One of the beautiful things about stories are the underlying lessons, morals, or critiques they contain. Teaching students to identify these hidden messages brings greater depth to their literary experiences.
Storyboarding is a great way to teach the concept of themes, symbols, or motifs. It allow the visuals or symbols to tell the stories, making the ideas easy for students to understand and expound upon. With storyboards, students can reflect abstract ideas in a concrete manner, a useful tool for middle school or high school students.
In literature, themes, motifs, and symbols serve a number of purposes. Some convey meanings other than those explicitly in the text. Others help the reader understand motivations of a character or an author’s intended message. Sometimes themes, symbols, or motifs simply paint a picture in the reader’s mind through repetition of imagery.
|THEME||The theme is the subject of a talk, a piece of writing, a person's thoughts, or an exhibition; a topic or take-away message.|
|MOTIF||A motif is a distinctive feature or repeating idea in an artistic or literary composition.|
|SYMBOL||A symbol is an object representing, or used for, something else; frequently an emblem, token, or sign, which represents something deeper and more important. It might be a material object representing something immaterial.|
Check out related activities from our guides on Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Tragedy of Macbeth.
Students are given a particular theme, symbol, or motif to track throughout the reading of a novel.
Students will be able to depict a key theme, symbol, or motif from a work of literature and convey their understanding of its meaning through storyboarding.
Students should be able to understand that objects have deeper meanings, feelings, or emotions associated with them. For example, students should be able to explain the significance of the American flag and list three feelings or emotions that accompany its literal meaning.
Some students will have trouble thinking abstractly. Many students do not realize that some themes, symbols, or motifs have general or universal meanings.
Although this lesson can be used for multiple grade levels, the examples below are the Common Core State Standards for grades 9-10. Please see your Common Core State Standards for grade-appropriate strands.
Ask students to complete the worksheet by filling in ideas, emotions, and feelings associated with the images in the storyboard. This will convey that each image has an abstract meaning.
When beginning the novel, the teacher should give each student their own theme, symbol, or motif to track. Students should complete a template storyboard by collecting a direct quote, page number, and explanation of the concept.
Once students have tracked their concept through the novel, they will create their own storyboard. It should visually depict the scene, include a direct quote, and explain its meaning for each chapter. There are completed examples below.
A theme is a subject or message that an author explores in a piece of literature. It can be a universal idea, such as love or death, or a more specific concept, such as the corrupting influence of power.
A motif is a recurring symbol, image, or idea that appears throughout a literary work. It may serve as a symbolic representation of a larger theme or idea.
A symbol is an object, action, or idea that represents something else, often a larger, more abstract concept. For example, a dove may symbolize peace, or a red rose may symbolize love.
While both symbols and motifs are recurring elements in a literary work, a symbol is typically a concrete object that represents something abstract, while a motif is an idea or theme that is repeated throughout the work.