Earlier I wrote about ways I am using readers theater to help students practice fluency, inference, and comprehension. In the April issue of School Library Journal Marybeth Kozikowski called out readers theater as one of the most effective ways to meet the CCSS and described readers theater this way: “It’s so ridiculously easy to implement, it’s a wonder it hasn’t become part of every classroom’s curriculum.”
It is easy to implement. Here’s how.
- Find a readers theater script.
There are books of readers theater scripts you can purchase and plenty of online sources for scripts that you can use for free, nicely sorted by genre and grade level.
- If you can’t find what you want online, write your own. *
Since I wanted readers theater to get students excited about reading particular books for which scripts were not available, I decided to write my own, and you can, too. Choose an exciting part toward the beginning of a book or story you want to introduce to your students. If possible, the section you choose should include dialogue, all the important characters, and end with a cliff-hanger. Create a couple of narrator parts to handle the exposition, and the dialogue of two to four characters. Type it out, using about two-three pages in 12 point font. Make sure every character has a speaking part on the last page to keep the attention of your actors. Make copies to give to your actors but don’t highlight the parts for them – you want them to pay very close attention to the script.
- How does the performance part work?
Give a quick introduction of the readers theater to your class. Quickly teach any vocabulary words that might trip them up. Select readers – you are likely to have eager volunteers – and remind them to use appropriate volume and expression. You could create a quick rubric/checklist with your class for the characteristics of an effective readers theater performance. Then enjoy the performance and invite compliments based on the characteristics identified in your rubric. You could have students make inferences or predictions in small groups. Or make lots of copies of the scripts and get everyone involved by doing the performance in small groups. This could lead to each group performing in front of the class.
- Have students write their own readers theater scripts.
Want students to share books they like with each other? Have them write a readers theater script from a book they really like. Have students working in book clubs and want them to identify character change? Want to challenge students to identify a big idea and provide textual evidence? Groups could create several scripts to show their understanding.
5. Enjoy student engagement, increased understanding of text, and kids excited about books.
* Years ago I submitted a proposal for a book of readers theater scripts from contemporary young adult titles that was accepted by a publisher but proved impossible to do because I could not get permission from publishers to use copyrighted work in this way – that’s why all the pre-made scripts you will find are either original or from works in the public domain. Creating a script solely for educational purposes with your own students is okay.
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