3 Easy Ideas for Teaching Theme

Are you frustrated because your students aren’t understanding how to build an interpretation? I feel ya! Here are 3 easy ideas for teaching theme. You will walk away with activities that you can start using TOMORROW in your upper elementary reading class!

1) Read Alouds are GREAT for Teaching Theme

So teaching theme is something that needs to happen ALL YEAR LONG in order for your students to “get it”. Building an interpretation is hard work and kiddos need a ton of practice! That’s why read alouds are my favourite way to teach theme. If you take 2 minutes at the end of each and every picture book read aloud to discuss the book’s theme, pretty soon you will see the light bulb go off!

One of my all-time favourite picture books for teaching themes is Swashby and the Sea. In fact, I love this book so much that I created an entire FREE Read Aloud lesson plan for you! Click HERE to grab that lesson and provide your students with some extra theme practice.

3 easy ideas for teaching theme - free read aloud lesson

2) Incorporate Reading Response Slides!

So you may be thinking… I’m not teaching online anymore… why on earth do I need reading response slides? The answer is that reading response slides are a NO PREP way for your students to get meaningful practice determining theme! There’s no photocopying involved! Plus you can assign in Google Classroom once and have students return over and over again to complete additional slides within the assignment. Best of all, kiddos are so motivated by these digital reading response slides that they tend to do a much better job completing them.

3 easy ideas for teaching theme - reading response slides

3) Utilize Pixar Shorts

Pixar shorts are one of the most motivating tools that I use in my reading classroom. Students LOVE watching them so I try to incorporate them into my reading lessons on special days like Halloween and the last day before Winter Break.

Some of my favourite Pixar Shorts for teaching theme include:


Dug’s Special Mission


Hey Dear


Geri’s Game

But, if you only have time for one, FOR THE BIRDS is my favourite Pixar short for teaching theme.

3 easy ideas for teaching theme - pixar shorts for the birds

So there you have it, 3 awesome ideas for teaching theme in the upper elementary classroom. Don’t forget to grab your FREE read aloud lesson by clicking HERE.

PS. There are TONS of opportunities to teach students about themes in chapter books as well! Check out THIS blog post filled with amazing own voices books that your big kids will love!

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