No Series: Theme, Symbolism & Allusion


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RL:  Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • 7:  7th Grade
  • 2: 
    Determine a theme or central idea of a text and
    analyze its development over the course of the
    text; provide an objective summary of the text.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • L:  Language Standards 6-\x80\x9312
  • 7:  7th Grade
  • 5a: 
    Demonstrate understanding of figurative
    language, word relationships, and nuances in word

    a. Interpret figures of speech (e.g., literary,
    biblical, and mythological allusions) in context.

    b. Use the relationship between particular words
    (e.g., synonym/antonym, analogy) to better
    understand each of the words.

    c. Distinguish among the connotations
    (associations) of words with similar
    denotations (definitions) (e.g., refined,
    respectful, polite, diplomatic, condescending).

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Theme, Symbolism & Allusion

Lesson Objective: Prepare for writing by examining literary concepts
Grades 6-8 / ELA / Analysis
ELA.RL.7.2 | ELA.L.7.5a


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. Ms. Novak says that you always want to make sure that anything you hand out can be accessed by every student in the room. How does she do this?
  2. How does this lesson prepare students for the writing assignment?
  3. What can you learn from Ms. Novak about using the Common Core Standards with students?


  • Private message to Amy Bucelewicz
This was fantastic. I really enjoyed the assessment menu you gave them. Is there a way to get a copy of that? I can see it when I pause the video at 4:03, but it cuts off your rubric and I would love to see the rubric for this assignment. Thank you.
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  • Private message to Sharon Tolle
This video was so empowering! I have struggled with the "allusion" standard as it applies to the Bible, but your lesson made it so simple and doable. I love that you brought in a your daughter's Bible. I am unaware of any of my colleagues taking a direct approach to this standard. Your video makes it seem straight forward. The second empowering component of this video is the way you have made yourself accountable to the students and the standards . Thank you for such a fresh perspective.
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  • Private message to Mary Sotnick
There are several things that I really appreciated from this video, especially the idea of giving students options and a feeling of autonomy with their own learning by allowing them to decide their own assignment. I really liked that Mrs. Novak used the Twilight cover for allusion, which is something I did with my class after watching this video. I really want to do more kinesthetic learning with my students, but a couple of my periods have great difficulty with classroom management. I am in my first semester of teaching, so I feel that I do not yet have the experience to execute activities with a lot of movement and still keep the focus on learning, but I really want to try.
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  • Private message to joyce tran le
I like it! thanks for sharing
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  • Private message to Jillian Winhold
I just want to say that I really enjoyed this! As a new teacher, I am still trying to figure out how to be the "best" teacher, but I haven't even gotten my feet wet! I was wondering how you begin incorporating the standards. Do you give them a copy of all of them at once and then review them at the beginning of the year, or do you start the unit by reviewing and dissecting the ones you will be implementing? - or of course anything in between! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.
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  • Theme, Symbolism & Allusion with Katie Novak

    Katie Novak VO/OC Today we're really going to focus on theme which I know

    Theme, Symbolism & Allusion with Katie Novak

    Katie Novak VO/OC Today we're really going to focus on theme which I know that we focus on every time we read anything. But only we've been talking a lot about the theme of perseverance.

    Katie Novak OC I am Katie Novak.

    Katie Novak 7th Grade Parker Middle School, Chelmsford, MA

    I am a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher here at Parker Middle School in Chelmsford, Mass.

    Katie Novak OC/VO You're going to interpret figures of speech like literary, biblical and mythological allusions in context. And I told you we were going to talk about that in "Old Man And The Sea." We actually are going to start talking about it today.

    Katie Novak VO/OC What I like to do at the beginning of every period is I have on my board the Common Core Standards that I'm going to be addressing that day. The students understand the language because at the beginning of the year, I actually give every student a copy of the Common Core Standards. And I tell them, "Hold me to this. Some of these I'm going to be great at. Some of them I'm going to have to struggle to make really, you know, engaging lessons for you. But I want to be held accountable to these standards."

    Katie Novak VO/OC Okay, we're going to talk about theme in different forms and then lastly we're going to start on that allusion which is kind of hard. Because, again, if you don't have the background, then you're not going to even notice the allusion. You're just going to kind of read by it and be like, "That's weird. Why is he putting nails in his hands?" To kind of start off thinking about perseverance because I want to connect it to you. Remember when we had Chris Boshar come in? Who remembers something about Chris? Let's kind of activate our brains here. What do we remember about Chris? Mosaab.

    Mosaab VO/OC Well he works like hard to like trying to walk.

    Katie Novak VO/OC Okay. Again, his ultimate goal, his metaphorical fish is to walk again.

    Katie Novak VO/OC To start off, I want to make perseverance a little bit more concrete for them. And so a few weeks ago we had a former student at Parker Middle School who was paralyzed in a boating accident. He came to speak to the students about perseverance. And they like really got it for the first time because this is someone who used to be just like them who now has to move around by blowing and sipping into a straw. So I wanted to like activate the prior knowledge and really remind them of that.

