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Exploring Themes

Identifying themes in The White Fox.

Lesson from The White Fox series

Required reading: Whole book

Text potential

  • Theme: Alienation
  • Theme: Belonging
  • Theme: Environment
  • Theme: Friendship
  • Theme: Loyalty


Young children often find it hard to distinguish between the themes and the plot. Themes are the big underlying ideas that are central to the story and express the point of view of the author.

In this lesson, theme cards are used for scaffolding a discussion. They are useful for modelling ideas and language, which children can then use independently. More experienced readers can generate a list of themes.


  • Download and print theme cards, one set between two.
  • Download and print theme grids, one between two.
  • Copies of The White Fox, at least one between two.


 Introduce the term them:  the underlying message, or ‘big idea’ in a story.

Can the children list examples of common themes? If not, exemplify using a familiar traditional tale.

Distribute the theme cards (see resources).  Briefly discuss what each card means.

Working in pairs, the children sort the cards into two piles: themes that apply to the story and those that do not. Share and talk about the selected themes.

Distribute the Theme Grid:

  • Choose your three most important themes.
  • Can you find evidence to support your choices? 

Once the grid has been completed, pairs can join together to compare their ideas. 

Final reflection

  • Are there any themes that could be added to the list? 
  • Do the themes tell you what Jackie Morris considers important?
  • Jackie Morris says in her blog about The White Fox: ‘There are many themes that run through it, including the theme of surviving loss. And perhaps, after all, it is a true story.’ What do you think?

Key vocabulary

theme, belonging, loyalty, relationships, environment

Additional vocabulary



White Fox Theme Cards

The White Fox Theme Cards

White Fox Theme Grid

White Fox Theme Grid


Sam Keeley

Formerly a teacher and local authority advisory teacher, Sam now works with Just Imagine as an English consultant and manager of the year 6 Reading Gladiators programme.

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