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Theme Lesson for Kids: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:02 What Is Theme?
  • 1:05 What Are Some Common Themes?
  • 1:28 Example
  • 2:55 Theme vs. Main Idea
  • 3:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shelley Vessels

Shelley has taught at the middle school level for 10 years and has a master's degree in teaching English.

Every story has a theme, sometimes multiple themes! Once you understand theme, you'll begin to understand what you read much better. Read on to learn what theme is and how to identify theme in a story.

What Is Theme?

Theme is an underlying message or the big idea of a story. This message could tell more about human nature or life in general. Many stories have more than one theme.

There are several ways a reader can piece together the story's theme. The reader can ask himself or herself these questions:

  • Do the characters learn anything throughout the story?
  • Do the characters change at all?
  • Do the characters have any beliefs about life or people in general?
  • Why do the characters act the way they do?

The theme of a story is never directly told to the reader. It needs to be figured out by making an inference. An inference is putting together puzzle pieces to determine a larger picture.

If your mother started putting on her galoshes and raincoat, what could you infer the weather is like? You could infer that it is either raining, or it will rain soon. No one needed to tell you the weather forecast. You can infer that by putting the information together.

What Are Some Common Themes?

There are several themes that typically show up in stories. These include:

  • Courage
  • Perseverance
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Growing up
  • Acceptance
  • Loyalty
  • Transformation
  • Compassion
  • Honesty
  • Cooperation

Examples

Let's go through an example and try to figure out the theme of a well-known fairy tale, Cinderella. This story's very old and is about a kind and hard working girl who is treated badly by her step mother and step sisters. Even though she finishes all her chores so that she can go to the ball at the prince's castle, her stepfamily doesn't let her go. A fairy godmother comes to Cinderella and gives her all she needs to go to the ball: a dress, shoes, and a pumpkin carriage. At the ball, the prince falls in love with her and, eventually, they live happily ever after. Any idea of the theme of this story? I'll give you a few seconds to look over our list and decide which ones you think fit best.

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