A difficult part of teaching thematic elements in reading is getting students on board with reading. Students who have a natural affinity for reading are more likely to observe the finer details within a piece of literature, but not all students dive into reading on the same level. Even many adults have no interest in deciphering the deeper meanings authors weave into their stories. While I cannot instill a passion in students to love the art of writing, I can help them develop awareness that authors typically write stories for a bigger purpose other than simply telling a fun story or providing information.
Visual organizers such as mind maps are a great way for students to establish connections and understanding. Mind maps are useful for lower and higher level students and can often be shared between groups. For the lower level students, I will sit with them and help students make connections between their personal lives and the journeys of characters in stories we have already read. This will help students understand bigger connections, and we can develop some real-world ideas from their connections. For the mid to high-level students, I will mix them. The higher-level students can present ideas the mid-level students may not have created on their own. They can work together to create a group mind-map displaying all of their ideas and how they are connected. The mixing of groups will help to establish and strengthen thinking and sharing skills.
My pre-assessment goes through a few basic questions to establish how students feel about reading and what they took away from another story we read together as a class.