If you’ve never tried (or heard of) reader’s theater, your classroom may be missing out on an opportunity to make reading and learning more fun. Instead of having students memorize parts, students of reader’s theater read plays directly from scripts, allowing them to practice reading skills, like:
- Understanding punctuation
- Public speaking
If you’re looking for fresh ways to use this teaching tool—or just need help getting started—we offer five reader’s theater tips and education giveaways to help ensure your class gets the most out of this enjoyable, educational activity.
Tip #1: Keep it super simple
The word “theater” might imply elaborate sets, costumes, props, a stage and a special presentation for parents or other audiences. In truth, some classes do use reader’s theater as an opportunity to perform for other groups. But it’s critical to remember that the word “reader” comes first—which means all you need to get started are scripts, students, and some three-ring binders and highlighters to get everyone on the same page.
H2: Tip #2: Select high-interest stories
One of the most powerful aspects of reader’s theater is that it can appeal to students of all ages and reading abilities:
- Very young children can read short lines from picture books or simple poems.
- Elementary-aged readers can perform popular stories and fairy tales.
- Middle and high-school aged students can act out scenes from popular novels or nonfiction works.
Tip #3: Think outside the language arts box
Since “reading” is the literal name of the game, it’s easy to think of reader’s theater as being something for reading and writing classes only. But with a little creativity, it can easily be applied to other subjects. Have students:
- Perform story problems in math class to make a methodical process more fun.
- Add some drama to history class with a short skit.
- Write a play around a scientific concept to help students remember or understand it.
- Create conversations to practice a foreign language.
Tip #4: Prep before you approach each play
Before you bring a play into your classroom, determine how to maximize student interest and involvement. Do you want to use:
- A play with a large cast that allows everyone a speaking line or two?
- Small-cast plays, where one or two small groups “perform” for the class?
- A limited cast with small groups that read through the script in class?
Once you’ve established a plan, make sure you have enough scripts for every student and that you’ve pre-selected roles appropriate for everyone’s reading ability. By prepping ahead of time, you’ll be able to move into performing—everyone’s favorite part—faster.
Tip #5: Find opportunities to use other skills
While reader’s theater can be as simple as students reading scripts with expression, it also provides opportunities to establish other learning goals—or partner with other classes:
- Have older elementary students put on a performance for younger children. Provide them with a photo booth kit that has everything from mustaches to crowns that they can use for their performance.
- Work with an art class to have students design costumes, props or posters for a show they record or perform live.
- Have students record, edit and post performances on your school’s social pages (with parent permission, of course) as part of a movie or video-creation class.
Turning stories into learning experiences
Reader’s theater creates learning opportunities that go beyond speaking text to accompanying nearly every educational experience. We hope these tips on creating your own reader’s theater experience help you present an exceptional educational opportunity. Break a leg!