TEACHING STRATEGY

Readers' Theater

Community Inquiry
Grade Level
3-5

What?
During a readers’ theater, two or more students dramatize a text by reading expressively.


When?

During or after reading


Why?

Readers’ theater helps children gain reading fluency and engage fully with text. The strategy requires attention to pronunciation, unfamiliar vocabulary and interpretation. Performance experiences increase children’s motivation to read and critically engage in complex texts.


How?

  1. Select a central text. Any prose or poem, fiction or nonfiction with dialogue makes a good readers’ theater text.
  2. Enlarge copies for use as scripts and divide into parts.
  3. Assign parts to students. For large classes with varying ability levels, double cast selected roles. Instruct students in double-cast roles to choral read their lines within the readers’ theater. Instruct students to highlight their lines.
  4. Coach students in their roles. Prompt them to research the characters by going back to the text and asking questions like:
    • What would the character say?
    • What does the character look like?
    • How does the character feel?
    • How does the character act and interact with other characters?
    • What facts do you know about the character?
  5. Ask students to respond to these questions in writing using evidence from the text.
  6. Allow students time to rehearse in class and encourage them to take their scripts home to practice reading with inflection.
  7. Use familiar classroom management strategies if children become overly excited while preparing to read. Motivate and manage student behavior by conducting the same readers’ theater text multiple times with students in different roles.
  8. Encourage students to create props to establish the setting.
  9. Prior to the performance, make sure each child feels comfortable reading in front of classmates. Clarify unfamiliar vocabulary. Answer last minute questions. If a student gets stage fright in the middle of the reading, act as a narrator to move past the silence. Allow students to make mistakes, recover from them and continue their performance.
  10. Spend time debriefing and evaluating each readers’ theater experience with students.


English language learners

Modify readers’ theater for English language learners by assigning roles that fit students’ ability levels. If readers are double cast, strategically pair English language learners with a medium-high reader in the class. Spend a few extra minutes with your English language learners to address vocabulary and delivery concerns.
 

Connection to anti-bias education

Drama is a crucial part of literacy learning for all children. It allows students to engage in language across in-group and out-group boundaries and value language-dependent interactions. Play-making builds on a strength children bring to school. Students do not need to rely exclusively on their individual language resources.


Sample readers’ theater prompts:

Use these questions and directions before, during and after implementing readers’ theater with your students.

Preparing for readers’ theater

  • What would the character say?
  • What does the character look like?
  • How does the character feel?
  • What information from the text helps you answer the above questions?

Participating in readers’ theater

  • Personify the character.
  • Project your voice clearly.
  • Support others by remaining in character throughout the reading.
  • Wait for others to complete their lines.

Evaluating readers’ theater

  • I felt _____ during the performance.
  • My favorite part of the performance was _______.
  • My least favorite part of the performance was _______.
  • I am excited about the next readers’ theater because _______.