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Literature Extension: Research Theme, Motif or Historical Time Period from Novel

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 9/11/2012

One literature extension that students can do after they finish a novel is to complete research on a theme, motif or historical time period from the novel.

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    Researching a Theme

    A literature extension should be an activity that extends the learning that began when the student reads the novel. There are many directions that a teacher can take with an extension. One direction is to go more in depth with a theme.

    When students complete a novel, they can learn more about the themes introduced in a novel. A theme is a universal idea or basic ideal in a novel. Sometimes these themes have a message or teach a lesson.

    Some basic examples of theme are as follows: a great journey, good versus evil, jealousy, the individual and nature, society rules and the individual, friendships, family relationships, solving a mystery, growing up, dealing with the death of someone close, feeling alienation, spirituality, time and its effects, etc.

    For example, in The Giver by Lois Lowery a theme is the importance of memories. Students could research the importance of memories in life. Or, students could explore how memories are formed and kept in one's brain.

    Research Sharing Formats

    Once students complete some basic research, they can share the information in various formats:

    • poster
    • flip chart
    • PowerPoint
    • flow chart of ideas
    • a formal research paper
    • student organized discussion
    • student created bulletin board
    • a casual presentation that students give to the class with a visual aid
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    Researching a Historical Time Period

    Another way to extend learning is to have students learn more about the historical time period of the setting of the novel. Most novels have specific time periods that are introduced early on as the setting. In many novels, the time period is very important to the story line. In addition, students should research the place, especially if it is one that is out of the United States.

    Novels with Historical Settings

    For example, A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck is set during the Great Depression (1929-1935). Through Peck's humorous tales, students can get a taste of the time period and the troubles of the times. However, students can do additional research on the topic of the Great Depression.

    The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is set in the 60's. The Socs and the Greasers rumble over their differences and social status. Students could research the 60's and important events during that time period.

    Students should make sure to follow a specific research format, such as MLA or APA if they write a formal research paper. However, they can share their information with the class in many formats as well.

    The main thing when students do these research projects is that students extend what they learned from the novel. Many times a novel can spark interest in topics that students have very little knowledge. By doing these research projects, hopefully the teacher will instill in the students to be a "life-long learner."