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A Wrinkle in Time: Exploring Theme

Updated on September 22, 2013

Lesson Plans and Big Ideas

A Wrinkle in Time is the sci-fi/ fantasy story of siblings who travel across space and time, rescue their beloved father from a dark planet, and, by virtue of their own strengths, make it home again. It's a feat that these kids couldn't accomplish if they didn't have a power that the seemingly all-powerful IT force didn't have. The most powerful force of all: love.

How I remember reading A Wrinkle in Time at eleven! I was just at the point of making that transition from fantasy that was pure story to fantasy that was driven by emotion and theme. The book didn't create that transition, but it shone a light on it: on my new eleven-year-old self. It also taught me to look at fantasy literature and expect something more than just fantastical events.

I was one of many children, across a span of decades, touched by the travel across the tesseract and the joyous return home. That book is 50 years old this year -- can you believe it? There are new editions on the market, but that's not all that's on the horizon. Next year will see the release of a made-for-theaters movie. A Wrinkle in Time has never gone out of print or become quaint, but there's a bit of resurgence in interest.

Checking out a classroom set? Here's an exploration in theme and some lesson plan ideas.

Book Image:Amazon

Theme: Love

Teaching Children the Big Ideas

You can go a long way toward expressing the theme with a single word. I would put it in a sentence, though, "Love is the most powerful thing in the universe". Here's how this theme unfolds: Meg's little brother, Charles Wallace, is briefly lost after an encounter with the powerful, but impersonal force, IT. He's there, but it's not really him behind those eyes. There's a coldness there. And he's become a mouthpiece for IT.

After recouping on another planet, Meg tessers back alone. She is told that she has something that IT doesn't have. It seems impossible, and yet, she -- and not IT! -- can love. She concentrates on loving her little brother and he breaks free from the spell and the compulsion to do IT's will. He runs to her.

At what point can we clearly state what the biggest overarching theme is? The moment comes late in the book, in Chapter 12, at that pivotal moment when Meg realizes what she has that IT doesn't. Before that, though, we get clues that love is part of the author's message.

Students can interact with the book as they read by writing on Post-It notes and affixing them to the book. Later, after that climactic last chapter, they can look back. What early clues did the author give about her theme?

A Wrinkle in Time Movie
A Wrinkle in Time Movie

Author's Viewpoint? Reader's Viewpoint?

Separating the author's point-of-view from one's own... Now that can be a tricky concept.

A Wrinkle in Time is a great book for exploring the difference! The themes including trusting one's intuition and accepting what's there (as opposed to what we think should or must be).

Chances are there are a number of children in the classroom who would have difficulty accepting their own perceptions to quite the extent "L'engle's characters do. So... let's explore the difference between what the characters think, what the real life kids think -- and also the message the author might be trying to convey.

The early chapters -- even before the book becomes obvious science fiction -- are rich fodder for exploration. This is a good to read aloud and use a think-aloud strategy. Here are some scenes to consider: Mrs. Murray's encounter with Mrs. Whatsit, the Murray's first encounter with Calvin.

We can see how the characters are reacting to their encounters-- but what of the author? Is she giving us clues about her attitude? Here's a related question: Do we,as readers have a sense of which characters can be trusted? If so, why? What are the text clues? What has the author done to reveal her own attitude toward the characters?

The image here is from a dramatization of the story. Now that adds still another viewpoint...

DVD Image: Amazon

Journal Prompts (First Chapters)

Meg asks her mother whether the twins are really as normal as they seem -- or whether they are pretending. What do you think? How does this apply to the real world? Do kids pretend to be normal? Are they convincing?

What do you think the author's attitude is toward "normal"? Is it better or worse to be normal? Is it important?

Interacting with the Book

Sticky notes are great for interacting with the book and bringing notes to literature circle. You can make them even more fun with sticky notes that are expressly designed to hold your thinking. Yes, it's thought bubble sticky notes! (Speech bubbles, regular and starburst-shaped, are also available.)

