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Reader's Theater makes a Dramatic Difference in Comprehension.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Aug 8, 2012 4:27:00 PM

iStock 000014325988XSmall resized 600Anyone who has spent time in a classroom of kindergartners knows that sitting quietly for long periods of time is quite an impossibility. There is a basic scientific reason for this: human development! For the first eight to twelve years of their lives, all children are kinesthetic learners -  they learn by doing and active physical participation.  For some children, especially boys, kinesthetic learning remains the dominant learning modality throughout life.  This is one reason why Reader's Theater can be one of the most effective tools for literacy and reading comprehension in K-5 classrooms.

Reader's Theater offers teachers an interactive method for improving literacy, reading comprehension, and expression.  By allowing students a chance to physically engage with reading material, rather than just listening and/or speaking, K - 5 students will have an easier time understanding the written word in an authentic context, while at the same time developing a positive relationship with the reading process.

What is Reader's Theater?

Reader's Theater allows students to physically integrate reading, writing, and comprehension through theater scripts.  There are no props, costumes, or sets involved, making it an easy activity to incorporate into class time.  Throughout the activity students learn how to read theater scripts and use their voice, gestures, and facial expressions to act out their parts.

Eventually, students can begin to write their own scripts to be read in class. Since many scripts have their roots in well-known children's literature, this makes them easily accessible to students.  Reader’s Theater also provides an opportunity for students to be exposed to different literary genres, cultures, and languages, which provide an additional global perspective.

What is the Goal of Reader's Theater?

The goals of an effective Reader's Theater are potentially endless. Some targets to aim for include:

  • Motivating students to read
  • Increasing oral reading skills
  • Boosting reading comprehension
  • Inspiring confidence
  • Curtailing public speaking fears before they start
  • Providing opportunities for enjoyable cooperative learning experiences
  • Exposing children to various forms of literature: poems, drama, comedy, etc.

What Would a Reader's Theater Look Like?

  1. Model Expressive Reading: Reader's Theater is a work in progress that begins with you! Teachers are often the first experience students have with what it means to be an expressive reader.  The way you read to your class can begin to prepare them for how to cultivate their own expressive reading skills.
  2. Choose a script:  Eventually, you will have your students creating their own scripts. But first, they must become familiar with what a script looks like and how it is used.  There are plenty of free Reader's Theater scripts available online:
  3. Teach students how to effectively use scripts: how to highlight their parts, read easy stage directions, visualize scenes/settings, etc.
  4. Do a round robin reading to get the flow
  5. Discuss the importance of volume control, projection, cadence, tone, etc. in verbal communication.
  6. Use groups to work on parts, share collaborative ideas on how to express themselves better, and create the dialogue flow.
  7. Begin performing for small audiences.
  8. Transform from Reader's Theater Performers to Reader's Theater Writers

For students of all levels, there is no question about the benefits of performing a Reader's Theater script. Students will be more fluent readers, will be able to accurately answer reading comprehension questions about their script, and will have a positive attitude about the reading process.  Reading theaters are a way for low- and high-level readers to come together, interacting both physically and intellectually, and experience reading in a new and exciting format.

For more confident ways to boost comprehension, download our Free Guide on K-12 Best Practices in Reading Comprehension, today!

Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B


Tags: reading comprehension, reader's theater

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