This week, I am going to do a series on the unit of study on THEME that I've just started in my 4th grade classroom. I knew as soon as I mentioned it last week that I would need to write more about it.
Our district focus for 4th grade writing workshop this trimester is "Literary Essay." I couldn't imagine my 10 year-old writers maintaining any interest in a workshop dedicated to nonstop literary essays. I knew I needed to get my students wrangling with the big ideas they would need to address in a literary essay. Big ideas like theme.
First, I showed my students this video that Doug Noon shared on his blog Borderland, and we started our conversation about the difference between plot (the story; what happens) and theme (the deeper meaning; the author's possible message; the possible message we infer whether the author intended it or not).
My students were completely captivated by this video. We watched it over and over again. Some were so amazed by the tricks that they declared it to be "fake." We talked about the "plot" (a movie about bike tricks) and the "themes" (practice, perseverance, follow your dreams, have confidence, believe in yourself).
(And how did I get this video off YouTube and into my classroom? Zamzar made it into a QuickTime file.)
The next day I shared THE LION AND THE MOUSE by Jerry Pinkney (I reviewed it here). The students picked right up on the themes of family and power and helpfulness.
This video and book laid the foundation for me to introduce the multi-media multi-genre project I had in mind for my students. Tomorrow I'll continue this series with more details about the project and how my writing workshop has been transformed into a composing workshop.