Lesson 9


Identify and explain the theme in the poem. 

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Target Task


Question 1

Read “Hope Is the Thing with Feathers” by Emily Dickinson. Which of the following BEST expresses the theme of this poem? 


Hope is everywhere if you know where to look.


Hope is like a bird that comes and goes quickly. 


You should always sing about hope to create more hope.


Hope can be found even in the darkest of circumstances. 

Which line from the text best supports the theme you selected above?


“I've heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea” (9–10)


“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul” (1–2)


“And sore must be the storm 
That could abash the little bird” (6–7)


“Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb of me” (11–12)

Key Questions


Read “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou.

  • Which line resonates with you? Explain your answer.
  • Stanza 1 describes a free bird. Which diction supports this image? 
  • Read the following lines from stanza 2 from the poem:

But a BIRD that stalks down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through his bars of rage

  • What is the author literally trying to convey through this imagery? 
  • Why does the poet contrast the free bird and the caged bird? 
  • What is the theme of this poem? Which stanza(s) best support your answer?






  • This lesson connects with a unit test question.
  • Note to Teacher: Students need to be able to use the word “theme” in two ways. Theme can be a one-worded topic (love, for instance, in Romeo and Juliet) or theme can be a statement about that topic (“young love is dangerous”). Students need to be able to use the word interchangeably because that is how the word is used socially. When students are asked to identify the theme of a text in class, however, they are always asked to identify the thematic statement. 
  • See definition of “theme” according to the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework below:
    • “Theme. Central message or abstract concept made concrete through representation in a literary text. Like a thesis, a theme implies a subject and predicate of some kind: for instance, not just vice as a standalone word, but a proposition such as Vice seems more interesting than virtue but turns out to be destructive. Sometimes a theme is directly stated in a work, and sometimes it is revealed indirectly. A single work may have more than one theme.” (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy, 2017, page 184)

Common Core Standards

  • RL.6.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.