Find what you need fast!  Type in your keyword and search.

Adapting Literary Texts: Themes, Images, and Performance (Part 1/3)

Context for this Lesson


TOPIC: Analyzing/Adapting Literary Texts

GRADE LEVEL: English III/Grades 11/12 (can be applied to early HS as well) 


  • What is synthesis?
  • How do we evaluate and synthesize information to identify a theme in literature?


  • Markers
  • Large paper for poster dialogue (prep in advance)



§110.33. English Language Arts and Reading, English III

(B) Knowledge and Skills: 

  • (2) Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Theme and Genre. Students analyze, make inferences and draw conclusions about theme and genre in different cultural, historical, and contemporary contexts and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.
  • (22) Research/Synthesizing Information. Students clarify research questions and evaluate and synthesize collected information 

Common Core State Standards:

Reading Standards for Literature Grades 11-12 

Key Ideas and Details:

  • (2) Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text. 

Writing Standards Grades 11-12 

Research to Build Present Knowledge:

  • (7) Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


From a standing circle, explain to students that each person will come up with a gesture to do as they say their name in a way that communicates how they are feeling today. “Think about your day, and come up with a gesture that synthesizes your whole day.” Invite students to think about concrete or abstract movements- either will work. Demonstrate both of these. Each movement/name combination needs to have a clear beginning and end. Give students a moment to think about their movements and have everyone practice simultaneously. “In a moment we are going to go around the circle and have each person share her movement with name. The job for the rest of us is to replicate the name and movement as accurately as possible and in unison. I won’t cue you when it’s time to move on, so watch carefully, listen to each other and let’s see how we do.”

After going around the circle, process the activity with the group:

  • So how did we do? Were we successful?
  • What did you have to do as a group to be successful?
  • Did the group use more concrete or abstract movements? Why do you think that happened?


In this activity, I asked you to synthesize your day into one gesture. What does that word, “synthesis” mean? Today we’re going to be synthesizing information to identify themes in the Toni Morrison books (this can be substituted for the current book in the curriculum) you’ve read. Before we jump into that, we’re going to do an activity to further explore how we gather and synthesize information.



Establish a playing space with clearly-defined borders. Ask students to walk within the space without talking or making any contact with others. "Walk as yourself, by yourself for now." Experiment with pace by asking students to speed up (safely) and slow down. Invite students to make eye contact with others as they pass by, but remain silent. Have the group freeze and explain that in a moment you will ask them to organize themselves into groups based on what they have on their feet. This first task is a silent, non-verbal one. Once everyone has found herself in a group, have them synthesize their observations of the shoes in their group and decide on a name or title for the group. Share out group titles.

Processing the first round:

  • How did we organize ourselves?
  • What types of categories did we use?
  • What information did we synthesize to title the groups?

Have students resume walking individually. "In this first round, we grouped ourselves by what we can see about our shoes. The next task is to form new groups by shoes, this time by something that you can’t immediately see." Allow students to talk in this next round to find their groups. Once everyone is in a new group, ask students to title their groups again. Share out these titles.

Processing the second round:

  • How did we organize ourselves this time?
  • What kinds of information did we gather about the shoes and synthesize to come up with a title?
  • What does this activity have to do with research?


"Now that we have actively explored how we analyze and synthesize information about our shoes, let’s apply these same skills to our Toni Morrison texts."

3. POSTER DIALOGUE: Themes in Toni Morrison Texts

Have students move back to their reading table groups. Give each group a large piece of paper that is divided into three sections with the following prompts:

  1. A major event in this book is…
  2. This book is about…
  3. A lesson a character learns in this book is…

NOTE: This poster dialogue activity can also be done with one book, and each group gets a one prompt.

Give each student a marker and invite the class to write responses to these prompts on the pieces of paper. If they agree with something someone has written already, they can put a check mark next to it. Give the class several minutes to silently respond to these prompts to generate as many answers to the prompts as possible.

Process posters #2 and #3 together:

  • Taking a look at the responses to each of these prompts, what connections can we draw between responses on #2 and responses on #3?” (Connections can be coded by putting different symbols next to the responses that go together.)
  • How do these connections shape how we think about the difference between themes and topics?

Process poster #1:

  • Why are the plot points important in identifying the theme? How does this help us?

“All of these prompts help us think about the theme in different ways. So now, synthesize that information, bring that information together and talk with your group to come up with at least one theme in your book.” Have each group turn their large paper over and write their theme on the back.




  • What theme did your group come up with?


  • What information did you find you drew the most from in articulating this theme?
  • How did you arrive at this statement or message?


  • Thinking about what we did today, what one word would you use to synthesize your experience?