Activities for Finding the Theme of a Story

Students sometimes read a book simply for pleasure. They take in the words and pictures and absorb what happens. Other times, they dive deeper into the book. For example, when teaching theme, picture books allow students to learn an essential element and Social-Emotional skills simultaneously. Additionally, they explore figurative language, main idea, and supporting details. This deep dive allows students to grasp what the book is about and how it relates to their life. Since all of this can seem overwhelming, teachers plan fun lessons, such as activities for finding the theme of a story. Students will love working on theme with picture books and fun activities! 

teaching theme picture books

Why is Finding the Theme of a Story Important?

When students identify the theme of a story, they focus on the meaning behind the words. They see what message the author works to convey and then take time to understand the message. Many times, this is a broad message about life. It is something students need to keep in mind as respectful classmates and community members. While theme may be part of a story, students use the message to learn more about life. 

Great Books for Teaching Theme 

When teaching theme, picture books are essential! They allow students to see what is going on while processing the story. Luckily, there are so many incredible options to use. 

The Adventures of Beekle 

Author Dan Santat created the perfect book to focus on the theme of friendship. 

In this story, an imaginary friend is born. Sadly, child after child moves past him while selecting an imaginary friend to bring home. He is overlooked, heartbroken, and depressed. Instead of staying sad, he sets off to the city and finds his perfect match! This is a heartwarming story about celebrating those around you.

teaching theme picture books


The Invisible Boy 

Author Trudy Ludwig and illustrator Patrice Barton show the power behind small acts of kindness. 

No one ever notices Brian. He is never included in groups or invited to birthday parties. However, everything changes when a new student named Justin joins the class. Since Brian knows what it feels like to be left out, he is the first to welcome Justin. When they team up on a project, the boys show true teamwork, and each shines their positivity on others. 

teaching theme picture books

Students will love seeing all of the themes immersed within this book! They will love all of the activities for finding the theme of a story with this heartfelt message.

I Walk With Vanessa

Honestly, this book contains a theme that all students need to know: how to stand up to bullying! 

While listening, students will see how helpless and angry classmates feel when seeing a classmate mistreated. Thankfully, they see how one girl does not just stand by and watch it happen. Instead, she displays how a single act of kindness can lead to an entire community joining in to help. 

I Walk With Vanessa

When teaching theme, picture books help bring the story alive. This is absolutely the case in this picture-only story! Students will love learning about strength, kindness, and acceptance! 

Activities for Finding the Theme of a Story 

Every student is so different. While some students prefer hands-on assignments, others prefer paper and pencil. Thankfully, there are so many unique activities for finding the theme of a story! The list below helps ensure there are student-preferred assignments for many learning styles. 

Teaching Theme Anchor Charts

When students learn new information, it is so helpful to have reference charts. Likewise, when they focus on many literary terms throughout the year, it is beneficial to have posters that provide definitions and examples. Honestly, this allows students to quickly recall what something is instead of getting confused or frustrated. Thankfully, this anchor chart collection ensures students know what the word theme means. 

Specifically, some charts define what theme is. There are also examples to help students understand that the theme can be one word or a phrase. Since students often confuse main idea with theme, there is an anchor chart that explains the difference. There is even an anchor chart for teaching theme picture books to provide continual reinforcement. It includes well-known stories and examples of theme. Students will love having so many charts and posters to help them when working on activities for finding the theme of a story. 

teaching theme picture books

Since every classroom has a different amount of space, the resource has multiple sizes and options! There are even digital versions. 

Theme Task Cards & Worksheets

When planning activities for finding the theme of a story, it is helpful to have a range of text to use. Honestly, students need a lot of practice, so it is beneficial to have different lengths based on class time. Thankfully, this resource has everything you need! 

Students will practice identifying the theme through 24 task cards. Each card contains an entire passage or a story. Then, there are 3 different answer sheet options, ensuring lessons meet students where they are at. This includes identifying the theme in one word, a complete sentence, or an open-ended response. Students will love working on the same topic but at their level! 

task cards and worksheets

Additionally, there are even worksheets that are great for any story or passage! 

Reading Passages & Worksheets 

Finding the right activities for a story’s theme can be difficult. Thankfully, these passages and worksheets support students no matter where they are in their reading journey!

Specifically, there are 8 full-page sequential narrative passages. Additionally, there are theme questions for each passage. This is the perfect way to help students build their skills in reading passages and identifying key literary devices. 

Identifying theme is such an essential element when reading. Luckily, there are tons of activities for finding the theme of a story to help students with this challenging skill! 

teaching theme picture books

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I am Kirsten Tulsian, an elementary educator with 18 years of experience as a teacher and counselor. My passion lies in empowering students to discover their inherent brilliance through the use of engaging, rigorous, and meaningful activities. I look forward to connecting with you!

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