Questions for teaching theme to upper elementary students so you don't keep asking "What is the theme of the story?"

Higher Order Thinking Questions for Teaching Theme

Higher Order Thinking Questions (Revised Bloom's Taxonomy questions) for teaching theme to 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade students

When teaching theme, we tend to focus on questions that center around how to find the theme of a story - questions like, "What is the theme?"  But your upper elementary students will understand theme better and more comprehensively when you use a variety of questions for teaching theme.

Use the 36 questions below to help you as you teach theme to your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students.  The questions are organized based on the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy - there are 6 questions for each category.  You can download a free pdf printable of these questions at the bottom of the page.

You can find more activities and resources for teaching students to determine the theme of a story here.

Questions for Teaching Theme


  • Make a list of common themes. (Need a list? Find one here.)
  • What is the definition of theme?
  • How do you determine the theme of a story?
  • What are some themes related to friendship?  Family? Acceptance? Perseverance?
  • What type of texts usually have a clear theme?
  • Which of the following statements best demonstrates the theme of this story? .....


  • What details in this story support the theme?
  • What details in this story do not support the theme?
  • What book or movie has a theme similar to this story?  How do you know?
  • What books or movies have the theme _______?  How do you know?
  • What is the difference between theme and main idea?
  • What is the theme of the story?

If your students are struggling with this skill, then you might find these tips for teaching theme so students actually understand helpful. 

Sometimes students struggle with theme because they need a stronger understanding of main idea / central idea.  Find tips for teaching central idea here.  


  • How have you experienced the theme of this story in your own life?
  • What do you think the author wants you to learn from this story?
  • How do you think the character _______ would behave in a story whose theme is _______?
  • How might your understanding of the theme of this story make your own life better?
  • Organize this list of books or movies based on their theme.
  • Predict the theme of this story based on the characters' actions so far.


  • How did the actions or thoughts of the characters help you determine the theme?
  • Why do you think the author chose to include the theme _______ in this story?
  • How do you think the author would feel about a story that had the theme _______ ?
  • What details or characters from the story helped you determine the theme?
  • If the characters did _______ instead of _______ , would the theme of the story have changed?  Why or why not?
  • Was the theme of the story directly stated or was it implied?  How do you know?


  • Do you agree with the theme of this story?  Why or why not?
  • Which theme - _______ or _______ is the most important?  Why?
  • What else could the author have included in the story to make the theme more clear?
  • What details could the author have excluded from the story so that theme was more clear?
  • Which story - _______ or _______ - displays the theme _______ best?  Why?
  • What details or character from the story was most integral to the theme of the story?  Why?


  • Rewrite the story so that it has the theme _______.
  • Write a story with the theme _______.
  • Illustrate a book cover that clearly shows the theme of the story.
  • What second theme could be added to this story, and how would you change the story to support the additional theme?
  • Write two short stories, each with the same theme.
  • Outline or act out two stories with the same character but opposing themes.

Download these questions as a printable pdf.

Higher Order Thinking Questions Teaching Theme PDF


Teaching theme soon?  This no prep cut and paste activity will make a great addition to your lessons.

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