Readers Theater has become a popular teaching activity in the elementary grades over the last few years. In Readers Theater, students stage a dramatic presentation of a text by reading from a script, using intonation, gestures, and facial expression to add meaning and interest to the performance. The simple format of Readers Theater (no props, costumes, sets, or memorization required) makes it easy to incorporate into a classroom. In addition, research has shown that the activity can help students develop reading fluency and improve comprehension of the performed text as well as that of new and unpracticed texts.
READERS THEATER, FLUENCY, AND COMPREHENSION
How does Readers Theater improve reading ability? First of all, the repeated reading of a script during rehearsals is important in building fluency, or the ability to read text with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. Repeated reading also builds confidence and reinforces key concepts and vocabulary related to the topic being studied. The expression, gestures, and interactive nature of the performance make reading a much more enjoyable task and allow even struggling readers to access important information from what might otherwise be difficult text.
Differentiated instruction is also a natural component of Readers Theater. The roles available in a typical script range from extensive narration to a character with just a single line. Scripts might also contain choral reading or lines for two voices in addition to individual roles. The variety of options means that all students are able to participate at an appropriate, yet challenging level.
READERS THEATER SCRIPTS
Readers Theater scripts are available commercially and online, but it is also possible to create scripts by modifying existing text. This may be done by the teacher in preparation for the activity or by the students themselves. While many existing scripts focus on fictional narratives, Readers Theater can also be quite valuable with nonfiction, such as informational text. Informational text is often more difficult and less engaging than fiction, so the use of dramatic presentation can serve as a powerful motivator and a scaffold for success in reading.
How can informational text be reformatted as a Readers Theater script? In “Science Books + Readers Theater,” Melissa Stewart describes how science-themed children’s books can serve as the basis for a script. She notes that some books (such as those about a variety of animals) lend themselves to script-writing much better than others (such as texts focused on a single animal). She also explains that the text will be divided among a narrator, characters, and possibly a chorus. The script authors will need to consider what information should be conveyed by the narrator, and which characters can be added to elaborate on the narrator’s lines or provide new information. In either case, care should be taken to preserve the meaning and as much of the original text as possible.
Some advocates of Readers Theater oppose any changes made to the original text, while others argue that the author was not writing for performance and thus changes must be made. Regardless of your position, using Readers Theater with your students in science and other content areas will motivate your students and help them deal with increasingly complex informational text.
AT HOME IN THE COLD: READERS THEATER SCRIPTS
Would you like to try a science-themed Readers Theater in your classroom? We’ve created scripts for this month’s Feature Story, “At Home in the Cold.” The story discusses various adaptations that allow animals to survive in the cold oceans of the Arctic and Antarctic.
At Home in the Cold RT Script: Grades 2-3
This RT script includes parts for 11 students.
Want to create other polar RT scripts? Browse informational text about a variety of polar-related science topics on our Stories for Students page!
Science Books and Readers Theater
In this downloadable pdf article, Melissa Stewart provides an overview of Readers Theater and discusses how to select and adapt science-themed children’s books for scripts. She offers a sample script based on her book When Rain Falls. Her web site includes a page devoted to Readers Theater and scripts.
In this lesson from Read Write Think, students develop scripts, perform in groups, and practice using their voice to depict characters from texts. Through this activity, students have the opportunity to develop fluency and further enhance comprehension of what they are reading.
Internet Resources for Conducting Readers Theater
A comprehensive overview of Readers Theater, including links to supporting research, tips for implementation, classroom applications, and assessment information.
Tim Rasinski, professor of reading at Kent State University (Ohio), shares a quick guide to Readers Theater.
This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither and Nicole Luthy. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Jessica or Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright December 2009 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.