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)