Grandma Bird / After Reading / /

What’s the Big Idea?

Talking about themes and learning to justify ideas.

Lesson from Grandma Bird series

Required reading: Whole book

Text potential

  • Theme: Adventure
  • Theme: Friendship


  • English
  • Reading

Strategies used

  • Discussion and Dialogue
  • Talking Points


Being able to find themes and messages shows a deeper level of understanding than simply retelling a story. Scaffolding the learning by providing a range of big ideas from which the children can select makes the process easier, and also equips the children with language that they can use in future discussions.


  • Download and print copies of statement cards.


If the children are unfamiliar with the concept of ‘big ideas’ or themes that underpin the story. Explain how big ideas are different to the plot. It will help to give an example using a story that the children know well. For example, one of the themes of the Grimms version of  Little Red Riding Hood is ‘always obey your parents’ another could be  ‘don’t talk to strangers.’

Share the following statements asking children to talk to a partner and decide if they agree or disagree with them. You may need to model this and refer to the events of the story when doing so. Work together to rank the statements and decide which is the most relevant big idea in the story, stressing that this doesn’t mean other ideas are not relevant. Encourage children to justify responses by referring to the story, modelling as appropriate.

  • You can only be friends with people your own age.
  • Family members can’t be friends.
  • You can only be friends with people who like the same things as you.
  • If you have lots of friends, you are never lonely.
  • Being alone doesn’t mean you are lonely.

Final reflection


  • Are there any big ideas that you would like to add to this list?
Teachers note: After exploring the themes you might want to follow-up by returning to the poem at the beginning of the book. See lesson ‘Returning to the Title Page.

Key vocabulary

lonely, loneliness, alone, friendship


Big Ideas Statements

Print and cut out these statement cards to support discussion. You can use them for class discussion or make sets for small group discussion. Use supplementary prompts to deepend the children’s understanding, rather than accepting first responses.

Grandma Bird Big Idea Statements


Nikki Gamble

Nikki Gamble
Director, Just Imagine
Nikki has worked extensively in schools across the UK and internationally. She is the author of Exploring Children’s Literature (4th edit) (2019) and co-author of Guiding Readers (2016) which was awarded the UKLA Academic Book of the Year Award 2017. Nikki is KS2 reading advisor and series consultant for Oxford University Press and content creator for the Oxford School Improvement and Oxford Owl websites. Nikki is Associate Consultant at the University of London, Institute of Education and Honorary Fellow at the University of Winchester

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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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