What is Readers' Theatre ?

Readers theatre is a joint dramatic reading from a text, usually with no memorization, no movement and a minimum of props. It involves children in oral reading through reading parts in scripts. Unlike traditional theatre, the emphasis in on oral expression of the part - rather than on acting and costumes.

What is its purpose?

It enables students to bring a text to life and together create a powerful interpretation. It offers less confident readers support from peers and provides a genuine social purpose for attentive reading. It also provides students with models for creating 'the voice behind the page' in their own silent reading. Readers' Theatre provides a real context for reading and has obvious benefits for students by increasing their skills as readers, writers, listeners and speakers.

Readers' theatre can be used to introduce longer texts that students may then go on to read. In the same way that a television adaptation can push book sales through the roof, readers' theatre can take students into the world of a text and entice them into enthusiastic reading.

How can I do it?

First an appropriate text is selected. Many narrative texts can be adapted for readers theatre. Picture books are often ideal and fun to use. For longer texts, several narrators can be allocated, characters can be assigned to students who read their speech, and longer descriptive passages that do not suit dramatic reading can be omitted. Alternatively, scripts are sometimes prepared specifically for readers' theatre.

Susan Hill and Joelie Hancock suggest starting by demonstrating with repetitive picture books such as Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox or Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen. The teacher can start by reading the text through and then getting the students to join in with the dialogue or for alternate sentences to create a dramatic reading.

The degree of preparation depends on the expertise of the readers and the specific purpose of the reading. Some students like to include costume suggestions, music and other props.

How can I adapt it?

The whole class can work on the same text, or cooperative groups can work on different parts of a text. An alternative is to invite groups to select their own texts to present, from a collection of picture books or short stories. The performance can be just for the class or for other classes or audiences.

When using readers' theatre to tune students into reading and studying a set text, a gripping segment from any part of the book can be chosen to work on, with a brief introduction by the teacher to set the scene.

Create and read scripts to introduc and reinforce concepts related to other subject areas.

Adapt stories from various cultures to the readers' theatre format.

Assessment & Evaluation Considerations

  • Observe students' willingness and ability to make predictions and inferences about character and plot development.
  • Note students' efforts to interpret characters and communicate meaning through voice (volume, pitch, stress and juncture), facial expressions and hand gestures.
  • Note students' interest in participating.
  • Record or video tape presentations.
  • Note students' interest in independent script writing.
  • Readers' Theatre Evaluation

Teacher Resources

  • Braun, W. and Braun, C. (1995) Readers' Theatre - Scripted Rhymes & Rhythms, Braun & Braun Educational Enterprises Ltd, Calgary.
  • Braun, W. and Braun, C. (1995) Readers' Theatre - More Scripted Rhymes & Rhythms, Braun & Braun Educational Enterprises Ltd, Calgary.
  • Braun, W. and Braun, C. (1996) A Readers' Theatre Treasury of Stories, Braun & Braun Educational Enterprises Ltd, Calgary.
  • Braun, W. and Braun, C. (1998) Readers' Theatre For Young Children, Braun & Braun Educational Enterprises Ltd, Calgary.
  • Dixon, N., Davies, A., and Politano C. (1996) Learning With Readers' Theatre, Peguis, Winnipeg.
  • Hill, S. (1992) Readers Theatre: Performing the Text, Eleanor Curtain Publishing, Armadale.
  • White, M. (1993) Readers' Theatre Anthology, Meriwether Publishing, CO.
  • Walker, L. (1996) Readers' Theatre in the Middle School and Junior High School, Meriwether Publishing, CO.
  • Readers Theatre - Aaron Shepherd's site gives scripts that can be used for students in grades 3 to 9. They can be edited and printed for classroom use. Aaron Shepherd, who is a children's author, also gives some useful tips on how to make readers theatre work well in the classroom.
  • Free Sample Scripts from Storycart® Press
  • Classroom Theatre - lesson plans and scripts
  • Free Sample Scripts from Lois Walker
  • ReadingLady.com's Reader's Theater Scripts
  • The Beginning of the Armadillios by Rudyard Kipling: Readers' Theatre Script
  • What Is Readers Theater?
  • Readers Theatre (from ReadWriteThink)
  • Readers' Theatre Assignment

 


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