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How To: Teaching Theme (...So that students actually get it!)

teaching theme free resources

I'll be the first to admit that I've made a lot of teaching mistakes.  

I've stood in front of the classroom DESPERATELY trying  to teach my students a skill or strategy, only to see blank stares looking back at me.

And likewise, we've all been there when we have resorted to spoon-feeding our students the answers just to trick ourselves into thinking that our students understood a concept, when really...they didn't.

Oh, I've been there!  

One of those times was when I was trying to teach theme to my students.  They didn't get it.  Not even a little bit.

Theme is hard to teach because it's an abstract concept that isn't found directly in the text.  In addition, students often  confuse the main idea of the text as the theme.

theme is hard to teach because it's an abstract concept that is not found in the text.  In addition, students often confuse the main idea as the theme

After pulling my hair out one too many times trying to teach this skill to my students, I finally decided to do some research both online and in my own school to see what other teachers were doing to teach this tricky concept to their students.

And I finally started to get some answers....and some results from my students.

Giving Students More Choice in the Classroom

increase student motivation by giving them more choice in the classroom
Once upon a time I was a tired, stretched-too-thin, first year teacher working on my thesis in grad school.

Been there?  It wasn't pretty, but I made it through.

The official title of my thesis in grad school was: Students Choice in the Classroom and Its Impact on Student Motivation.

Fancy-schmancy huh?!

Truth be told, I HATED working on my thesis, but it did force me to focus on the power of giving students more choice in their learning.

The findings for my thesis were not surprising:  student were, in fact, more motivated to learn when they felt they had more choice in their learning environment.  More choice in HOW they learned, more choice in WHAT they learned, and more choice on WHO they could learn with.

More choice leads to more ownership, leads to more student buy-in, leads to more motivation.

It makes sense, right?

student motivation increases when students have more choice in how they learn, what they learn, and who they learn with

If I TELL my 3 year old daughter that she WILL wear her black shoes to preschool, I will no doubt get push back.  But, if I let her CHOOSE from 3 pre-selected shoes choices (all of which I'd be okay with), it's a win-win and she doesn't end up screaming because I won't let her wear her flip-flops in a blizzard.


But - I won't make you read my thesis to get all the juicy details on how you can apply these findings in your classroom.  (Thank goodness, right?)

Oh - and in case you're wondering - real education scholars like Lev Vygotsky also believed in these ideas, so my thesis is in good company :)

Instead, I'll share with you some practical take-aways that you might find helpful.

10 Anchor Charts for Teaching Students About Making Connections

Get inspired by 10 model anchor charts to help teach the reading strategy of making connections

Who doesn't love a good anchor chart?  Now - an anchor chart with a purpose?  That takes a little inspiration, and that's what this post is all about!

We all teach students about making connections at some point during the school year, so I wanted to give you some great examples of anchor charts that you can use with your own students at varying points of your instruction.

However, rather than just throw out 10 anchor charts about making connections at you without any intention, I've divided the post into three sections to help you plan your instruction on making connections:

  • Anchor charts to INTRODUCE making connections
  • Anchor charts to teach students to SHARE their connections
  • Anchor charts to help students to make DEEPER connections

Take a look!
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