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Theme Worksheets

Identifying the theme of a story can be challenging. It requires the reader to identify a main idea in the story. Then extend the idea to the real world. Fortunately, as with all reading skills, practice makes perfect. These theme worksheets will help students achieve mastery of this essential reading skill. I recommend starting with the theme PowerPoint lesson posted below. Also, you may be interested in my advice on teaching theme.

Theme Lesson – Slide show lesson teaching students what the theme of a story is and how to identify it.  The lesson also includes practice problems and examples of theme.
Theme Lesson PPT
Preview Theme Lesson in Your Web Browser

Theme Lesson 2 – This is a slight revision of the theme PowerPoint lesson posted above. It contains different practice problems at the end of the lesson and a few other changes.
Theme Lesson 2 PPT

Theme Worksheet – Practice identifying themes in five short stories.  Read each story, determine the theme, and explain the answer. Suggested reading level for this text: Grade 4-8
Theme Worksheet RTF
Theme Worksheet PDF
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Theme Worksheet 2 – Students read five original short story passages and determine the theme or message of the story.  Also, students explain how they got their answers. Suggested reading level for this text: Grade 5-9
Theme Worksheet 2 RTF
Theme Worksheet 2 PDF
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Theme Worksheet 3 – Here’s another theme worksheet to help your students master this elusive skill. Students read the short stories and extract the message. Then they support their answers with textual evidence. Suggested reading level for this text: Grade 4-8
Theme Worksheet 3 RTF
Theme Worksheet 3 PDF
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Theme Worksheet 4 – Being able to identify the theme of a story is an important reading skill. Being able to support your answer with textual evidence is more important. This theme worksheet requires students to do both. Suggested reading level for this text: Grade 6-10
Theme Worksheet 4 RTF
Theme Worksheet 4 PDF
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Theme Worksheet 5 – Here is another double-sided theme worksheet. It has five passages from which students can extract a message. Students support their answers with textual evidence. Suggested reading level for this text: Grade 6-10
Theme Worksheet 5 RTF
Theme Worksheet 5 PDF
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Theme Worksheet 6 – This worksheet contains another five short stories to give students practice identifying themes. Students read the short stories, identify the themes, explain their answers using text. Suggested reading level for this text: Grade 5-9
Theme Worksheet 6 RTF
Theme Worksheet 6 PDF
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Theme Worksheet 7 – This worksheet offers even more practice with identifying themes. Students read the short fiction passages and determine the life lesson of the story. They support their answers with textual evidence. These worksheets are aligned with Common Core State Standards. Suggested reading level for this text: Grade 4-8
Theme Worksheet 7 RTF
Theme Worksheet 7 PDF
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Understanding Theme with Fables – Classic fables by Aesop without the morals. Students must draw conclusions to infer the meaning or “theme” of the fables. 4 pages, 15 problems. Suggested reading level for this text: Grade 5-9
Understanding Theme with Fables RTF
Understanding Theme with Fables PDF
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Understanding Theme with Fables Review – More classic fables by Aesop without the morals. Students infer the meaning or “theme” of the fables. 2 pages, 5 problems. Suggested reading level for this text: Grade 5-9
Understanding Theme with Fables Review RTF
Understanding Theme with Fables Review PDF
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Common Core State Standards Related to Theme

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 – Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Expand to View All Common Core State Standards Related to Theme
ELA Standards: Literature

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.2 – Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.2 – Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.2 – Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.2 – Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2 – Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.2 – Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.2 – Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.2 – Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

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.RL.11-12.2 – Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.

View Source
Common Core Lesson and Unit Plans
Understanding Common Core State Standards


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Leave a comment


  1. mariecel reynes

     /  February 15, 2017

    the objective of my lesson is to explain how the elements build its theme, would you mind to please provide me materials for the evaluation of my lesson.tnx much

  2. Burnett

     /  February 9, 2017

    I loved these passages and powerpoint! I used them for my fourth grade class and they were right on target for their level. Thank you!

  3. Pam

     /  January 15, 2017

    I want to express my gratitude to you for providing these wonderful resources-free of charge! I love visiting your site.

  4. ece huner

     /  October 20, 2016

    In our lessons we are studying the difference between moral and the theme but in your pdf s it kinda says that there are the same thing. so what is the difference between them. Thank you 🙂

  5. Mourad Romdhani

     /  October 12, 2016

    A very helpful course for both student and teacher. Thank you very much for such high quality lessons.

