Theme Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Use this lesson plan to teach your students about theme in literature. Use our lesson as a starting point, practice finding themes as a class, and then allow students to work independently with song lyrics to find theme and supporting evidence.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define theme
  • determine theme in text
  • identify text evidence that supports theme
  • defend thinking for theme choice


  • 1 hour


  • Various songs and lyrics from popular artists like Taylor Swift
  • Chart paper
  • Markers

Key Vocabulary

  • Theme
  • Supporting evidence (text evidence)
  • Universal

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2

Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3

Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.


  • Begin by playing all or a portion of a song, such as Taylor Swift's You Belong with Me. Ask students what the song is about. Discuss what evidence supports their thinking.
  • Tell students they will be exploring the concept of theme in literature. Play our lesson What Is Theme in Literature? - Definition & Examples.
  • Pause at 1:30. With students, define the term 'theme' and record on the board or chart paper. Ask:
    • In what types of literary work do we find theme?
    • What does it mean that a theme is universal?
    • What makes a theme powerful or memorable?
    • Where do writers get ideas for theme?
  • Play the remainder of the lesson, working with students to determine theme on the examples used in the lesson. Pause as necessary.

Guided Practice

  • Sketch a tree on the board or chart paper. Make sure the trunk and branches are thick enough to write in and the leaves are puffy so you can record print.
  • Re-examine the song from the beginning of class. Ask students again what they believe the theme to be. Guide them to use the new definition and lesson. Explain that any idea of theme can be considered right or valid if there is supporting text evidence. Discuss this concept.
  • Write the theme inside the trunk section of the tree. Explain that the theme of stories holds the plot up, much like the trunk supports a tree. With students, determine supporting evidence and record in leafy section of tree.

Independent Practice

  • Explain that students will be working with groups to determine theme in songs. Allow students to choose from songs or assign student groupings.
  • Direct students to determine a theme with their group. Record the theme in the trunk of the tree with supporting evidence in branches as you did in practice. Use direct text evidence.
  • Circulate the room to support students. Encourage them to defend their thinking.
  • Present theme trees to class. Lead students in discussions about theme choices.


  • Have students watch a sitcom or other short video for homework and determine theme. Bring thoughts to school and share with class.
  • Find theme in familiar text, like fairy tales or other short stories, before transferring to novels or more challenging text.
  • Allow students to work together to create their own song lyrics. Have other students determine theme and supporting evidence.

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