Nonfiction Connection: Exploring the Tesseract

Meg's mother is told by an unusual guest that there is indeed such a thing as a tesseract. Apparently there is (even if no one has actually traveled across one). Here the Mathematical Association offers an explanation of the real tesseract. There are links to additional resources at the bottom of the editorial. Some are to Wrinkle in Time resources. Yes,A Wrinkle in Time has made the tesseract famous!

Explore: What does A Wrinkle in Time add or change when incorporating the tesseract into a fictional story?

Discussing Genre

A Wrinkle in Time includes science terms and concepts, but many elements -- flying creatures, tangible forces of good and evil -- are characteristic of the fantasy genre. What about kything? There have been attempts to explain telepathy scientifically.

2013 Movie Trailer

A Wrinkle in Time has been interpreted many times: in theater, on television, and on the "big screen". Here's the trailer for the 2013 movie.

Incorporating Film

This trailer is from the 2003 movie. Something about the casting of Meg seems just right. I thought some of the characters were altered in ways that made them less true.

The producer has also taken some liberties with plot. It will be interesting to see how the book is envisioned in the 2013 big screen version: Will it stay closer to the original story?

Let's not forget this one, though. It can be a good exercise to examine multiple interpretations.

Study Guide for Basic Comprehension - A Resource for Classroom Teachers

Even basic comprehension can be difficult for fifth and sixth graders. (What do those words mean? How to put it all together and construct the plot?)

Here is a reading comprehension study guide. It provides the difficult vocabulary chapter by chapter and also includes comprehension questions to ensure that children are following along.

Resources from Theater Companies

Some theater companies put together marvelous study guides. They are designed primarily for students who will be watching the play, but remain there in the website archive years later!

Journal Prompt

Planet Camazotz is no utopia -- more like the opposite! What's the worst thing about it? (Pick a couple things if you need to.)

Grade Level

Traditional measures place this book at about the fifth grade level, but the Common Core standards, which take into account additional factors (like levels of meaning) place it in the middle school band.

The Time Quintet Boxed Set

When I was little there were three books. But soon there were five. The original Time Trilogy featured Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin. A generation later, though, Calvin's and Meg's daughter tessered (in An Acceptable Time).

If You Can't Kythe... - You Might Need to Leave a Comment (the Regular Old Way)

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    • geoffhoff profile image


      5 years ago

      I remember finding this book in the bookmobile that visited our school every month or so. I was hooked, and read all three in the series as soon as I could find them. I have given them to nephews and nieces, friends, children of friends... you get the idea. (I was very excited to discover it had been made into a movie. Until I saw the movie and hated it... Ah, well.) Great lens.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hell KarenTBTEN. Well done, here! I remember this book being assigned to me in school, but I never read it. I know. BAD, BAD, BAD! :-) However, I read your glorious description of it on here, and I am inspired.

      I actually came to this Squidoo page having no clue that Disney made a film out of it. As if they wouldn't?

      My work is, as well, in the fantasy genre. You might be pleased to know that the product that I am coming out with June 2013 will TEACH valuable lessons about acceptance.

      Keep up the beautiful work on here. I will be watching!

    • krakensquid profile image


      6 years ago

      An interesting lens on a fascinting subject, thank you for sharing!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I was not familiar with this series, very interesting!

    • SarahB709 profile image


      6 years ago

      I loved this book even though I didn't get all the full concept. I'm so glad you made this lens and reminded me of a book I'd like to read again.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Never read this book but it sounds good

    • Valerie Bloom profile image

      Valerie Bloom 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I read the first three books of this series when I was 10 or 12 years old, and loved it! I recently re-read them and enjoyed them all over again on a much different level.

    • KarenTBTEN profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @cocomoonbeams: That's a very good point. The age at which a child has at least the surface ability to read a book is not necessarily the age at which they will appreciate it. Requiring it too soon can have effects other than the intended.