  6. Nick Muzekari

     /  December 22, 2015

    I will be teaching an online short story class this summer for the first time. I’m new to this and so am looking for material to help myself and the students. I believe I will get paid for teaching the class so I am asking permission to use EReading materials since I really love them and want to use them in the class. May I have permission?

    • Certainly.

      • eileen

         /  March 3, 2016

        hi Mr.Morton. i am having trouble on a theme packet that my teacher assigned me for homework . i do not understand what a theme is. can you help me??????

        • Theme is the message of a story, the lesson that the author intends to impart through his or her story. So, read the story and ask yourself, is there a lesson to be learned here? Put that lesson into words, and you can say that you have found a theme in the story. Best wishes!

  7. Jennifer Reed

     /  October 28, 2015

    After reading the comments, they struck home for me. My colleagues and I are always discussing the definition of theme. For me, I think it is fair to differentiate for the student between universal and literary theme.

    I make sure to talk to students about the definition of Universal Theme, one word, and the literary theme described here. Sometimes my at-risk students have to zero in on the one word before they can get to the generalization. If not, I end up with a main idea or plot summary instead.

    I hope this helps, or adds to the discussion.

  8. Denise Ramos

     /  October 19, 2015

    I appreciate these lessons and the guidance you provide! I am a beginning teacher, and I feel frazzled at times about how to put things, but your resources are very helpful. I was wondering, how did you become so good at creating lessons? Were there any books that helped you? Or was it time and practice that helped you organize your plans and lessons so well?

    • I like to think that I have a way of getting to the point. I can’t recommend any books or resources that helped me out in any significant way. I can only point to the amazing teachers who inspired me and helped me grow. I’ve worked at some pretty messed up schools, but no matter how bad things were at times, there were always amazing people doing amazing things. I will never be the superb disciplinarian that Mrs. Smith, Mr. Dillard, or Mr. Tang were, but I’ve taken a little piece of them with me. I will never be as organized or as motivating as Mr. Phoenix was with his students, but I carry a little piece of him with me.

      Find the teachers that inspire you. Fight to observe them. Take what you can.

      That’s pretty much the best advice that I can give you about that topic.

      Thank you for visiting my site and posing such an interesting question.

      Best wishes!

  9. Danyell

     /  October 15, 2015

    I, too, love this site and appreciate the information and activities. It is so helpful… I was wondering if you could add some expository writing activities.

  10. Karen Schonewise

     /  October 2, 2015

    THANKS so much. This site is great. I almost lost it on a student today who was trying to tell me theme was one word after I have spent a month teaching these juniors in high school that it is a sentence!!! This site is awesome!!

    • Ha ha. It’s funny you say that. I’ve gone back and forth with terminally educated adults about this. I think a Common Core ELA glossary (like the one that they have for mathematics) would go a long way in resolving this debate. I also think that the word motif better fits the “a theme is one word” thing. Anyway, thanks for visiting the site and taking the time to comment. Best wishes!

  11. Romel L.

     /  September 30, 2015

    You are the best. I am at a loss of words oh how to express my gratitude to you and this website that you have created. AWESOME-RIFIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Nina Mann

     /  September 25, 2015

    thanks, very helpful

  13. jamya

     /  March 23, 2015

    it helps alot

  14. Martin

     /  February 18, 2015

    Your site is a fantastic resource! Like most other ELA teachers these days, I am teaching to students with reading levels varying between 2nd grade and 12th grade in the same room (English I – high school), including 5-10 students with SPED modifications in each class. The varying levels and reasonable (yet rigorous) lengths of these materials have made my life much easier. I am exceedingly grateful to you!

  15. DJamison

     /  January 27, 2015

    These are wonderful worksheets! My son doesn’t like rarely likes practice and studying but reading your stories and checking his own answers online is empowering. Furthermore, your definition is exactly the same as the one our ELA teacher has given in the children’s notebooks. My child is in 5th grade in NJ.
    Thanks we Loved the PPT’s too1

  16. Amy

     /  January 23, 2015

    A lesson on theme with poetry would be sweet!

  17. nada

     /  January 8, 2015

    this website is very useful.

  18. Shavawn

     /  January 5, 2015

    Thank you so much Mr. Morton!

    I concur with the other posters: The time you are spending to provide and more importantly, SHARE is much appreciated. Your site has been my go-to site for a number of years.

