Monday, October 27, 2014
If you're looking for a kids' book about this special time of year, consider Celebrate the Season! Twelve Short Stories for Advent and Christmas available at Pauline Books. This collection (which includes some of my stories) evokes the joy and meaning of the season. Kids 8-12 years old enjoy the stories, and teachers and parents find the book useful since each story is follow by "Questions to Think and Talk About." Would it make a nice gift for someone on your Christmas list?
Friday, September 26, 2014
Other aspects of readers’ theater are easy, too. Sets, costumes, props, and even movement are not needed as the plays are written to work without them. The extras can be included if desired, but readers’ theater works even if the actors just sit there and read!
How Do I Get Started?
Before you use a readers’ theater play, read it yourself and make sure the content, theme, and vocabulary are appropriate for your students. Decide whether you need to preview any concepts or vocabulary. If you are thinking about staging the play for an audience, consider which students might fit which roles, but don’t set your cast just yet.
Once you decide on a play, make as many copies of the script as there are parts plus one for yourself. Highlight one character’s lines in each copy (except yours) to make it easier for kids to read. Covering or binding scripts will help them last through multiple readings.
After giving students time to read through their scripts silently, have them read the play aloud, changing roles with each scene if you wish. This kind of read-through makes a good, one-time, supplemental activity, but you can do much more with readers’ theater!
For example, you could have students read a particular script multiple times on different days. The repetition gives you several opportunities to teach comprehension skills like character traits, motivation, story structure, theme, and cause-and-effect. And rereading allows kids to relax about the reading itself and develop a deeper understanding of the characters and theme of the play.
Multiple readings also improve fluency and expression. You can help with these skills by asking questions about the characters’ feelings and motivation. If a student has difficulty with expression, “echo reading” can help. You model his lines with good expression and have him copy you. It doesn’t usually take much of this practice to get a young actor on the right track. Allowing students to record themselves as they read their lines and listen afterwards also develops better expression.
After several readings, you might want to move students from their seats to a traditional readers’ theater set-up. The actors in readers’ theater usually sit on stools or chairs throughout the play, holding and reading their scripts. Sometimes the actors sit with their backs to the audience, “entering” by facing front and reading their lines and “exiting” by turning around again. The narrator might stand to one side or read from a lectern. This kind of staging can make readers’ theater more fun for your students and motivate them to further improve their performances.
For more about theater, go to my website and click on the Theatre for Teachers tab.
And here are some readers theatre collections I wrote:
These humorous readers theatre scripts offer real-life settings and contemporary characters. Each play pokes gentle fun at annoying traits, school-based dilemmas, or the embarrassing moments that are part of growing up. With resolutions that emphasize creative solutions, humor, or cleverness, these plays work to improve language arts skills. (Grades 4 to 8)
This collection of humorous, contemporary plays is organized around special times of year such as holidays, the first day of school, a snow day, etc. Teachers can find an appropriate readers theatre script at almost any time with this valuable resource, and kids will have fun improving their language arts skills as they perform these plays. (Grades 6 to 8)
Twelve humorous readers theater scripts engage and entertain students in fourth through eighth grades. The book includes a play for every month of the year. Each script features a contemporary kid in a real-life situation—and a saint who helps him or her solve the problem! (Grades 4 to 8)
Thursday, September 18, 2014
How Strong is an Ant? and Other Questions About Bugs and Insects is a well-written and well-researched book that will appeal to readers age six and up. As always, Mary Kay Carson's language is lively, clear, and kid-friendly. The book is packed with the basic information young readers need to know about this topic, but Carson also includes other fascinating facts and quirky details. (Did you know cockroaches hear with hairs on the end of their abdomens?) The question-and-answer format of the book will keep even reluctant readers turning the pages. Photographs and AMAZING illustrations by Carol Schwartz bring the insect world to life and perfectly complement the text. I highly recommend this book! Get it here.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
I saw a dog. He was brown. He was cute. I liked him.
