By definition, reader's theatre usually refers to enacting a text by reading roles (Fountas and Pinnell, 2006). The reader's theatre strategy blends students' desire to perform with their need for oral reading practice (Bafile, 2005). Students love to perform. This is a way for your actors and actresses-in-training to perform in front of the class in a meaningful way. Furthermore, reader's theatre is beneficial not only for your top readers, but for your reluctant readers as well. Reader's theatre motivates reluctant readers (Bafile, 2005).
Susan Finney, a retired educator and author, states that, "without fluency, there is little comprehension. The value of reader's theater is increased tenfold when used as a strategy for increasing understanding of what is being read" (Bafile, 2005). Along with fluency, reader's theatre can offer a way to allow a student to read with expression and vocal interpretation (Fountas and Pinnell, 2006).
Creating a Reader's Theatre script
A reader's theatre script can be used to introduce a book or it can be used to further enhance comprehension through fluency and expression. I have written reader's theatre scripts for both reasons.
If your purpose is to introduce a book, use several narrators to introduce the book, making the class or a group excited about reading the book. At the end of the script, end with a cliffhanger or a question to get the class or group thinking about the book they are about to read.
If you are to use a script to enhance comprehension through fluency and expression, choose an exciting part of the book to create a script.
Choose an exciting part or the climax of the book.
Record the characters that have dialogue in that particular part.
The narrative should be split amongst two or three narrators.
Write the script as it is written from the book.
Reader's Theatre in Five Easy Steps
Choose a prepared script, or have your students create a script from a familiar book that they know.
If not using a prepared script, you may adapt a script, identify the speaking parts (including the narrators) and break down the story or part from a book into dialogue.
Assign parts to the kids. Your students may choose the roles themselves by trying out for several different roles or you may assign roles to your students. Try to match roles to particular students who may be similar to a particular character in the script.
Highlight the parts and rehearse the script. You may highlight the parts or you may have your students highlight their parts. Then, they should practice their parts either at home or at school.
The last step is performing. The cast performs the script with fluency and expression in front of their classmates and or parents!
Creating a script takes time, but is quite easy to do. Once you have completed a script, you can use it over and over. Try to adapt scripts from books that are high interest or from quality literature. Reader's theatre scripts are an excellent way to introduce a read aloud, a class novel, or for an extension of a previous novel that has been read. Implementing reader's theatre into your literacy block will increase fluency and expression amongst the performers!