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2. After reading the novel, discuss possible themes. I’ve found that an effective way for students to grasp the concept of theme is to think of it as a lesson a character or characters learn or the proverbial “moral to the story", an idea that most kids are familiar with from early on. Often times this moral will be revealed when a character overcomes a conflict, either within themselves or with another character or entity.
3. Once a theme is chosen, help students to find two or three scenes or events from the novel that provide support for it. For instance, if selecting the theme that all people are capable of change, the scene when Jess finally grows up and accepts his role as a big brother to May Belle would provide an effective supporting event.
4. After two or three events are selected, it’s time to write the essay. I usually have my students use a two sentence introductory paragraph. The first is the thesis statement, i.e. The novel Bridge to Terabithia clearly demonstrates the theme that a change in one’s character is an essential part of growing up. The second sentence lists a very brief summation of the events in the novel that depict evidence for the theme.
The body of the essay contains one paragraph for each event that is used to illustrate the theme. It contains a topic sentence identifying the event, then two or three sentences that explain how that event supports the chosen theme.
Finally, conclude the essay with a brief two sentence paragraph. I teach my students to treat the conclusion as a reformulated introduction; use the same ideas, but write them in a different way.
Evaluation: I will often score essays using a rubric system of 1-4, depending upon the quality of the supporting evidence cited, the clarity of the students writing style as well as mechanical features.