    Katie Novak VO/OC Now there's a number of biblical allusions, so I stole this from my three year old. It's called "My First Read and Learn Bible." For those of you who have never read the Bible, and again, I told you yesterday, I am not teaching religion here.

    Katie Novak VO/OC It's important that I let them know I am not teaching this as religion. You can take as a fiction story. You can take it as you know your true belief in you have faith. But I still need to teach you this story because one cannot determine the biblical allusions without knowing the Bible.

    Katie Novak OC/VO So that is like the most simplistic version of the Bible you'll ever get. And those are the main allusions that you're going to see. It's going to be Adam and Eve and that apple.

    Common Core: Interpret Allusions

    It's going to be Noah's Ark. It's going to be parting the seas.

    Katie Novak VO/OC Every single lesson that we do, I start with a Common Core Standard. I make sure that they all get equal attention. I make sure that the students know them all. And then I design the lesson, you know, so the outcome would be that a student has shown me either proficiency or that they need work or they're beyond proficiency for that standard.

    Katie Novak VO/OC An allusion. What's an allusion? You need to know that first. An expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly. It's an indirect or passing reference. This is the cover of "Twilight." What is this, a reference or an indirect you know innuendo to? There's the girl. She's in love with a vampire. At no point is there an apple in the story. Why is she holding an apple? Talk about it at your tables. One second. I want everyone to have the answer. And she is not hungry. No, that's very literal. We have to think.

    Male Student With Brown Hair OC She's doing something she shouldn't be.

    Katie Novak OC Oh. Okay, make sure everyone at your table knows that.

    Female Student In Purple Top OC And dangerous.

    Katie Novak VO Why is he dangerous?

    Female Student In Purple Top OC Because he can kill her.

    Katie Novak VO And do what?

    Female Student #1 VO He feeds on humans.

    Katie Novak OC/VO He feeds on humans. I mean that's not like a cool attribute in like a date.

    Katie Novak VO/OC Whenever I give students a writing assignment, what I always want to do is make sure that every single student in my class can access the material even though it's really challenging. So first of all, they can choose a poem or a skit or they can choose their own assignment because you have the kids who are super creative and always want to do something their own. For the students who are really tentative, they don't want to take like the intellectual risk of kind of creating their own thing, I've written an exemplar for one of them and it's used as a model or a template or a scaffold. There's also going to be a rubric on it. And then I always put tips to follow if you get anxious or you don't know where to go. But you always want to make sure that anything you hand out to students, it can be accessed by every kid in the room.

    Katie Novak OC/VO Who wants to demo this up? Who wants to come and lay on this lovely bed here? Jack. Okay. Get up there, buddy. Okay. Now, can someone read me the quote on 122.

    Katie Novak VO/OC You got to put on a show sometimes. These are kids who watch movies, who like video games, who watch YouTube videos of people throwing themselves off of roofs all the time. They need excitement. And so you know we get up and we do things.

    Female Student # 1 VO slept face down on the newspapers with his arms out, stretching the palms of his hands up.

    Katie Novak OC Palms of the hands up. He's physically looking crucified on the cross. Excellent job, Jack. Round of applause for our buddy here. Goodness gracious.

    Katie Novak VO/OC Well the writing process always starts with brainstorming and that's basically what we're going to do today. They're going to come up with an idea.

    Katie Novak OC So you're going to do Gandalf as Hercules?

    Male Student Wearing Hoodie OC Yes.

    Katie Novak OC You can do three people. It better be extra good.

    Female Student In Green Sweater OC Oh, Santiago.

    Katie Novak VO Santiago. You can kind of talk about how, do like a metaphorical fishing trip.

    Female Student In Green Sweater OC Okay.

    Katie Novak OC/VO Okay, we're going to basically end class today with a little reflection on how I've done with the Standards. So if you could just peek up here.

    Katie Novak VO/OC I grade them all the time. And I want them to feel like they can grade me because I think it's really hypocritical to tell a student they're doing something wrong and then being closed to hear that you're doing something wrong. And so I want it to be a classroom of mutual respect and to let them know I am working my tail off for you. I want you to work your tail off for me. And sometimes I'm going to fall a little short and hold me to it.

    Katie Novak OC/VO This is all about me and I am not offended at all. So, tell me the truth. And if you could just hand this to me on your way out, that would be awesome.

    Katie Novak VO/OC I think it's really hard to separate teacher success and student success because a teacher success by definition can only happen if your students are successful. Your kids, they see you at your very best, at your very worst, every minute of every day. And they're the ones who create your reputation as a teacher.

    Katie Novak OC Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.

    Tch Teaching Channel

    Special Thanks To Katie Novak And The Staff And Students At Parker Middle School In Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

    Executive Producer/Director: Nancy Saslow
    Editor: Steve Eagleton
    Director Of Photography: Eli Gamson, Jeb Bergh
    Sound: Carlos Pulidos
    Production Assistant Ryan Maslyn
    A MEg TV Production For Teaching Channel
    ©Teaching Channel 2013

School Details

Col Moses Parker School
75 Graniteville Road
Chelmsford MA 01824
Population: 717

Data Provided By:



Katie Novak
Pre-K Kindergarten 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 / Administrator


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