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Teaching Theme with Aesop’s Fables

Teaching Theme with Aesop’s FablesPhoto from Unsplash

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Teaching Aesop’s Fables is the perfect way to introduce your students to theme. That’s because these stories are high interest while also being accessible. The characters in the stories face situations in which they learn a simple lesson, usually about right vs. wrong.

Students need to comprehend a story and make inferences about it in order to determine the theme. That’s why Aesop’s Fables are perfect.

Although Aesop’s Fables are so short, they have some depth. They can be read and enjoyed by all students, including struggling readers. This way, you can really focus on teaching specific skills.

Aesop’s Fables are classics, but their messages are still relevant today. Kids find them very engaging and enjoy the lessons and activities.

Short passages help teach theme

The main reason that I love to use Aesop’s Fables to teach theme is that they are very short stories. The short length makes it easy to do close reading. You can practice the skill over and over again as you read the stories.

Reading a short fable can be used as an introduction, a mini-lessons, or a spiral review.

Aesop’s Fables connections to literature

Another benefit of reading Aesop’s Fables is that they can easily be related to other stories and novels.

One teacher said,

“We ended up spending 15 minutes each day having in-depth class discussion about the themes and the characters’ choices/actions in the story. It was nice because some of the themes aligned to the story we were reading together in class, “What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything?” and we compared/contrasted them.”

Making connections to other texts is an important part of literary analysis. Aesop’s fables make it easy. You will probably find it easy to relate the concepts to student’s personal experiences as well, making for lively class discussions.

How can I teach students to identify the theme?

One tip for helping students pick out the theme of a story is to identify the turning point. This is also known as the climax of the story. Ask your students, how does the main character change? What lesson should the main character learn from the events of the story?

I always make it a point to emphasize the fact that the theme should be expressed in a complete sentence. In that way, it is different from the topic or main idea.

Other Reading Comprehension Skills

In addition to teaching theme, you can teach many other reading comprehension skills through Aesop’s Fables. Many students struggle to identify unknown vocabulary words. Aesop’s Fables are a perfect way to practice using context clues.

These stories are also very short, and can be a great tool to practice summarization.

Finally, they are a fantastic way to introduce text evidence. Ask your students to find specific quotations in the text that support their answers. When quoting from the text, I always use teach students to use the RACE writing strategy.

Find more strategies for teaching reading comprehension here.

Looking for Aesop’s Fables resources?

If you’re ready to teach Aesop’s Fables, check out this ready-to-use resource. It includes 8 fables multiple choice and short answer questions. It comes with printable and digital formats.


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