Do your students write simple sentences like these? As a special education teacher, I had trouble getting my kids to write more complex and interesting sentences…until a teacher friend told me about hook books. (Thanks, Carol!) I don’t know where the method originated. I’d love to give credit to whoever thought it up as it was quite effective! (And I'd like to know why they're called "hook books." Were the originals hung from hooks? Did they get the name because they "hook" kids on better writing?) Here’s how it works:
Day One: Write a simple and boring sentence on the board or overhead. Then have students come up with adjectives to add to the sentence. (You may have to explain what adjectives are and adjust the number to the ability of your students) Encourage a variety of adjectives. (“We already have a color word. Can you think of another word to describe _______?” After the list of adjectives is finished, choose one and rewrite the sentence. You’ll end up with something like this:
I saw a dog. (original sentence)
I saw a spotted dog.Have each student copy the above in a notebook designated as a “hook book.” For the sentence, have them choose a different adjective from the list than the one you chose.
Day Two: Put yesterday’s transformed sentence back on the board. Now have students think of more interesting verbs to replace the one in the sentence. (Explain/model as needed.) Choose a verb to further transform the sentence. Students copy it all into their “hook books,” except they transform their own sentences from yesterday. (Again, encourage variety. “’Brushed’ is a good verb, but since we already have ‘combed’ on the list, can you think of another word?”) You’ll have something like this:
I saw a spotted dog.
I rescued a spotted dog.
Day Three: Now you move on to prepositional phrases. If your students don’t know prepositions, post a list, and give examples of prepositional phrases to get them going. As before, students copy from the board but transform their own sentences from yesterday.
I rescued a spotted dog.
1. from the pound
2. with my grandfather’s help
3. on my birthday
4. in a terrible storm
I rescued a spotted dog from the pound.
Day Four: Each student goes to a fresh page in his/her hook book, indents, copies over his/her last, transformed sentence, and uses it as the first sentence of a paragraph or longer story. (You adjust according to students’ needs.)
Day Five: Students help each other edit their stories. (Or on Day Four, you can check and mark their stories or conference with them individually.) Then each makes a good copy of his/her story with an illustration if desired.
This activity only takes a few minutes each day, especially after you’ve done it several times. Kids begin to understand parts of speech and sentence structure, and you can refer to this activity to get them to write better sentences at other times. (“How about adding an adjective?" "Can you come up with a more interesting verb?" "Please add a prepositional phrase.”) Gradually you can require students to do more of the activity on their own. Eventually you can just supply the stimulus sentence, and the hook book can be a daily, independent activity!
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
It's time for school to start! Here's a handy resource for teachers to use throughout the school year. (Yes, it's one of mine from ABC-CLIO!) All Year Long! Funny Readers Theatre for Life's Special Times offers easy-to-use plays themed to different times of the year -- first day of school, Labor Day, Columbus Day, St. Valentine's Day, a snow day, etc., etc. Check out this video about the book. (It's the first one I ever made using Movie Maker, a program that, unbeknowst to me for quite some time, was lurking on my computer!)
Monday, July 21, 2014
True Colors is a fun read with a good message. Author Krysten Lindsay Hager understands what it means to be a teen today, and she writes with an authentic voice. Landry, the main character, is funny, lively, and very real. Readers will relate to her struggles with friends and family, self-esteem and self-discovery, boys and school and life in general. It's fun to read about Landry's blossoming modeling career and the changes it brings. I'm hoping for a True Colors sequel so I can find out what happens next for Landry!
Thursday, July 10, 2014
I really enjoyed Reporting Under Fire – 16 Daring Women War Correspondents and Photojournalists by my talented author friend Kerrie Logan Hollihan. The extensive research behind the book is impressive, but Kerrie does more than just lay out the facts about these female journalists. She places each woman in historical context and helps readers relate to the culture, the events, and the issues of her times. With skillful storytelling, entertaining anecdotes, powerful quotes, and intriguing photos, Kerrie brings these sixteen inspiring women to life for both young and adult readers. I highly recommend this fascinating book! Get it here.