    With regard to the “classical” definition of THEME: I teach theme as a STATEMENT not a single word. Single words, to me, refer to TOPICS not MESSAGES. I agree, this is a bone of contention among the teachers of English community; resulting in perpetual confusion for our students.

    I also reference my “go-to” personal investment of the Reader’s Handbook, a Houghton-Mifflin imprint. Their definition of THEME is consistent with yours. In closing, Happy New Year! Thank you, again!!!!

  19. Terry

     /  November 30, 2014

    My most heartfelt thanks!! My students are struggling with theme, so I backed up and did some more inferring. Think we are ready to move forward. I just found this, and am so excited!!! Great stuff! How generous you are for sharing. Thank you, thank you! Have you ever considered putting your stuff on TpT? You could make some money, and your stuff is as good, if not better than tons of materials on there–minus the overly done cutesy graphics! lol

    • Thank you for the comments and advice.
      I have considered using TPT, but I am happy just developing this site.

      Best wishes and thanks again!

  20. Ali

     /  October 5, 2014

    Great resources,
    Thanks so much for sharing and being thorough and not charging us, lol.
    Everything seems to be about a dollar these days.
    Your approach is refreshing, you are detailed, and it’s very interesting.


    Ali B.

  21. April

     /  October 2, 2014

    Well done. Glad I came upon your site.

  22. Mrs. K

     /  September 5, 2014

    Do you have answers to your worksheets? it would be nice to have for my subs or TA.
    I might be missing them somewhere –

    • Yes, they are available under most assignments. Click the link that says “View Answers” or “Answers.” Best wishes!

  23. Shepard

     /  August 16, 2014

    Your worksheets and power point are awesome. Can’t wait to use it this week for 4th grade.

  24. Shepard

     /  August 16, 2014

    Even though the definition on the power point has a discrepancy I did notice the test our students take with our Benchmark test assessments also has the answers listed as a moral or lesson learned verses a one word answer.

    • Yeah, I’ve learned that there’s no consensus on this. The two definitions prevail, which is fine. It’d be nice if there were a Common Core glossary that could resolve issues like this.

  25. Kenana

     /  August 16, 2014

    Hello there. I am a college student in Dubai. I don’t use these lessons for my own benefit. I actually teach my little brother at home whenever he has free time after school. This website is the best so far. I have myself learnt a hundred things that made my English much stronger! I really appreciate your work. You’re Amazing!! Thank you very much.

  26. imeon

     /  July 17, 2014

    This is A great website.. it’ helpful for my 6th grade class

  27. KimJ

     /  April 9, 2014

    Thanks for the help. I’m glad you invented the wheel for us and we can just use what we need. Any TONE work coming in the future?

  28. Sarah

     /  March 24, 2014

    Thank you so much for sharing! I’m excited to try it with my students tomorrow! We are reading To Kill A Mockingbird, and these worksheets will be great practice for them to understand theme.

  29. nancy

     /  March 1, 2014

    Thank you so much for letting us access your materials. I teach in Nebraska and so far we have not adopted common core, but our new reading program is based on common core. It is great to find such quality materials that help support and scaffold those skills for our students.

  30. Mrs. Jester

     /  January 28, 2014

    Thank you so much for this lesson on theme. I teach 5th grade in Florida and we are using a curriculum that has the students breaking the story down to find theme, but my kids just weren’t getting it. The whole picture approach was so much better for them and the opportunities to practice and justify their answers was wonderful. Thank you for sharing so that those of us who need the help can “beg, borrow and steal!” I very much appreciated you sharing with us.

  31. Sherri

     /  January 20, 2014

    I am so thankful that I found this site! I was trying to find a solid tool to teach my students the concept and I’ve really managed to do so, thanks to you! Your time and efforts are appreciated.

  32. Stacey

     /  January 14, 2014

    Your theme powerpoint and worksheets are amazing!!! Can you please tell me what theme you are trying to convey in your Starburst story?

  33. Patricia

     /  January 8, 2014

    Just found your materials. Wonderful “stuff.” I will use them for warm-up activities as we begin our intensive study for our state standardized test. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  34. Jennifer

     /  October 14, 2013

    Thank you so much for these great resources! Your practice sheets provide some of the best practice I have found on the web.

  35. Rosemarie

     /  October 14, 2013

    To J Gleason: Theme is written in sentence form. It should not name the story or characters in the story you are writing about since it is not specific to that story. It can apply to many stories. You are confusing theme with motif, which is usually one word and may be the topic upon which the theme is based.

