Instead of assigning a book report, ask students to think about themes that were prominent in the novel. Then show them how to write a solid theme paragraph.
A theme in literature is a universal idea. It is a big idea in the novel and usually is implied by the writer. Students sometimes get confused and want to only write about the plot in a theme paragraph. Make sure that they are clear about themes. Some general themes in literature are as follows:
- good versus evil
- a great journey
- growing up
- relationships (friendship, family, love/marriage, etc.)
- conflicts with nature or God
- conflicts with society or rules
- doing the right thing
There are many other themes in literature. It is fun to discuss movies or even television shows that students watch. Students can tell about themes for those in the discussion.
Discuss the Paragraph
Just because students have written paragraphs in the past does not mean that they know how to write good ones. Discuss the parts of a paragraph:
topic sentence: one sentence that tells what the paragraph is about
body: supporting sentences
conclusion: wraps up paragraph and leaves reader with something to think about
Write Theme Paragraph
Step 1: Help students to write their topic sentence. One starter topic sentence is as follows:
In the novel________________ by _________________ the theme is _________________.
This is a simple yet clear topic sentence.
Step 2: Students need to write the body of the paragraph. Help students start by writing three big supporting details from the novel that shows the theme as a list.
Step 3: Write a conclusion. The beginning writer can restate the topic sentence. For the more sophisticated writer, the student should wrap up the conclusion and leave the reader with an interesting idea about the theme to think about after reading the paragraph.
Step 4: Take the above information and write the paragraph. Make sure students use some transitional words so that the paragraph flows well.
Step 5: Edit for writing conventions and then peer edit the paragraphs.
Step 6: Write a final copy of the paragraph.
These paragraphs should be organized, full of supporting detail and have few grammar issues. After students master the theme paragraph, they can move on to the theme essay.