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Theme Step #1: Theme Selection

Students select the content to be studied in class by means of negotiation and team work.

During the theme selection stage, two processes occur. First the students generate possible themes, and then they select one of the themes from their list to study.

While the theme process is effective when the themes are generated and chosen by the students, because of the nature of some classrooms, (i.e.: job training , family literacy) themes can be generated around those particular contexts. However the theme is selected, it should be interesting to the students and the content should have value outside of the classroom.

The following activities can be used during the theme selection stage. After any activity, help the student identify ways to transfer skills they used to their work, family and community lives.

Here are some tools to help students generate themes:

1. Listen to your students. Through general classroom discussion, both formal and informal, topics of interest or concern to students often emerge and can be developed into themes. Tell the students that you are hearing the topic discussed frequently. Ask students if they feel the topic would be worth exploring further.

2. Using questions. To help students generate themes, ask questions: "What are some issues that you can't get off your mind these days?" "What really bugs you?" "What do you really want to learn more about?" "What will life be like in ten years?" "What is the most challenging thing about work?"List their answers.

3. Using Pictures. Visual images can stimulate students' imaginations. This works especially well for visual learners.

  • Present several photos to the students.
  • Ask them, either individually or in small groups, to select a photo that strikes a strong chord in them.
  • Discuss in a large group the issues the photos represent.
  • Record the responses.

4. Current events.

  • Present some current event articles with large headlines to the students.
  • Ask students to read the headlines and discuss the issues they represent.
  • Record the responses.


Theme Selection Activity #1: The Rating Game
Students in small groups rate a variety of theme ideas on a scale of 1-5. They then come together as a whole class and decide the theme which is of the most interest.

  • Give each student 5 colored dots
  • Students use their dots to show which themes they are most interested in. They could use all 5 on one theme or divide them up among a few themes.
  • The theme with the most dots is the one that wins.

Theme Selection Activity #2: Put It To a Vote

  • Write down the themes that have come up in class on the board.
  • Tell the class that they need to decide on which one to study.
  • The class votes on which one is the most interesting.

Theme Selection Activity #3: Rating Against Criteria
Themes can easily peter out if the subject is not broad enough, or can be too general and seem overwhelming. Another deterrent is when the students aren't highly charged by the topic. Rating possible themes against some criteria will help students learn evaluation skills while selecting a topic that will serve them well.

  • Generate some criteria for a good theme. ( Use the suggestions above)
  • Create a grid with the criteria and possible themes
  • Students create a rating scale and rate each theme accordingly.

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