**This project can be used with any novel and will take place over the duration of the novel. It comes with pictures of sample books created by students, reproducible worksheets to help your students plan and organize, and a rubric for easy grading.
Theme is one of the most essential elements of literature, yet few people can articulate what theme actually is. When students reach a point where they truly understand the function of theme and why it’s important, they will find themselves reading in a different way. The short stories and novels they read, and even the films they watch, will become bigger than the plot; they reflect a world that exists outside of the bubble in which they live. Even students who don’t like to read (gasp!) will grow through this assignment, shaping their ideas and expectations of their world. This activity will not only help students explore various themes, it will also give them insight into the true value of relating to the literature they read. Connections will be made with societal issues, world events, other pieces of literature, and multiple forms of media. Truly, this project is as diverse as they get! As your students work, they will have a chance to flex their creative muscles while working with the peers and creating a unique, exciting product that reveals all they’ve learned.
At first glance this performance assessment will seem time consuming and big. Don’t let your first impression deter you, though. It’s a project that will have a tremendous impact on your students and give them a strong sense of why literature is so essential. Just as important, it helps you keep your students focused on their novels being a window to the world that exists outside of their limited exposure, the life-experiences of people they’ve never met, and the basics of human nature.
Your groups will need time every four chapters (approximately twenty minutes) to review the previous chapters, plan the layout and contents of the book, and store all of the artifacts they collect throughout the novel. Their final meeting (at the end of the novel) will need to be longer as they plan the assembly of their theme book. Typically, one of the members will do the final assembly from home, or they will meet as a group out of class to finish it. Give them license to be as creative as possible utilizing different papers, textures, articles, photos, artwork, embellishments, and attached disks for audio or visual components.