Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Ponyboy, What's a Theme?

Leslie Briggs
Santa Rosa District Schools


Students seek supporting proof of major conflicts and themes in the novel, [The Outsiders] by S.E. Hinton.


The student identifies the defining characteristics of classic literature, such as timelessness, deals with universal themes and experiences, and communicates across cultures.

The student recognizes complex elements of plot, including setting, character development, conflicts, and resolutions.

The student identifies common themes in literature.


-Transparency Film
-Vis-a-Vis Markers
-Markers or Colored Pencils
-Cardstock or Construction Paper


The teacher will do the following:
1. Secure a novel for each student.
2. Familiarize self with novel.
3. Print a copy of all handouts provided in the attached file.
4. Gather materials for cooperative groups: transparency film, markers, cardstock, etc.
5. Check out web sites


This lesson may cover a total of three weeks which includes introducing the novel with background on the novelist, reading (orally, along with a recording, or silently), and discussing the elements of the novel (character, setting, plot, etc.)

1. Teacher introduces the novel with historical references and author background.

2. Students read Chapter 1 of the novel as a group.

3. Teacher leads a discussion of Chapter 1 and assists the students in identifying the major conflicts of the novel.

4. Teacher passes out the “Conflict” handout. (see attached file)

5. Students read remaining chapters.

6. Students fill in details on their “Conflict” handout at the completion of each chapter.

7. Students complete reading of novel.

8. Teacher leads final discussion of the novel by having students orally share comments written on “Conflict” handout.

9. Teacher reviews the definition of the literary term, “theme.”

10. Students divide into cooperative learning groups for two days.

11. Teacher assigns each group a specific theme for the novel with instructions to discover supporting details to prove what S.E. Hinton has to say about the assigned theme. (see attached file)

12. Students complete group work: (a) list theme and supporting evidence on a transparency; (b) create bookmarks as a visual to support the assigned theme.

13. Cooperative groups share completed work with the entire class. Other groups are encouraged to add details and to discuss all themes.

14. Students complete a “Conflict and Theme Test”. (see attached file)

15. Teacher assesses all work.


The theme and conflict essay response test is scored using the FCAT scoring rubric for short and long extended response questions. In turn, I calculate the final score using a percent based on the total number of points earned out of the total number of points possible. The FCAT Scoring Guide can be downloaded by going to the following web site: Florida Department of Education

The individual bookmark is scored using the following criteria for rating the work and calculating the score.

Very Good
 Was interesting, easy to see and understand
 Supported theme
 Showed effort
 Communicated main idea

 Was somewhat interesting
 Was related to the theme
 Showed fair effort
 Generally supported main idea

Needs Work
 Was messy, disorganized, hard to understand
 Was unrelated to the theme
 Showed little effort
 Didn’t support main idea

I use the score on the bookmarker as extra credit on the test. A student who receives a “Very Good” earns 12 points, “Adequate” earns 8 points, and “Needs Work” earns 4 points. OR the teacher may assign a specific grade, for instance, “Very Good” earns an “A,” “Adequate” earns a “B,” and “Needs Work” earns a “C.”


I have found that using this novel with my 8th graders is a great way to hook them into reading. This is definitely a high-interest novel. I also find that because the vocabulary is not too difficult, many of my learning disabled and weak-reading students always volunteer to read.

Web Links

Web supplement for Ponyboy, What’s a Theme?
Random House Author's Index

The Author Corner, a place to meet authors and illustrators of children's and young adult books.
The Author Corner

Web supplement for 'Ponyboy, What’s a Theme?'
The Unofficial Outsiders Web Page

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