Readers’ Theater

I enjoy using Readers Theater scripts with classes and small groups because students really enjoy plays and acting. If you want to mix it up with a class, throwing in a lesson that is Readers’ Theater centered is the perfect thing to bring back the energy.

Some teachers believe they have to do a whole play to use a script, but this is not the case. Usually when I use scripts with students it is just an opportunity to read in a different way. We act with our voices and not usually with our bodies. My students generally just sit in a circle or get comfortable and read together. 

A script with lots of parts like some of the Aron Shepherd ones (I love Lightning Larry!) allow the whole class to participate in one reading. Choose your script carefully in this format. You don’t want one student to have only one or two lines and to be bored. Readers’ Theater scripts are generally written to avoid this, but some plays might have this. It’s great if you have students you need to differentiate for, but you want all students to be totally engaged at their optimum level.

If your script has fewer parts you can divide students up into more than one group and each group can read the same script.

If you have multiple copies of the same script, color code the paper or highlight student parts in different colors. (Yes, I usually try to highlight if I have the time.)

Make name tags, or table cards to match character names. If the other students in the group (mine lay/sit in a circle) are wearing their name there is less “Who’s Narrator 2? NARRATOR TWO IT’S YOUR TURN!!!”). For Bad Case of Stripes I bought two paperback copies of the book, cut them apart (~gasp!~) and cut out character heads. I laminated them, wrote the character name on the back, and hole-punched them with my badge punch. I can store them flat in a file folder and add badge clips when it’s time to read the play aloud.

Always review your Readers’ Theater expectations with the students before beginning. Making a sign is a good idea. Mine include “We don’t yell ‘It’s YOUR turn! Come ON!” Instead we say (if someone forgot where they are in the script), “Narrator 2,” quietly and gently as a reminder. “We speak our own lines and give others the courtesy of speaking their own lines as well.”

Always give your students a chance to read through the script to locate their parts with some quiet reading time before reading aloud.

Writing Readers’ Theater scripts is not difficult. Frankly, I find the most difficult part to be the typing. I’m a speedy and accurate typist so I like it, but others might not find it so.  The first thing I do is type it all out. I don’t type the story word for word. The first lines for the book Terrific by Jon Agee are:

Much to his surprise, Eugene was the lucky winner of an all-expenses paid cruise to Bermuda. “Terrific,” he said.  “I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.”

Later a page says:

Except for a parrot.
“Terrific,” says Eugene. “What good is a parrot?”
“You’d be surprised, ” said the parrot.

On my script I wrote it this way:

Reader 1: Much to his surprise, Eugene was the lucky winner of an all-expenses paid cruise to Bermuda.

Eugene: Terrific. I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn


Reader 2: Except for a parrot.

Eugene: Terrific. What good is a parrot?

Parrot: You’d be surprised. 

I don’t see any need for a Reader (I use this instead of Narrator usually) to say “Eugene said.” I think that the characters can speak for themselves and then I throw in Readers to describe the setting and actions. 

It’s okay to leave things out. I wrote a script for Dr. Seuss week that seemed to go on and on in one section. I adapted it. We were only using the script for one day and then we were done with it.

Once I type the entire book, leaving out the “he said” or small bits of text that are irrelevant if someone is actually speaking them aloud, then I go through and add the tag in front to identify who is doing the speaking. This allows me to add the characters in first. The last step is to decide how many Readers will be appropriate and to add them in.

One reason I’m re-excited about Readers’ Theater this week is because I found a new source for scripts. Did you know Capstone Publishers provides free scripts for many of their popular Stone Arch titles? Like Jack and the Beanstalk, Katie Wood, and Tiger Moth!

The Reading Lady and Aaron Shepherd are also great sources. If I am just using the script for something quick in my class, I just do a search to look for something. Frankly, there are a lot of scripts out there that are violating copyright because they have been published to the Internet.

Your turn! Have you done Readers’ Theater with your class? Thought about writing a script? What resources do you like the best?

April 26, 2013
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