They’re either going to love it or they’re going to hate it. While that statement can be true for some many things in life such as:
- The stairmaster
- Doing taxes
- Attending the ballet
- Classical music
- Eating brussel sprouts
You can’t find a truer version of that statement than reading class. Students have a love hate relationship with reading and find themselves often on one or extreme or the other. One thing that puts so many young people in the hating reading camp is the fact that understanding literary terms and analyzing literature is HARD! Below are three literary concepts that students have a hard time learning and some ways to help guide them.
Teaching Main Idea
Teaching main idea can be so tough because it’s a concept that students either understand right off of the bat or struggle with. At the core of the main idea are two essential questions students should be able to answer:
- What is the story or writing mostly about?
- What word or ideas do you see repeatedly mentioned?
Without being able to identify the main idea of a piece of writing or a book students will struggle with understanding the entire piece. For teachers the easiest way to make sure students understand this literary concept is to practice, practice practice! For many students they need repetition in order to gain mastery.
Another teaching tool that teachers can use are short stories and introduction paragraphs. Short stories and intros allow for a guided close read that shouldn’t fatigue students mentally. This will allow for teachers to read a short paragraph, have students ask the questions above and drill finding the main idea. As students progress in skill the length and complexity of
Theme creates issues in reading classrooms because students constantly struggle to differentiate between main idea and theme. While main idea is asking students to identify what the story or writing is mostly about, theme asks students to answer the following three questions to come up with the theme:
- What is the central idea of the story?
- Can your theme include a subject and a verb?
- Can you create a statement that helps us learn about human nature?
Leading students to work through this set of questions will help them differentiate between main idea and theme. What can also help is giving them examples of what works as themes. The following are great examples:
- Crime pays.
- Love conquers all.
- Blood is thicker than water.
- Honesty is the best policy.
- People with nothing to lose are dangerous.
Motif is the third literary device in this list that has been known to give students trouble because it is easily confused with the theme and the main idea. Motif can be easily identified from theme and main idea because they are mainly reliant on symbols or symbolism. Motif can be identified by asking the following questions:
- What symbol do you see repeated multiple times?
- What images are repeated several times?
- What ideas are repeated several times?