate link*

My group talked about the BIG theme that we saw in the story - acceptance. Again, the students had to provide text examples that supported their thinking. We also agreed that friendship was another large theme in the story. 

Then I used this chart to introduce the author's message, or lesson, in a story:

{Click Me} to go to TpT for the freebie!

We focused on the idea that a theme is like a big umbrella - it covers lots of books. A lesson or message is much more specific. It's more of a statement, instead of just one or two words. I had them brainstorm themes and lessons from a few familiar read alouds before we tackled Library Lion - Enemy Pie, Frederick, The Lion and the Mouse, etc. These were books my students were very familiar with. You could do this with any anchor texts you use in your classroom.

I wish I had taken a picture of my ActivBoard screen when we started brainstorming lessons from Library Lion. I made a point to make sure that none of the "lessons" on my anchor chart were in Library Lion. I taped the anchor chart in the middle of the board, with the themes we brainstormed on one side and the lessons we noticed on the other side. We starred the theme and lesson we felt were the "biggest."

When it was time for the students to work on their own, they had to write about and justify their own thinking. 

I'm teaching part two of this lesson tomorrow, but I was so excited about how Friday's lesson went that I wanted to share this with you. 

I promise to take pictures tomorrow and to come back with an update on part two.

I hope all of this makes sense. I hope it's something you can use! If you're interested in any of this, click on the picture above to download it from my TpT store!


  1. Love that chart! I have seen that book but have never read it. I will definitely check it out!

  2. Thanks for sharing! I LOVE the anchor chart. I will have to read this book to my students. I am a new follower. I love finding 3rd grade blogs!!


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  3. Love this freebie and LOOOOVE Library Lion :) I am a fellow 3rd grade teacher and your newest follower.

    3rd Grade Thoughts

  4. Thank you so much for sharing! I also love The Library Lion. It was one of our book of the months last year and I was so glad because it is such a sweet story that until then I was unaware of. I can't wait to see how today goes-this is why I love following your blog!

  5. A friend that I teach with and I are going to try this with our classes....I hope you post part 2 soon! Thanks for the great ideas!

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