Teaching Theme

English

Definition

  • Refers to the central or one of the main underlying ideas or messages of a text.
  • Grammatical theme – in a sentence the theme is the clause that comes in first position and indicates what the sentence is about. Theme is important at different levels of text organisation. The topic sentence serves as the theme for the points raised in a paragraph. A pattern of themes contributes to the method of development for the text as a whole.

NSW English K-10 Syllabus

English Textual Concepts

What it is

A theme is a statement about life, arising from the interplay of key elements of the text such as plot, character, setting and language. These work together in a coherent way to achieve the purpose of the text.

Theme differs from the topic of a text (war, the sea) or an idea addressed by a text (prejudice, friendship) in that the theme conveys an attitude or value about an idea (By accepting difference we are enriched. True friendship survives adversity).

At its most basic level a theme may be regarded as the message or even the moral of a text. Themes may be used for a didactic purpose or may add a philosophical dimension, inviting us to think about our place in the world. A theme is a statement about human experience that is profound and which responders may accept or reject, depending on their own worldview.


Why it is important

Identifying themes is a higher order skill, moving students beyond the stated details of the text to consider the ideas implied by these details. By explaining how themes emerge students come to an understanding of how individual elements of a text cohere to serve a theme.

Understanding the themes of a text gives students insight into what is valued by a culture and the extent to which they may identify with, accept or challenge these values.


NSW Department of Education

The only way you will ever need to teach theme
How to find a theme
Identifying Theme
Topic vs. Theme
How To Find A Theme
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