Lesson 4: Deciding Theme
- Learning Goal
- Explain the theme of a story by analyzing the effects of a character’s decision.
- Approximately 2 Days (40-45 minutes for each class)
- Necessary Materials
- Provided: “The Lion and the Mouse”, Deciding the Theme Chart, Deciding the Theme Worksheet (Student Packet, pages 20-21)
Not Provided: Chart paper, markers, The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Before the Lesson
Read Chapters 19-24; Complete Student Packet Worksheets for Chapters 19-24
Activation & Motivation
Read aloud the classic fable, “The Lion and the Mouse” while students follow along. Have the class discuss the message of the story. Ask: "How does the lion’s decision impact the meaning of the whole story? If the lion had made a different decision, would the message of the story change? How?"
will explain that a character’s choices and the effects of those choices give readers insight into the themes or messages of a story. An author tries to show readers how we ought to behave as human beings (or how we should not behave) based on how characters in the story choose to act and react. The effects of a character’s decision provide a clue to the theme or author’s message. For example, in “The Lion and the Mouse” since the Lion’s decision to free the mouse had a positive result for him ( .e. the mouse returned to save him), the author might be trying to communicate that acts of kindness are always rewarded. We saw this happen in The Wizard of Oz as well. When the Tin Man saved the mouse, this kindness was rewarded.
To explain the theme of a story, I will examine an important decision made by a main character (or group of main characters), evaluate the effects of that decision (by judging whether they are positive or negative), and use that information to explain the message of a story. To explain one possible theme (deceit and honesty) in The Wizard of Oz, I will examine the Wizard’s decision to lie to the people of Oz and pretend to be all-powerful. This seems like an important decision that, when revealed, changed the course of the story, so I want to probe it further to see what it means.
First, I will look at the effects of this decision. On chart paper, I will write that because the Wizard lied, he had to hide his true identity not only from the people of Oz, but also from the evil witches. He lived in fear that they would discover the truth and punish him. Additionally, Dorothy, the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow all believed that with his purported powers, he could grant them their wishes. Based on this information, they put themselves at risk and sought to kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Note: See Deciding the Theme Chart for an example chart.
Next, I will determine whether this decision was a positive or negative decision in the story by evaluating the effects. The effects of Wizard’s disguise were negative because he lived in fear with few friends to trust, he could not grant the group their wishes, and he unfairly put their lives in danger by sending them to do his dirty work (killing the Wicked Witch of the West). I think the author believes the Wizard’s decision to let the people of Oz think he had powers was negative. He is a fraud and a “humbug,” one that is revealed to be pathetic and useless in effect.
Finally, I will use this information to explain the theme. I can conclude that one possible theme of the story is that lying to people about who you really are, or making yourself seem more grand, is harmful and wrong. It hurts other people and yourself. Another theme might be that to be a good leader, one must be honest, rather than using deceit and trickery to rule the people. See the Deciding the Theme Chart for additional themes.
Ask: "How can I explain a theme of The Wizard of Oz?" Students should respond that a theme of the story can be explained by examining important decisions made by one or more characters, evaluating the effects of those decisions, determining whether they were positive or negative, and using them to explain the message of the story.
will explain the theme of “Not Giving Up” in The Wizard of Oz. We will examine the decision made by Dorothy and the group to seek out the Wicked Witch of the West. Note: See Deciding the Theme Chart for an example chart. First, we will describe and chart the characters’ decision. On chart paper, we will write that Dorothy and the group decided to seek out the Wicked Witch of the West. Then, we will chart the effects of this decision. The Tin Man was dismembered by the monkeys and rusted and the Scarecrow was torn apart and scattered. Dorothy and the Lion were enslaved, yet they continued to stay and work. Next, we will determine whether it was a positive or negative decision in the story by evaluating the effects. The author must think this is the right thing to do because, in the end, Dorothy defeated the Wicked Witch of the West. The winged monkeys and Winkies were so grateful that they put the bodies of the Tin Man and Scarecrow back together. Finally, we will use this information to explain the theme. We will conclude that one possible theme of the story is that you must pursue your dreams and desires relentlessly, and in the face of grave danger, especially if they are dreams for good things (like brains, a heart, courage, and home).
will examine Dorothy’s decision to be sent home rather than stay in Oz. You will also examine the group’s decision to ask Oz for a heart, a brain and courage. Ask, "What is the author's message about how to get what we want?" (See pages 20-21 in the Student Packet.)
will come together to discuss the messages in the novel. Can students think of other themes from the novel? What does the author think about friendship? The meaning of home? The battle between good and evil?
(To see all of the ReadWorks lessons aligned to your standards, click here.)
Build Student Vocabulary mourning
|Tier 2 Word: mourning|
|Contextualize the word as it is used in the story||“My greatest wish now,” she added, “is to get back to Kansas, for Aunt Em will surely think something dreadful has happened to me, and that will make her put on mourning; and unless the crops are better this year than they were last I am sure Uncle Henry cannot afford it.”|
|Explain the meaning student-friendly definition)||To mourn means to feel sadness because someone has died. Dorothy is worried that Aunt Em put on mourning because she thinks Dorothy has passed away.|
|Students repeat the word||Say the word mourning with me: mourning|
|Teacher gives examples of the word in other contexts||I mourned my grandfather’s dog when she died last year. I couldn’t stop crying whenever I thought about her. Whenever I see people dressed all in black, I wonder if they are in mourning for someone they loved who has passed away.|
|Students provide examples||Have you ever seen someone in mourning? Students should say, “I once saw someone in mourning when________.”|
|Students repeat the word again.||What word are we talking about? mourning|
|Additional Vocabulary Words||briskly, limp, reproachful, whimpered, boisterously|