This post shares the wonderful benefits of using readers theaters in your elementary classroom.
Reader’s theaters are short plays that focus on vocal rather than visual expression. There’s no need for students to memorize lines or create fancy costumes. These plays help students improve reading comprehension, fluency, accuracy, and expression, plus they’re actually a lot of fun to present.
Your “dramatic” kiddos will finally have a stage to flex their acting chops.
Related: For more resources to boost reading comprehension, visit our readers’ workshop activities.
Benefits of Readers’ Theaters
- Improved Reading Comprehension – This is arguably the most important benefit. Reader’s theaters absolutely skyrocket reading comprehension when done consistently and strategically.
- Collaboration – Reader’s theater productions encourage positive collaboration among peers. In order for the plays to be a success, readers must work as a supportive team.
- A Boost In Speaking and Listening Skills – Public speaking and active listening are essential life skills. These scripts make learning those skills purposeful.
- Increased Reading Fluency – Reading accuracy and speed improves over time as learners rehearse readers’ theater scripts repeatedly.
- Low Maintenance – Students don’t need to create fancy props or be perfect presenters. A simple script along with eager children is all you need.
- Motivating – One of the best benefits of readers’ theaters is that they motivate kids to read. Even your most reluctant readers will be itching to rehearse their scripts.
- Stress-Free Way to Improve Reading Comprehension – For struggling learners, boosting reading comprehension through scripts may be less painful.
- Seamlessly Integrate Literacy With Other Subjects – Use these scripts to learn about science, social studies, or math concepts. Enrich learners’ understanding of a variety of academic subjects.
- Accessible – You can easily turn any textbook passage or basal story into a reader’s theater script.
- Levels and Topics For All Grades and Ages – One of the most convenient benefits of readers theaters is that they can be adapted for any grade level – from kindergarten to high school.
- Vocabulary Enhancement – Through reader’s theater scripts, kids add new vocabulary to their schema and have the opportunity to practice using those terms within context.
- Freedom of Expression – Kids love being dramatic, and reader’s theaters allow them to move around and express themselves.
How to Do a Reader’s Theater
To get the most benefits of readers theaters, here’s what you need to do.
1. First, you need a script.
The script that you choose will depend on the age of your students, the number of students that are going to present the readers’ theater and also your teaching objectives.
If you simply want to use a readers’ theater to improve students’ reading comprehension, fluency, accuracy, and expression, then any readers’ theater script will do~ just as long as it is of some interest to students and more or less on their reading level.
If you, however, want to focus on a specific content objective (e.g. learning about the solar system), then choose a readers’ theater focused on that topic.
Find scripts online or create your own.
2. Introduce the script.
First, do the readers’ theater as a “Read Aloud” to model for the kids what good reading fluency, accuracy, and expression sounds like.
Modeling to students several times how to read the script before they practice it with their peers or by themselves is very important. They need to hear the expressions and tones of the different characters in the script.
They may also have questions about the pronunciation of words in italics or words written in parenthesis.
These are great teachable moments.
3. Incorporate Guided Practice.
After modeling, do the readers’ theater as a “shared reading” with the whole class.
Shared reading is reading the play with students.
Have them practice in pairs or independently.
In order to get the most benefits of readers theaters, learners must read them repeatedly and for different purposes.
Students’ fluency, accuracy, expression, and comprehension of the text will improve after each read.
Choose one or two areas to focus on during each read: comprehension, fluency, accuracy, or expression.
How often you read the script with your class depends on their specific academic needs.
4. Have Learners Practice Independently.
Once you’ve had many opportunities to read the script with the class, it is now time for students to practice independently.
- Divide the children into two or three groups. Within each group, assign each student an individual part from the script.
- Adjust parts as needed based on the number of kids in your class.
- Have them practice their parts with their group. The focus is on reading with fluency, accuracy, and expression.
- Monitor and assist with vocal expression as needed.
As your little ones practice the script daily (in class and/or for homework), have them complete accompanying activities if the script comes with additional reading comprehension exercises.
Monitor and facilitate as needed.
How many days or class periods you spend doing these steps will depend on the needs of your class and the makeup of your daily teaching schedule.
5. Present the Reader’s Theater!
You, the teacher, decide when students present the reader’s theater to peers or to other groups of individuals.
Readers’ theaters are usually presented in front of an audience ~ another class, parents, or classmates.
Students stand in a straight line, facing their audience.
Make sure that each reader has a script with his or her individual parts highlighted, and position them by the order of the characters in the script.
When presenting, students place individual scripts on clipboards or inside folders to give a more “fancy” look.
This short video shows the gist of presenting a readers’ theater.
How Can Reader’s Theaters Increase Students’ Interest in Reading?
- Changing character names in a play to match students’ makes a huge difference in engagement.
- The use of visuals such as props, scenery, and/or simple costumes add more context and fun.
- Some readers’ theater scripts have more/fewer characters than your total number of learners. Have students with fewer lines take on other roles or tasks such as being in charge of creating simple props or “directing”. More characters than students? Have them read the parts of two roles.
Wrapping Up ~ Benefits of Readers Theater Scripts
Integrating reader’s theater scripts into your curriculum a few times during the school year has its benefits.
Pencil in a play into your lesson plan sometime for the next month, and then watch your learners blossom in so many ways.