At the Gates of Eden

story by John O’Brien , illustrated by Amy Golbach

Learning intention:

I am learning to use a range of skills, strategies, and prior knowledge to read, view and comprehend texts so that I can evaluate the intended message or theme


Success criteria:

  • I can understand that a theme is different from subjects or topics
  • I can interpret that a theme arises out of the actions, feelings and ideas of people or characters
  • I can identify that the theme relates to social, moral and ethical questions in the real world.
  • I can identify and discuss what is considered important by a culture by identifying the theme of the text.
  • I can use this mentor text to explore theme in my own writing.


Essential Knowledge:


Explain to children that in today’s lessons we are going to be exploring the English Textual Concept known as Theme which explores how plot, character, setting and language are carefully crafted together to achieve the purpose of the text. In a manner that is appropriate to them, explain the following statement.

“At its most basic level a theme may be regarded as the message or even the moral of a text. Themes may be used for a didactic purpose or may add a philosophical dimension, inviting us to think about our place in the world. A theme is a statement about human experience that is profound and which responders may accept or reject, depending on their own worldview.” (English Textual

Why is theme important?

Understanding the themes of a text gives students insight into what is valued by a culture and the extent to which they may identify with, accept or challenge these values. (English Textual


Learning Resource:


Ask all students to partition their books into a table with 5 columns labelled:







Using a timer, set for 3 minutes, engage in a share reading of the text At the Gates of Eden. At the end of each 3 minutes, collaboratively analyse the text from the perspective of Plot, Character, Setting, Symbol and Language/Quotes.


Use the following questions to prompt and guide interaction, discussion and analysis of the text. Keep repeating this process until the entire text has been collectively read by the class. (Please note that not every question needs to be asked every time)

Plot: What is occurring in this part of the story?

What is the main character doing? Do they have a mission?

Is there a problem arising at this point in the story?

Is anything occurring to make the situation worse at this point of the story?


        Describe the character and their physical attributes.

What seems to be motivating the main character?

How would you describe the main characters traits? What morals and values do

they portray at this point in the text?

What is the purpose of the characters in this text at this point?


Describe where the story is occurring at this point in the text.

What time do you think this is occurring? Past, present, or future? Why.

Are there any sensory details that the character might be able to see, hear,

Small, taste or feel?

What is the overarching mood of the text?

Symbols: (recurring images and symbols clue us into the theme of a text)

Are there any repeated images, symbols in the text? What are they?

Why do you think the author keeps referencing this image/symbol? What do you

think is meant by it.


Have you noticed any language or direct character quotes that we should pay

attention to? Why are they significant in understanding the theme of the text?



Once the class has collectively read the text by using these questions to analyse in 3-minute intervals, ask children to review their notes. Allow time for children to reread and review their notes comprehensively. Ask them to color code any information that seems to be connected across the 5 domains.

Ask children to share their observations with a thinking partner.

Finally, pose the following question to the class:

What is the main message or theme of the text?

Allow appropriate time for discussion amongst thinking partners (5-10 minutes should be sufficient)

Ask students to share their opinions and record the various themes students identify.

Teacher notes: Essentially the theme of the text is “We can change the world and make it a better place” (Nelson Mandela) or “One person can make a difference.”

Encourage children to compose their own piece of writing that explores this theme