Lesson 4: Theme Matters
Bridge to Terabithia | 810L
- Learning Goal
- Use recurring events in order to identify and examine a theme in a work of realistic fiction.
- Approximately 2 Days (45-50 minutes for each class)
- Necessary Materials
- Provided: “The Ant and the Cricket”, What’s the Theme? Chart, What’s the Theme? Worksheet (Student Packet, page 25)
Not Provided: Chart paper, markers, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Before the Lesson
Read Chapters 10-12; Complete Student Packet Worksheets for Chapters 10-12
Activation & Motivation
Read aloud Grimm’s Fairy Tale of “The Ant and the Cricket.” After reading, ask students to think about what message the authors of the fairy tale wanted to convey to readers. List your class’ messages on chart paper. Ask students to think about why they chose this as a message. What text evidence did they use? Record their answers on chart paper.
will explain that realistic fiction novels usually contain an author’s message about a topic. This message is called a theme. A theme may be a lesson or a piece of advice the author would like to make to the reader or society in general. Themes help shape the character, plot, settings, and event in a story. In short stories, such as “The Ant and the Cricket,” the theme is often quickly found by looking at text evidence. In longer realistic fiction novels, many authors use recurring events to convey a theme to readers.
To figure out a theme of Bridge to Terabithia, I will first identify one topic in story. One topic that we read about throughout the book is fear. There are many times that Jess is fearful throughout the story. For instance, he is fearful of how his father feels about him even though he likes drawing. He is fearful about standing up to Janice Avery when she bullies his sister. On the What’s the Theme? Chart, I’ll write “Fear” under the “Topic” column. Note: See the What’s the Theme? Chart for specific examples.
I will identify recurring events in Bridge to Terabithia that are centered on the topic of “Fear.” From the beginning of the book to the end, there are many instances of Jess’s fear. He fears his father’s reaction; he fears getting into a fight with Gary Fulcher; he fears scuba diving; he fears Janice Avery and standing up to her; he fears what people will think of him; he fears swinging over the rising creek to Terabithia; and he fears being himself. I will write “Jess is afraid of many things” on my What’s the Theme? Chart,under the column labeled “Recurring Events.”
Next, I will draw a conclusion about the theme, or the message the author wants to convey about this topic of fear. I will explain that you can gather hints and specific details from the text about what the author wants to say regarding the topic.
I will think about what happens surrounding Jess’s fear in the book. I recall that Jess is afraid to confront the things he’s afraid of. For example, he doesn’t want to confront Janice Avery. He’s afraid to tell his dad how he feels about him or about his drawings. He is even afraid to tell Leslie how he feels about going to Terabithia during the storm. But after Leslie’s death, Jess seems to understand that he needs to overcome his fears. He goes to the creek and finds a large branch to help him get across it. He bravely walked into the dark forest that he had previously feared. He forgot about his fear to save May Belle. Using this information, I can conclude that one of the themes in the book could be, “Facing your fears will help you overcome them.” I will write this theme on the What’s the Theme? Chart, under the column labeled “Theme/Author’s Message.”
Ask: "How do I figure out a theme in a story?" Students should respond that you use information from the text to think about a topic presented in the book and examine recurring events. Then, you use text evidence to draw a conclusion about the theme of the book.
will examine the topic of “gender roles” in Bridge to Terabithia, to figure out another possible theme. Throughout the book, there are many events and even dialogue in the story centered on what boys and girls should or should not do. For example, in the beginning of the book Leslie races against the boys, but the boys think she should be playing with the girls. Ask: "Can you recall other times in the book when the recurring event of gender roles comes up?" As we recall these events or skim the book to find additional events, we will keep track of these events on our What’s the Theme? Chart under the “Recurring Event” column.
Notes: Continue to use the What’s the Theme? Chart starting in the Direct Teaching. Recurring events around the topic of “gender roles” include: Leslie racing against the boys, but the boys think she should be playing with the girls; Jess has a talent for drawing, but he can’t share that with his father because his father was upset when he first learned his son liked to draw; Jess doing all the hard work in the house while his sisters watch TV and shop; Jess’s mother doing housework and cooking, while his father goes off to work; Jess’s family thinking that Leslie and Miss Edmunds are “hippies”; Leslie and Miss Edmunds acting differently than the girls and women in the Aarons family.
Now, we will try to draw a conclusion about what the author wants to say about gender roles. It seems that both Jess and Leslie, the main characters, go against the stereotypical roles of boys and girls. They are different from other characters in the book, and they accept each other’s differences and even encourage one another to accept themselves and show their differences. Based on this text evidence, we can conclude that one of the themes for this book could be, “It’s okay to be different and to accept differences in others.” We will write this theme on the What’s the Theme? Chart, under the column labeled “Theme/Author’s Message.” Note: Ask students to contribute additional themes based on the topic and events that were identified, and record their theme ideas under the appropriate column on the chart.
will work with a partner to find recurring events centered on the topic of “Friendship.” You may skim Bridge to Terabithia, use your Student Packet, or use your recalling skills to identify recurring events for this topic. You and your partner will write down the events in the book that are centered on friendship. You will write these events under the “Events” column on the What’s the Theme? Worksheet in your Student Packet. (See page 25 in the Student Packet.)
Under the “Topic” column, you will write “Friendship,” because that is the topic you and your partner will be focusing on. For the “Theme” column, you will ask yourselves: What is the message the author wants to convey about friendship? You and your partner will write your theme ideas under the “Theme” column on your What’s the Theme? Worksheet.
You and your partner will prepare a Theme Statement to present to the class. Your Theme Statement will tell others the theme of the book, or the message the author is trying to convey about friendship. You will write down how you decided on the theme and what events from the book helped you figure out the theme. You will then write down your personal opinion about the theme. Do you agree with the author’s message about friendship? Why or why not? Use details and personal experiences to support your opinion.
will arrange our desks in a circle (or sit in a circle). Each pair will present their Theme Statement to the class. We will ask each pair questions about their Theme Statement. Note: Prompt students to inquire about the theme chosen: Did the pair consider other themes? Did the partners have differing personal opinions about the theme? What recurring events did the partners identify to support their theme? We will take a class vote on each theme: Is this an appropriate theme for Bridge to Terabithia? Why or why not?
Build Student Vocabulary kinship
|Tier 2 Word: kinship|
|Contextualize the word as it is used in the story||"When Jess was in the museum with Miss Edmunds, “they came upon a display case holding a miniature scene of Indians disguised in buffalo skins scaring a herd of buffalo into stampeding over a cliff to their death with more Indians waiting below to butcher and skin them. It was a three-dimensional nightmare version of some of his own drawings. He felt a frightening kinship with it.”|
|Explain the meaning student-friendly definition)||A kinship is when someone shares a relationship of common ideas, values, or characteristics with others. When Jess felt a kinship with the display of Indians, he felt like he shared common ideas, values, and characteristics with the display because it was very similar to his drawings.|
|Students repeat the word||Say the word kinship with me: kinship.|
|Teacher gives examples of the word in other contexts||I have a kinship with the other teachers in our school because we all believe education is very important. My sister and I have a kinship because we both believe that we need to be honest with each other.|
|Students provide examples||Do you have a kinship with someone? Start by saying, “I have a kinship with ____________________ because we both _______________________.”|
|Students repeat the word again.||What word are we talking about? kinship|
|Additional Vocabulary Words||idly, suppress, liberated, hurtling, accusation|
Texts & Materials
(To see all of the ReadWorks lessons aligned to your standards, click here.)