Determine the theme

Determine the theme

I can determine the theme of a story by analyzing characters.

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Determine the theme

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The theme of a text is the broader message or lesson that it teaches. Generally, the theme is not explicitly stated but must be deduced by the audience. One strategy for interpreting the theme of a written work, realistic fiction in particular, is to examine the characters.

Because conflict tends to be the center of fiction, the best way to understand characters and the theme of the work is to analyze how the characters respond to the challenges they face.

To help students understand how to make inferences about a character based on how they respond to a problem or challenge, a short story is included for students to analyze.



Learning Objective

Students will be able to determine the theme of a story by analyzing how characters respond to challenges.


Students will discuss important components of realistic fiction. Explain that theme is the moral, message, or lesson of the story. Use the example on the slide to show how the theme should be a whole statement, not just a word.


Students will read a passage titled The Reluctant Traveler and determine the challenge the main character, Jake, is facing. They will then determine how Jake responds to the challenge. In pairs, students will discuss what they know about Jake so far. Next, they will read the next part of Jake's story and discuss how Jake responds to trying new foods. Then, they will analyze how Jake has changed in these two passages and the lesson that can be learned from Jake's actions (the theme). Students will discuss a theme of the story and how they can apply it to their own life.


Students will answer ten questions in which they are asked about theme and to identify theme in given texts.


Students will recall what they learned in the lesson: What is the theme of a story? What strategies can readers employ to determine the theme of a text? How does analyzing theme help you become a better reader?

Read our blog post to learn more about reading comprehension exercises!

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