Recently I was listening to guided meditation, and I noticed myself dozing off as I listened to the man speaking in his unexpressive, monotone voice. And just the other day I noticed the same reaction as my students read to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love listening to my students read. I love hearing the growth they’ve made, but this observation reminds me we need to work on fluency. They need to work on reading with excitement in their voices at a fluent pace. And predictable scripts for readers theater is the perfect way to do this.
What is Readers Theater?
Readers theater is an instructional strategy used to build reading fluency. Students practice reading a script through repeated readings and reading with expression. Teachers choose a script that will interest their students and has a variety of levels of difficulty to make the script accessible to all students. Students choose the part they’d like to perform and practice with their groups to read the play.
Readers theater builds fluency, which is described as reading with accuracy, automaticity, and prosody. Accuracy is a reader’s ability to read words in a text correctly. Automaticity refers to reading without effort leaving cognitive energy for comprehension. Prosody is the ability to read with expression and chunk words into meaningful phrases. Reading fluency indicates a person’s reading sounds like they’re speaking. Notably, readers theater research indicates that students that read with expression have better comprehension (Young & Rasinsky, 2009)
Readers Theater Tips
You’ll find using readers theater in your classroom is so much fun for you and the students. I’ve made plenty of mistakes so you don’t have to. Here are some helpful tips that you’ll find useful:
- Hand out the script to your students and let them look through it.
- Invite students to read each part with you. You read all the parts and let kids drop in when they feel comfortable. This is just to expose them to the script.
- Ask students if anyone feels comfortable reading a part. Let them choose the part they’d like to read. Then have them practice reading the part they’ve chosen. You can have more than one kid doing a part at a time.
- Give students about 5 to 7 minutes to practice their parts. Readers theater is meant to be practiced more than once and over the course of about a week.
- Once kids are ready to read, introduce the play and say, “Action!”
- At the end, give your students a hand. And wrap it up.
- Take it out the next day and do it all over again. Let your students try a new part. You’ll find that kids who were reluctant will gradually want bigger roles. You’ll also find your struggling readers wanting to challenge themselves.
Don’t expect perfection, just look forward to having fun. With each passing day, have students focus on something from the text. For example, pay attention to punctuation, intonation, and becoming the character.
Readers Theater for Kids
Choosing the right scripts for readers theater is important for kids to feel successful and to be engaged. A predictable story is by far the best choice. Most students are familiar with folktales like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Three Billy Goats Gruff. Since we want students to read with expression, these stories are the perfect way to practice. Familiar stories give students the opportunity to spend their energy practicing their expression rather than having to figure out what words are coming up next.
How you have students perform is completely up to you. Experts recommend that students only use their voices and gestures to present, which I think is fine. But if you’ve done this and want to add something else, why not add a little sparkle to your day? You might have kids just read from their desks. Maybe they stand in front of the class. I’ve had students make props at the end of the school year to kill time. You know how that can be. Another suggestion could be a puppet show. The important part is for students to practice reading fluently.
Check out these scripts for readers theater. There’s no doubt your students will love these plays.