Understanding "Theme" in Novels Helps Students Connect to Important Core Values

By Manhattan Virtual Academy

Posted February 4, 2016

We are not only in school to memorize facts or get the highest test score.  We are in school to be exposed to knowledge, history, people, and to learn real life skills such as problem solving, coping strategies, and a good work ethic. Let's also not forget the importance of being a contributing citizen in our present day society. Our online students are out there in the community doing real work, hard work, and important work. Many of our online students are involved in community theatre, showing horses, dancing, reading to local schools and daycare services, and doing various community service projects. Our online students are amazing, and they are making a difference.

One recent language arts assignment involved reading an independent novel and doing a culminating project to convey the overall theme of the novel. Connor, a bright and successful 7th grader, decided to make a postage stamp that tells the theme of To Kill a Mockingbird. He chose to digitally create a mockingbird and shade it half white and half black to recognize the racial segregation represented throughout this novel. He loved the book (thanks to his mother who recommended it to him!) and learned that discrimnating against someone else because they are different is not okay, and that regardless of one's race, all should be treated equally.

So learning theme in English class isn't just about memorizing the definition of the word, it's about taking meaning from a piece of literature and then transferring it into your daily life.