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Activity Overview

A theme is a central idea, subject, or message in a story. Many stories have more than one important theme. For this activity, students will identify and illustrate one of the themes in Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky. To differentiate or add a challenge, teachers might ask students to identify more themes, or illustrate several examples of the single theme.

Examples of Tristan Strong Themes


Tristan feels a tremendous amount of guilt when his best friend Eddie dies in the bus accident and he does not. Tristan also feels guilty when he loses a boxing match, and feels that he has let his family down.


The grief that Tristan feels after losing his best friend consumes him. The power of his storytelling helps him to remember Eddie, heal, and find his way home.


Strength is an important theme in this novel. Tristan’s father and grandfather are both strong physically, and are legendary boxers. Tristan doesn’t feel strong at all, and feels that he disappointed his family when he lost his last boxing match. A huge area of strength for Tristan, however, is his ability to tell stories. Tristan has a strong connection to words, and his abilities make him powerful in a different way.

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 one recurring theme in Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.

Student Instructions:

  1. Identify the theme from Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky you wish to include and write it in the heading.
  2. Create an image for an example that represents this theme using appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
  3. Write a short description.

Lesson Plan Reference

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(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 Facilitate a Discussion on Multiple Themes at One Time


Identify the Themes

Teachers can first briefly explain the idea of themes and central ideas to students. If students are already familiar with the concept, teachers can help them recall the idea and then start with the actual discussion. Ask the students to identify and list the main themes of a story or a novel so the discussion becomes easier.


Use Visual Aids

Students can place themes side by side by using visual aids to make the discussions simpler and more engaging. For instance, with the use of symbols and pictures, students will be able to understand the themes in a better way, and with the use of graphic organizers, students will be able to arrange the information in a better way.


Connect With Each Other

Usually, there are multiple themes present in a story and most of them are somehow connected with each other directly or indirectly. Once the students have organized their information, they can try making this connection among the themes. For instance, the themes of “grief” and “loss” can be interconnected which adds an important layer of analysis.


Utilize Insightful Questions

Formulate open-ended, stimulating inquiries that delve into every subject. It is recommended that students investigate the connections among the ideas and their relevance to the wider context of the discussion. This approach will promote curiosity and encourage interesting discussions.


Encourage Interpretations

Explore several viewpoints regarding every subject. Understanding the themes and how they are related can be enhanced by considering them from various social, cultural, and personal angles. Guide the students on how they can share their thoughts, opinions, and perspectives regarding the topic while being respectful towards other’s opinions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Themes in “Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky”

What are the key themes addressed in the story?

Identity, bravery, strength, narrative power, cultural legacy, loss and grief, and the interconnectivity of various worlds are just a few of the themes that are explored in the book. Most of the themes are focused on Tristan trying to overcome various challenges and obstacles in his life and finding the purpose of his identity and strength.

How is the story's theme of identity shaped by Tristan's journey?

Gaining an awareness of his own skills and flaws is a necessary part of Tristan's evolutionary path. In order to further develop his character, the issue of identity is examined as he overcomes obstacles and discovers more about his background. Strength and courage are important elements of identity that have been explored throughout the narrative.

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