Thursday, April 8, 2010

Readers Theater -- Performing for an Audience

You may decide to use readers theater only as a supplemental educational activity. However, you could be tempted—or persuaded!—to actually stage a performance for a real, live audience.

How do you make the transition?

First of all, rehearse enough that actors can read with good expression and look up from their scripts occasionally. (But don’t over-rehearse! This is easier theater, remember?) Be sure to go through the whole play at least once without stopping. Set up your first “real” performance with an audience that’s not too threatening; a group of younger kids works well. Later, you can try performing for scarier audiences like peers or adults.

After some successful readers theater performances, your kids may naturally move towards something more like “regular” theater. They might make more facial expressions, gesture, or ask to act things out. At this point, you could abandon the traditional readers theater set-up and allow students to enter and exit and to move around the stage, holding their scripts.

Eventually, you may discover that your kids are memorizing some lines on their own. They might even ask to drop the scripts and do a “real” play. Or maybe you’ll decide to encourage that yourself and move completely into “regular” theater. That’s a great experience for your kids, but remember you don’t have to put together a big production. Feel free to stick to the simple, traditional, readers theater format.

The closer you get to a “regular” theater performance, the more likely it is that your kids will ask for sets, props, and costumes. If you decide to use these items, don’t rehearse with them right away as they distract kids from developing their characters and improving their performances.

Is It Really Worth It?

Every child can benefit from theater experiences. Of course, plays about a particular subject matter motivate kids to learn important information, but theater develops other academic skills, too. Performing a play helps kids develop language arts skills like listening, reading, and speaking. You can also use theater to improve writing skills by asking students to rewrite their lines, add new lines, or write the endings to interrupted lines. (The last one is really a must! Nothing is more awkward than an actor pausing before he’s actually interrupted. If he writes out the rest of his line, he can keep going until the next person breaks in or until the end of the line if necessary.) Kids can also write alternate endings to plays or make up their own scripts.

Theater yields nonacademic benefits, too. Putting on a performance takes skills like working hard, setting goals, meeting challenges, staying patient, and cooperating with others. (And that’s not just for the teacher!) Kids experience a real sense of accomplishment from their individual successes as well as the group’s achievements. And the self-esteem they develop in theater carries over into the rest of their lives!

For more information on using theater, go to my
website and click on the "Theatre for Teachers" tab.


Laura said...

Theater is definitely more work for teachers if they want a polished product, BUT has fantastic benefits too- as you say!
Self-confidence and efficacy building..teamwork...and we can't forget fun!
(Just received The Stepping Stone Journals. I look forward to reading it. My nephew has my copy of Stepping Stones and we were going to review it together. That may have to wait until summer. This one I will do on my own. It looks great!)

dj said...

Yes, the kids get so much out of it. (I think the teachers do, too!) Hope you and your nephew enjoy Stepping Stones!