These last weeks of school are tough for student and teacher alike. The kids are dreaming of summer plans, but teachers are still hopeful of imparting a few lessons before break. Enter: Reader’s Theater.
Basically, Reader’s Theater is a group of people giving a dramatic reading of a script or book. Lines are not memorized. And there’s no need for props, costumes, special lighting, numerous rehearsals, or an audience (though they can all add to the fun). An added bonus: students in classrooms that regularly do Reader’s Theater often report an increased interest in reading and demonstrate enhanced reading and speaking skills. It’s a great way for shy children to participate without feeling on the spot and for class “hams” or “clowns” to get positive attention while working toward a common class goal.
I first became acquainted with the power of Reader’s Theater many years ago while teaching creative writing in a summer camp for remedial students (ages 9-11). They did not want to read and write, which they experienced as “boring” and “stupid” activities. But they did like connecting (flirting, chatting, arguing) with the other kids there. So, how to harness all this great verbal and potentially collaborative and creative energy?
I wasn’t familiar with the concept of Reader’s Theater, alas, but in desperation began having the kids work in small groups to write and perform dialogue poems (see my January 30, 2012 post on Dialogue and Two-Person Poems). The kids loved the performance aspect and were soon writing and revising more carefully in order to perform their best work. From there, they wanted to read-perform or essentially do Reader’s Theater with longer works and even wrote their own scripts (more on how to develop writing activities out of Reader’s Theater in Part 2, my next post in July).
If you’re looking for helpful books, scripts and resources, check the website of author/storyteller Aaron Shepherd. http://www.aaronshep.com/rt/ It includes more than 20 scripts, ranging in suitability from grades 1 to 10, that can be printed and used for free in the classroom.