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The Teacher Tip

Strategies for Interpreting Texts

February 13, 2018

Adapted from A Novel Approach by Kate Roberts. 

1. As you read a text, notice the problems, struggles, and conflicts you see the characters facing. Chances are these are the seeds of theme. 

2. Start to think about what this text might be saying about these themes—broad ideas, perhaps, like “power is bad” or “love is challenging.”

3. As scenes crop up with these themes, closely read them a few times, unpacking exactly what these scenes are showing us about the theme ideas you are exploring. 

4. To help analyze a theme scene, consider the theme from different angles (within the context of this scene). Think about: 

  • What exact emotions the characters feel 
  • What effects the theme is having 
  • What might be causing the theme 
  • What lessons might be revealed in this scene about the theme.

5. Track the characters who are struggling with the theme. Which ones are succeeding? Which ones are failing? This could be a hint at an idea the author is pointing out.

6. As the book ends, be on the lookout for what lessons the characters seem to be learning about the theme. 

7. Once the book is done, take your different thoughts about the theme scenes out and begin to gather them together. What categories do you see emerging? What ideas seem to be really important and repeated? What scenes stick out and contradict other scenes?

8. Come up with a few different possible interpretations for the entire story’s ideas of the theme. Choose which one feels the most universal and covers most of the book.

To learn more about A Novel Approach, visit 

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