  36. Diana

     /  October 12, 2013

    I teach 3rd grade and I LOVE the way you explained theme in the ppt.
    Thank you!

  37. Ms. Mendoza

     /  September 20, 2013

    Thank you for offering this! The site is excellent!

  38. Kris Langthorp

     /  September 18, 2013

    Thank you for your work on theme, as well as the subjects posted. In regards to theme, I am too am using the definition of theme as a life lesson or moral of the story. I am from Texas and must teach the difference between inferred theme from the topic. I was looking for a short list of themes but was unable to find one. Most list are “topics” and not a sentence. Guess I’ll be compiling that list myself.

  39. M. Valenzuela

     /  September 15, 2013

    Thank you so much for sharing these clear, and very useful well-designed lessons….I am new to working with upper elementary children and you just saved me with much needed ideas I needed being this is just my second week!!

  40. Dana

     /  September 15, 2013

    Thanks for the great resources. I’ve been teaching ESL, ELA, and Reading for upwards of ten years. It’s a tough way to make a living nowadays. I commend you for creating this website. Us teacher-types must stick together!!!

    • Yes, it seems to get tougher every year, but maybe that’s just my experience. Anyway, I’m happy to help and I wish you the best.

  41. Amy

     /  September 14, 2013

    I found this site while looking for standardized test practice and lessons for my middle school students. They have really responded to the many opportunities to practice each skill. My superiors are satisfied that I’m giving the students what they need to excel. Thank you so, so much.

  42. Miranda

     /  September 10, 2013

    Love it! I haven’t been able to find much for theme and this is so perfect!

  43. Christine Carvey

     /  August 31, 2013

    Thank you for this resource. It is outstanding and I sincerely appreciate that it is free.

  44. Chanelle Lincoln

     /  April 24, 2013

    I have been a teacher for eight years now, and your site is by far the best resource I have encountered for accurate, quality materials. The creation of all of these tools must have been time-consuming, as I can barely find the time to create what I consider to be quality lessons, grade, complete report cards, and maintain my enthusiasm on a daily basis. I greatly appreciate you not only creating these materials, but also sharing them with the cyber-world. Thank you, ten times over!!!

    • Thank you for saying so. I have so much more content to add and work to do on this site, but I think that you will like what I have in store. Best wishes!

  45. Jenny M

     /  March 26, 2013

    Great job! I’m so thankful I stumbled upon this!

  46. J Gleason

     /  March 21, 2013

    The definition of theme given in this ppt lesson is incorrect. The theme is not the lesson or moral. It is a one-word concept, such as frienship or equality. Themes are universal, while a lesson or moral is specific to a particular story’s plot.

    • Thank you for your input. This is often a point of contention. As you can see from the Wikipedia page about literary theme, there are two conflicting definitions for theme, one of which you list. I respect your views and encourage you to use my materials anyway they assist you.

      In my personal case, however, I go by the definition of theme as listed in the ISAT glossary. The ISAT is the test that Illinois students are required to take, and as a teacher in Illinois, I design many of my materials to prepare my students for this test. According to the ISAT glossary,

      Theme – Life lesson, meaning, moral, or message about life or human nature that is communicated by a literary work.

      Author’s message – The main idea, theme, or lesson the author wants to communicate to the reader.

      So, since I function under the terminology put in place under our state framework, perhaps my resources aren’t “incorrect,” but rather different from the framework under which you function.

      Thanks for visiting.

      • awoodahl

         /  March 4, 2014

        I agree with the definition from this powerpoint. I specifically teach that a theme CAN NOT be a single word. Students need to be using their higher order thinking skills to develop a message for mankind, humanity, good or bad, based on the events of the story. They can’t express this with a single word, nor can they really support that with textual evidence.

      • NHill

         /  September 16, 2014

        I also agree with your take on theme as you have it outlined in the PPT. Your information and lessons have been extremely helpful to me and my students. Thanks for all your hard work and for sharing with others.

    • Erin

       /  May 23, 2013

      A theme is Not a one word concept. Those are big ideas or universal topics. Themes are the lessons that the author wants us to take away regarding the big idea. Money, love, death, etc. are Not themes.

  47. Work on theme a bit more. Worksheets are excellent for structure as well as ppt. I feel very confident using your material. It is solid. Thanks a lot.


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