Activity Overview

There are many themes present throughout the novel Ghost. Students can explore this by identifying a theme themselves or in an “envelope activity”, where they are given a theme to track throughout their reading. In this activity, students will illustrate examples of themes in the novel, using evidence from the text.

Examples of Themes in Ghost


Family is very important to Ghost. Despite his violent past with his father, Castle has a close relationship with his mother who works hard to care for him, work full time, and study to be a nurse at night and on weekends. Castle appreciates her sacrifices. He also has an aunt and cousin whom he sees on the weekends. Even though Mr. Charles is not related, he is a grandfatherly figure to Castle. For his first big race, his family joins him enthusiastically cheering him on with a big sign.


The Defenders is the first team that Castle has ever been a part of. He has longed to play basketball at his local court, but has never been included. He has a few friends at school, but has never confided in anyone about his past. Lu, Sunny, and Patty are the first friends he ever told and it makes him feel seen and accepted.


Coach Brody becomes an important mentor in Castle's life. At a time when he is longing for a fatherly figure, Coach gives him support, advice, and guidance to get on a better track. Coach is someone Castle can trust and he changes Castle's life considerably. The book demonstrates the vital importance of having a mentor.


Brandon Simmons torments Castle on a daily basis. He fears seeing him in school and when he does, he knows he has to maintain an unreasonable level of mental fortitude to resist the temptation of getting in a fight. Castle has a large “file of altercations”, but it is Brandon that ruthlessly makes fun of Castle’s background, clothes, his mother, his housing. The book shows how bullying behavior can affect a student's performance in school dramatically as it is impossible to feel safe and learn when you are constantly embarrassed or in fear of being shamed.


A major theme of the book is facing one's fears. Coach confides to Castle how he also had to overcome tremendous obstacles. Ghost has to learn to reconcile with his traumatic past, face bullies, own up to his mistakes and his fear of failure on the track. With courage, Castle is able to overcome all of these things and head towards a brighter future.

Other themes present:

  • Identity
  • Memory and the Past
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Lawbreaking and Justice
  • Domestic Violence
  • Poverty
  • Classism

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Due Date:

Objective: Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in Ghost. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.

Student Instructions:

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the themes from Ghost you wish to include and write them in the title box.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme using appropriate scenes, characters and items.
  4. Write a short description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and exit when you're done.


Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [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
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/8/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/5/1] Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning
Identify Theme(s)
All themes are correctly identified as important recurring topics or messages in the story.
Some themes are correctly identified, but others are missing or do not make sense with the story.
No themes are correctly identified.
All examples support the identified themes. Descriptions clearly say why examples are significant.
Most examples fit the identified themes. Descriptions say why examples are significant.
Most examples do not fit the identified themes. Descriptions are unclear.
Storyboard cells clearly show connection with the themes and help with understanding.
Most storyboard cells help to show the themes, but some storyboard cells are difficult to understand.
Storyboard cells do not help in understanding the themes.

How To Scaffold for Students When Teaching Theme


Introduce Theme to the Entire Class

When you are teaching theme, start by having a full class discussion about what theme is and how you find it. Using examples from movies everyone knows is a good idea. Disney movies or Superhero movies work well. This way, everyone is given the same understanding of theme.


Allow Some Students to Create Their Own List of Themes

In a typical classroom, some students will be able to understand themes immediately and it will be easy for them to find their own lessons in the text you are reading. Allow them to do so.


Supply a List of Themes to Students Who Struggle

There will also be students who struggle to come up with themes. If this is the case, supply a list of themes in the text, and help students find the examples to support them. This will make it easier rather than creating each of the ideas by themselves.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ghost Theme Analysis Activity

Will understanding the theme of a story help students in their own lives?

A theme is the lesson the reader learns about life after reading a story. So if you can learn life lessons from a book rather than making the mistakes yourself, this can definitely help you in your own life. Let the characters make the mistakes so you don't have to!

How does a theme relate to the characters in a book?

Theme is what you learn about life after reading a book. You learn the life lessons through what happens to the characters, so the characters are a model of what the lesson is trying to teach.

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