Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Themes Frame: A Historian's Tool

Brenda Palmer


Theme Frames serves as a system to link economic, social, political, and biological data through topics in history.


The student identifies and understands themes in history that cross scientific, economic, and cultural boundaries.

The student understands the early physical and cultural development of humans.


-Themes Frame template (See associated file.)
-Paleolithic Theme Frame
-Paleolithic Theme Frame answer key
-Neolithic Theme Frame
-Neolithic Theme Frame answer key
-[The Human Experience], Farah and Karls, 2001, Columbus, Ohio: Glencoe, 2001. (Any world history textbook.)
-Overhead projector
-3 transparencies
- Pen


1. Download Themes Frame Template, Paleolithic Theme Frame, Neolithic Theme Frame, and Rubric from Associated Files.
2. Prepare transparencies of the frames and handouts for each student of the Themes Frame Template, Paleolithic Theme Frame and Neolithic Theme Frame and Rubric.
3. Locate the text or other readings for Paleolithic and Neolithic peoples in [The Human Experience] or other world history text.


Introduce the lesson by presenting this hypothetical situation to the students: You have been invited to prepare a lesson for another world history class on Paleolithic and Neolithic inhabitants of earth. When you have finished the lesson, your students should clearly understand the scientific, economic, and cultural themes that connect Paleolithic and Neolithic inhabitants. At the end of this investigation, you will use a system used by historians to organize information.

1. To investigate the past, historians need some specialized tools to create a system to organize large quantities of information. Why?
List responses on chart paper to be displayed throughout this lesson and for two weeks afterward.

2. What are some tools historians might use to study evidence from the past? Sample answers might be timelines, maps, artifacts, and other historians' accounts.

3. Historians use common themes of a topic as one system to organize their investigation. There are some recurring themes, which we can use to connect data from different groups. That data helps us to make comparisons, as well as isolate specific details about groups.

4. Show the Themes Frame (see Associated File) on the overhead and distribute individual copies to be kept in the Tools Portfolio. (The Tools Portfolio is part of the student maintained notebook where commonly used forms and instructions are kept.)Go over each section of the Themes Frame and ask feedback for what might be included in that particular section. An example in each category is on the template. Students fill in the examples as consensus has been reached about what to include. Students will need to keep this model to use throughout the year as a way to connect data in each unit and trends and developments across units. (formative assessment)

5. Application of the model is the next step. Distribute the Paleolithic Themes Frame to each student.(see Associated File) Read orally, engaging all students in the reading by telling students to leap into the reading at least one but not more than four sentences. When someone feels like reading, (s)he will leap in to read until someone else leaps in. If students are reluctant to leap in, the teacher should leap in after the fourth sentence and pause after one or two sentences to give another student a chance to read. The reading topic is Paleolithic peoples. Throughout the reading, stop and isolate details and ask student to decide where they are placed on the theme frame. Students should write their responses on the Paleolithic Theme Frame as the lesson progresses. Point out illustrations of artifacts, charts, or other text readings at the end of the oral reading as additional sources of information to add to the Paleolithic Theme Frame. (formative assessment)

6. After the reading is completed, in rapid succession, whip around the room to ask students to say one detail they have in a specific section. They may not repeat a detail mentioned by another students. (formative assessment)

7. The next step in the lesson is to read the information about Neolithic peoples in trios. Once the reading is done, students independently complete a Neolithic Theme Frame. (See Associated File.) (Summative Assessment)

8. Debrief the Theme Frame system by asking students to evaluate, in writing, the utility of this tool in reading and organizing information into a system. (System Utility Reflection-summative assessment)

9. An extension of this lesson is to ask students to work in pairs or trios to use the Paleolithic and Neolithic Theme Frames to compare the economic, social, political and biological developments of the Paleolithic and Neolithic people. This comparison could be in the form of a compare and contrast essay, an FCAT Writes practice, or a Venn diagram. (summative assessment)


Formative Assessments include:
Themes Frame
Paleolithic Themes Frame
Leap-in reading

Summative Assessments:
Neolithic Themes Frame scored using the rubric will evidence level of student mastery of using the Themes Frame Tool.
System Utility Reflection


This lesson can be extended by requiring students to write an essay comparing the economic, social, political and biological development of Paleolithic and Neolithic peoples through the eyes of a time traveler who stepped back in time.

Oral reading supports the needs of auditory learners. The leap in strategy holds the attention of all readers since all students are expected to read. The theme frame accommodates visual learners by creating a system to organize written data.
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