Key Question: What evidence of theme did you see in the text?


  • Student Copies of any novel (I used Rules by Cynthia Lord)
  • Student copies of 1 excerpt from the novel (Find a page with excellent evidence that supports theme – I used page 2 of Rules)
  • Close Reading Bookmarks (free), printed on cardstock
  • Pencils
Welcome to the second week of Common Core Boot camp! This lesson focuses on finding evidence of theme in text. Students must already have background knowledge of what theme is before this lesson is taught. During this lesson, we will be using Close Reading strategies. For more information, see the free Close Reading Bookmarks download above.
1. Setup
I know that copying text is very controversial, and copyright infringement is a real concern with Close Reading, but students need to annotate the text. I want to say immediately that I purchased a class set of the book Rules from Scholastic when it was the $1 book for the month. That being said, I do copy excerpts from the book for students to write on. The students each have a copy, so this is only for the use of them having more room to annotate.  You may also choose to type it out instead.

For this lesson, we used page 2 of Rules by Cynthia Lord. We will continue to read this book and apply each of the RL standards to it along the way. I like to always have an “anchor text” to tie all of the standards together.

1. First reading (“cold read”)
Have students silently read the page. I have my students hold up the page while reading, then set it down to indicate they are finished with their read. This prevents me from having 30 students tell me “I’m done!”

Under her arm is the ever popular interactive notebook resource we use!

2. Model Close Reading
Use the top half of the page and the bookmarks to model the Close Reading Strategies. Reread and then show each strategy one step at a time.

Underline Key Words: The key words we are looking for today are ones that give us clues about the theme.
Circle What you Don’t Understand: Circle words you don’t know, or parts that don’t make sense.
Annotate Left Margin: Summarize the piece you read in one sentence on the left.
Annotate Right Margin: Tell why the author wrote this piece on the right.

I don’t understand why they are going to a clinic, so I circled it.
Why did the author tell us what Catherine packed into her backpack?
Annotate the author’s purpose in the right margin.
Do you think the fact that Catherine likes to draw will be important to the story?

No Theme clues so far, so we don’t underline anything.

3. Guided Close Reading

Now it’s time to let students do a little of the thinking. Have them reread the last paragraph. Tell them to circle anything they don’t understand. Let a few students share what they circled. This is where I integrate some of my technology (interactive whiteboard).


My students are advanced learners, so next I have them work in a group to try to find Theme clues. If your students struggle with this part, give them the theme up front. Tell them one of the themes in the book is “acceptance” and have them look for evidence that goes with this theme. The following are the parts one of my students underlined for the theme “acceptance”.
Talk about what you read in the paragraph, then have students work in pairs to write a 1-sentence summary in the left margin. Talk about why the author wrote this paragraph, then let students try writing it in the margin on the right side.

At the end of your Close Read, their paper should look something like this:


4. Graphic Organizer

I copy the page leaving a blank space on the left for some sort of graphic organizer. In this instance, I’m using a Circle Map. We work together to write themes we saw (family and acceptance) – in red, and text-based evidence of these themes (that we underlined in the text during the last step) – in purple.

5. Wrap-up

Have students turn their paper over and write a short paragraph answering the following questions:
  • What is theme?
  • How did we find examples of theme in Rules by Cynthia Lord?
  • How can you relate to the theme “acceptance” in your life?
If time, choose students to share their responses. I walk around with these little callouts (I got them at Dollar tree in the bulletin board section and laminated them) and place one on a student’s desk if I see a really good example I want them to share with the class. These are amazing because a) I don’t have to remember who I wanted to call on 5 minutes later and b) I can make sure that students who have the correct answer are sharing, unlike when you call on students randomly.