La Luna: Our Absolute Favorite Digital Text!

La Luna is our absolute favorite digital text to use in reading minilessons about symbolism and theme. Sonja and I talk nonstop about La Luna at our workshops about teaching literary elements because it is simply the best! Since we haven’t written a post about La Luna in a while and readers of this blog keep searching for it, we thought this post was long-past due! So here is a post of our favorite ways to use Disney Pixar’s La Luna in reading minilessons:

Symbolism– La Luna is incredible for teaching symbolism! Try these 3 exercises with your students, colleagues, or book clubs when thinking about symbolism.

Strategy #1- Look for important objects! Ask yourself- “Which objects are important to the characters?” (Readers might notice the boat, hat, ladder, stars, rakes/brooms, etc.) Have students brainstorm what these objects might symbolize:

Strategy #2- Look at the setting. Ask yourself- “What is significant about the setting?” (Moon, ocean, boat, sky.)

Strategy #3- What changes? Ask yourself- “What changes for the characters from the beginning of the text to the end?” (Moon’s surface, Hat, Boy/Father/Grandfather’s relationship.)

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This text is rich with symbols! Students need lots of practice unpacking the characteristics of symbols before moving toward analysis to name what the symbols seem to represent. La Luna inspires students to do this challenging, abstract work, which deepens their understanding of symbolism.

Theme – Identifying a theme in any text can be challenging work for students, particularly when reading novels. Here’s how La Luna, along with a chart like ours below, helps to make this work more concrete for our students:

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Students use small post-its (our favorite!) to brainstorm possibilities for theme. Then, they collect text-evidence on larger post-its from the beginning, middle, and end of La Luna to support their ideas.

One of the greatest things about La Luna is the way it teachers students to pay attention to the subtleties between characters and the nuances of setting. The fact that this is accomplished without dialogue is simply brilliant! We teach a wide variety of students including those who are English Language Learners. La Luna is truly a whole-class text that works with all students.

When we find a text that we can mine again and again to teach specific strategies to our students, it’s the greatest feeling. When our students love the text just as much as we do, it’s like winning the lottery! La Luna is that text for us. So if you haven’t watched, go ahead and click the arrow and enjoy!


Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in wintery Connecticut, taking long walks in the snowy woods with her yellow lab, and reading the False Prince series by Jennifer Nielsen. Dana was very excited to find out what was at the bottom of 10x on the show, The Curse of Oak Island, this week. Yahoo! She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning and Flip Your Writing Workshop. 

Sonja Cherry-Paul is a member of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee. She has been immersed in reading wonderful books created by authors and illustrators who address themes related to social justice. The best part of this process is sharing these incredible books with her 6th graders and the insightful conversations they spark.  She is co-author of Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning and Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach. 




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