When You Reach Me Mini-Lesson: Comic Creator Activity

First off, thanks so much everyone for your awesome enthusiasm and participation during class last Thursday! You were great, and I appreciated the positive efforts that everyone put forth. I’m posting this handout regarding the lesson. I’m not posting the PPT here (I don’t think our instructions said to, but if I’m wrong please correct me!) but that was posted to the discussion site on Blackboard. I was also unable to get the table for the comic creator to post, but again, that has also been posted on the Blackboard discussion section.

Again, many thanks for your support, and I look forward to seeing you all on Thursday!


Grade Level:Grade 7

A.  Common Core Standards:


Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an object summary of the text.


Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.


Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.

B.  Essential Questions:

  1. What is the difference between a plot and a theme? How does theme create a connection between the events/characters in any given story? More specifically, how does the author of When You Reach Me present theme in the course of the novel? How do specific scenes in a book demonstrate/support the idea of theme in a novel?

C.  Before Today’s Lesson:

1.  Students were approximately 3/4 of the way through the novel, When You Reach Me, and should have finished the book for today’s lesson.

2. Previous class discussions addressed issues of genre categorization, character change and development, setting analysis, and generally introduced the idea of theme in a novel.

3. Students were asked to identify and write 1-2 pages about the meaning/significance of a theme that they’d identified.

D.  Placement of the Activity Within the Unit:

Students will have finished the novel for this activity. Discussion on themes/support for proposed themes will have occurred throughout our discussion of the book.

 E.  Next Steps:

  1. After students have presented their thematic comics to the class, we will have a group discussion on these themes and loose debate regarding their respective viability. Students will be asked to support their arguments in class with particular sections from the novel (page numbers not necessary).
  1. For homework, students will be asked to write an argumentative essay at home supporting the theme they selected to present in their comic. They will utilize the novel to support the argument of why what they selected is a theme.

 F. Activity:

Designed for a 45 minute class.

  1. AIM:Identifying themes in a novel
  2. Students will enter into a brief review over topics covered in the previous class session. Specifically, we will review: (10 minutes)

a. How does this story end?

b. What is a plot?

c. What is the plot of the  book?

d. What is a theme?

e. How are plot and theme different?

f. Volunteers: Who’s willing to share with the class the theme they identified for their homework?

(List on board)

3. Show PPT list of themes; briefly discuss overlap/missing themes from blackboard list.

       4. Students will be asked to split into groups of 3-4. Student groups will pick a theme and create a 6-square comic               strip depicting a scene from the book, using both pictures and dialogue, that is illustrative of this theme. Each                 group will be given a comic-creating sheet and coloring utensils to use for the project. (20 minutes)

      5. Students will then present their comics to the group and briefly explain the connection between the scene they              chose and the theme they were presenting. Limited discussion/questions will be permitted during                                        presentations. (2o minutes)

6. Student work will be posted both on the class’s blog site as well as around the classroom

G.  Assessment:

The comic strips will be assessed as developmental, low-stakes class work. Comics should include:

1.  A clearly identified theme.

2. A scene from the novel related to that theme.

3.  Both dialogue and pictures/sketches of this scene.

4. An explanation of the scene’s relationship to the theme, whether written or presented orally during class presentation time.

H.  Required Materials:

  1. Novel
  2. Powerpoint presentation
  3. Chalk, chalkboards
  4. Comic Creator Worksheets
  5. Coloring/drawing materials


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