Lesson Plan

Using Short Animated Films to Teach Literary Elements: Theme

Students will apply the process of identifying theme to a short animated film.
Rae O.
Co-Director UC Merced Writing Project
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My Grades 9, 10, 11, 12
My Subjects English Language Arts

Students will be able to...

  • Take notes on the process of identifying theme;
  • Analyze a short animated film taking notes on the details that contribute to the overall theme/message of the film;
  • Create a theme/thesis statement;
  • Write an expository/analysis essay on the theme and its development in a short animated film.
  • Evaluate writing using a rubric.
English Language Arts
Grades 6 – 10
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Direct Instruction

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Objective:  Introduce a process for identifying theme in a story.

Students create a Padlet wall. Show the TedEd video (1:48) Identifying Theme in Literature.  Students take notes on their Padlet wall (they may share them later with a partner or a small group) recording the process for identifying the theme of a story.

2 Critical Reading/Modeling the Process

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Objective: Model critical reading of text.

Show the YouTube video Changing Batteries (5:33) taking notes on Padlet wall modeling the process for students. Students record the informtion on their Padlet wall.

3 Critical Reading/Independent Practice

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Objective:  Students critically read text.

Students analyze the YouTube short animated film (7:49) The Potter using their notes on identifying theme in literature and creating notes on their Padlet wall.  Pay particular attention to the plot, conflict, characters and how they change.  Note: an alternative to having everyone critically read/analyze the same short animated film, teachers can create a list of short animated films and make QR Codes for them for easy access by students on their devices (laptop, smart phone, ipads, tablets, etc.)  Students can then join a partner or a small group to analyze a short animated film of their choice.  Here are some additional suggestions:  La Luna (6:58); For the Birds (3:26); Lifted (4:49); Paperman (5:01).

4 Writing/Thesis Statement

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Objective:  Write a strong thesis statement about the theme of the short animated film analyzed.

Show the Shmoop Tube video (5:04) How to Write a Killer Thesis Statement.  Using your Padlet notes from the short animated film you analyzed, write a thesis statement that indicates the theme of the film.  Post your thesis statement on your Padlet wall.

5 Writing/Drafting the Essay

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Objective:  Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Performance Task:  After viewing a short animated film, write an essay in which you identify the theme/message of the film and discuss its development.  to support your thesis, use specific evidence from the film.  Be sure to explain how each piece of evidence supports or develops the theme/message.  Remember that an essay has an introduction, body, and conclusion.  There is no assigned length.  Your essay must competently discuss the theme/message and its development.

compose your essay in Google Docs.

6 Writing/Evaluating the Essay

Objective:  Evaluate writing using a custom made rubric.

Using a custom made rubric, evaluate the features of your essay.  Where might you be able to improve?

7 Lesson Extension/Grade Level Text

Objective:  Apply the process of theme identification and analysis to a grade level approprite text.

Using Subtext, Curriculet, Gutenberg Literature, or a similar website or app, find a grade level appropriate text to read and analyze for theme.  Compose an essay tracing the development of the theme in the grade level text.