    • cocomoonbeams profile image


      6 years ago

      When I started public school in 2nd grade, I was ahead of my classmates when it came to reading, so my teachers would take me to the 3rd grade class during reading time. Same with 3rd grade.. I was set aside to do reading by myself. When I entered 4th grade, my teacher decided to "hold me back" to let the class catch up with me, and for the first half of the year, my assignment was to read "A Wrinkle in Time". I was like 9, and the book was so far above my head! Until today, I had no idea what the book was about, just that I hated it! It sounds like something I would like now... but I wasn't ready for the abstract concepts at that time.

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 

      6 years ago

      Must be a good book :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very cool

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love this book, the message about love conquering all is something I still believe. Also another theme of this book if I remember correctly is celebrating invdividuality. As a young adult I remember feeling different from other kids and not liking the feeling of odd or out of place but this book was one of my first inklings that it is not only ok to be different but something to be celebrated. Can't wait till my son is a little older so that I can read this book to him

    • blessedmomto7 profile image


      6 years ago

      I LOVED this book and the sequels when I was a kid. Didn't realize they made a movie in 2003 or there was a new movie coming. Thanks for a walk down memory lane with this lens!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 

      6 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Adding something here - you have done a wonderful job setting up some lesson plans - they are nice to use if you can get your kids to read the book together. It makes for great dinner table conversation!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 

      6 years ago from Shanghai, China

      L'Engle is such a fantastic writer - with many other books. They are all good. I especially appreciated the one she wrote about the year "Grandmother" died.

    • bezabeza profile image


      6 years ago

      I have never heard of this book and it sounds wonderful. I'm not even a fantasy literature fan...I just love the sound of this and would love my 2 boys to read it when they are a few years older. Thank you!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wrinkle is one of my favorite books of all time. In fact the whole series is. Glad it's not being forgotten.

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 

      6 years ago from Missouri

      This was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. Blessings!

    • MayaIxchel profile image


      6 years ago

      One of my very favorite books! Great lens, thanks for sharing! Greetings from 'the land of eternal spring'!

    • GenWatcher LM profile image

      GenWatcher LM 

      6 years ago

      A Wrinkle In Time was one of my absolute favorite books as a kid. It was really easy for me to identify with the characters, especially since my family was more than a bit eccentric!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      nice lense

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Definitely worth reading, and probably at the age you did:)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      A Wrinkle in Time is a classic of adventure and life lessons that just won't grow old because love really is the most important thing in the universe, beautifully presented and well taught.

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 

      6 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      Great insights into how to engage the mind with any text. Yay for critical thinking!

    • karMALZEKE profile image


      6 years ago

      It is a favorite. I think I want to read it again. Great Lens.

    • anupma lm profile image

      anupma lm 

      6 years ago

      Great book. I will certainly read it.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      It's fascinating Disney still uses old classics to make new movies.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. I should get a copy for my sister!

    • LaurenIM profile image


      6 years ago

      One of my favorite books! Everyone should read this!

    • kate-cleary3 profile image


      6 years ago

      I picked up this book last night! Love it and can't wait for the new movie

    • Tennyhawk profile image


      6 years ago

      An absolute classic. The later books are also fascinating. Thanks for publishing this.

    • ismeedee profile image


      6 years ago

      This would make an exciting lesson for children; there is so much you can do with it, like you so nicely illustrated here!

    • mojoCNYartist profile image


      6 years ago from CNY

      I remember seeing the film, but I have yet to read the book.

    • RedShoesGirl profile image


      6 years ago

      I will definitely read this book.

    • SheilaMilne profile image


      6 years ago from Kent, UK

      I read the book first as an adult but I think you have persuaded me to re-read it. I'm not sure I'd like to see a movie version because it doesn't usually leave enough room for imagination.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This was actually one of my favorite books! Blessed!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      6 years ago from Colorado

      I always know when I arrive at one of your lenses that I will learn a great deal. Can you believe I was never introduced to A Wrinkle In Time when I was a child? Fantastic learning resources and guided approaches to getting to the essence of the many themes. Well done!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great that you also included some lesson plans. Very helpful.

    • justmelucy profile image


      6 years ago

      Looks like a good read. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I remember reading the book and I oved it.


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