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Special Collection: Top Stories for Teaching Theme

Teacher-approved stories, lesson plans, and activities for exploring theme in your classroom

13 and a Half

A beautiful story by Rachel Vail and an iconic poem by Billy Collins explore ideas about growing up

Themes explored in the story and poem: Growing up means facing difficult truths. Growing up is inevitable and bittersweet. 

Read the Story and Poem
Lesson Plan
A step-by-step guide for teaching the theme of the story and poem
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Theme: On Growing Up
Compare theme across two texts.
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Character Thinking Tool
Explore theme through the lens of character.
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The Monkey’s Paw

This delightfully creepy play, based on the classic horror story by W.W. Jacobs, is paired with an informational text about how to make wishes come true.

Themes explored in the play: Be careful what you wish for. Greed leads to downfall. Getting what you want isn’t always a blessing.

Read the Play
Lesson Plan
A step-by-step guide for teaching this play
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Theme Anticipation Guide
A pre-reading strategy
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Theme: Making Wishes Come True
Analyze theme, then write an essay.
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Voilà!

A sweet story about finding the magic in everyday moments

Themes explored in the story: Special things happen every day all around us; whether we notice them depends on our attitude. People who might seem very different can all come together and share an emotional experience.

Read the Story
Lesson Plan
A step-by-step guide for teaching this story
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Theme Anticipation Guide
A pre-reading strategy
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Writing Planner
Explore how theme is developed in the story.
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A Christmas Carol

Can Scrooge change his ways before it’s too late?    

Themes explored in the play: People can change for the better. Small acts of kindness and generosity matter. You don’t have to have a lot of money to be happy. It is our responsibility to help those in need when we are able.

Read the Play
Lesson Plan
A step-by-step guide for teaching this play
Download
Theme Anticipation Guide
A pre-reading strategy
Download
Character Thinking Tool
Identify theme through character analysis.
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Phoenix Farm

A beautiful story by Jane Yolen about new beginnings is paired with a short article about the myth of the phoenix.

Theme explored in the story and myth: From endings can come new beginnings.

Read the Story
Lesson Plan
A step-by-step guide for teaching this story
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Theme Anticipation Guide
A pre-reading strategy
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Theme: Endings and Beginnings
Analyze theme, then write an essay.
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Good Enough

A relatable story by Rachel Vail about one girl’s desire for the “right shirt” is paired with a poem "Ode To My Shoes."

Themes explored in the story and poem: Physical objects can hold great meaning. Family is more important than anything. Money or material objects can’t bring true happiness.

Read the Story
Lesson Plan
A step-by-step guide for teaching the story and poem
Download
Theme Anticipation Guide
A pre-reading strategy
Download
Preparing to Write
Show understanding of theme by writing a poem.
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13 and a Half: Dave Wheeler; The Monkey's Paw: Illustration by Gary Hanna; Voilà!: Peter Strain; A Christmas Carol:Art by Shane Rebenschied; Phoenix Farm: Illustration by Allan Davey; Good Enough: Illustration by Mora Vieytes