Teaching Reading Skills:  How to Implement Readers Theater



Introduction
teaching reading skills
Readers Theater is a fun, engaging, and effective way to increase students’ reading fluency (
Griffith & Rasinski; 2004; Young & Rasinski; 2009) and motivate young readers (Martinez, Roser, & Strecker, 1998).

We define Readers Theater as a group of students who dramatically read a text for an audience. All you need are some kids, a few scripts, and 5-10 minutes per day.

Although there are many ways to implement Readers Theater in your classroom, I will share a method that worked well for me and my second graders. Feel free to adapt the following to meet the needs of your students and unique teaching style.

Initial Notes/Selecting Scripts
teaching reading skills
I used a five-day format that helped students prepare for our weekly performances (see Young, 2013 for more details). Each day our rehearsals focused on different aspects of practice.

Before the week began, I selected 3-6 different scripts for the students to choose from. The scripts were usually of popular trade books, but I also included nonfiction, poetry, or speeches. In fact, I even scripted a few scenes from movies, such as A Christmas Story—the students really enjoyed performing the “flag pole” scene.

While you can turn almost anything into a Readers Theater script, my web site has over 200 ready for free download.

Five-Day Format
teaching reading skills
On Monday, I read the scripts to my students and they formed groups based on their choice of script. At that time, I asked students to read the entire script to comprehend the overall meaning of the text. In addition, the initial reading helped students determine which part they might like.

On Tuesday, the students chose their parts. It was a little chaotic in the beginning of the year, but remember, Rock, Paper, Scissors solves everything. So when your wonderful little people begin to argue over parts, break those hands out and try your luck at a best of three match.

As the year goes on, however, students were less likely to have issues. After the students selected and highlighted their parts, we focused on word recognition accuracy; we made sure we knew all the words and that we could pronounce them accurately.

We dedicated Wednesday to expression—often referred to as prosody. The students practiced reading expressively by calibrating their voice inflection, tone, volume, pitch, and added pauses for dramatic effect.

Students needed a deep understanding of the script in order to render expressiveness that matched that author’s intended meaning (Young & Rasinski, 2011). I offered assistance and also encouraged the students to coach each other with the goal of producing appropriate prosody.

On Thursday, we had a practice performance. It was a time for any last minute tweaks or suggestions from the teacher or peers.

Once the students were satisfied, we looked forward to the last day of the five-day format, performance day. By this time, the students had engaged in several rehearsals, a fluency building method we call Repeated Readings (Samuels, 1979).

Substantial research exists that promotes the method of Repeated Readings (Kuhn & Stahl, 2003) and Readers Theater research acknowledges the power of practice, but also includes a purpose—we believe that if you are going to read a text over and over again, there better be a good reason. That reason is the performance.

On Friday, we perform. But first, it is important to secure an audience. You can invite parents, other classes, administrators, other school staff, or take your show on the road!

Conclusion
teaching reading skills
Readers Theater is a lot of fun (my students and I can attest to that). But more importantly, it can increase your students reading fluency. Fluent readers do not have to focus on decoding, and therefore redirect their attention to reading comprehension, which is the goal of reading (Keehn, Harmon, & Shoho, 2008).

So, download some scripts, prepare your little thespians, and integrate the art of performance in your classroom.

References
teaching reading skills
Return to Top of Page

Griffith, L.W., & Rasinski, T.V. (2004). A focus on fluency: How one teacher incorporated fluency with her reading curriculum. The Reading Teacher, 58(2), 126–137.

Keehn, S., Harmon, J., & Shoho, A. (2008). A study of readers theater in eighth grade: Issues of fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 24(4), 335-362.

Kuhn, M. R., & Stahl, S. A. (2003). Fluency: A review of developmental and remedial practices. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(1), 3-21.

Martinez, M., Roser, N.L., & Strecker, S. (1998). “I never thought I could be a star”: A readers theatre ticket to fluency. The Reading Teacher, 52(4), 326–334.

Mercer, C. D., Campbell, K. U., Miller, M. D., Mercer, K. D., & Lane, H. B. (2000). Effects of a reading fluency intervention for middle schoolers with specific learning disabilities. Learning Disability Research and Practice, 15(4), 179-189.

Samuels, S. J. (1979). The method of repeated readings. The Reading Teacher, 41, 756-760.

Young, C. J. (2013). Repeated readings through readers theater. In Rasinski, T., & Padak, N (Eds.). From fluency to comprehension: Powerful instruction through authentic reading. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Young, C. & Rasinski, T. (2011). Enhancing authors' voice through scripting. Reading Teacher, 65(1), 24–28.

Young C. & Rasinski, T. (2009). Implementing readers theatre as an approach to classroom fluency instruction. The Reading Teacher, 63(1), 4-13.

About the Author
teaching reading skills
Dr. Chase Young joined the Department of Educational Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in the fall of 2013. Dr. Young received his Ph.D. in Reading Education from the University of North Texas.

His primary research interests include reading fluency, supporting struggling readers, and integrating technology in elementary literacy instruction. Previously, he taught in the primary grades and served as a literacy coach in the public schools.

Chase Young, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Reading Education
Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi
6300 Ocean Drive, Unit 5834
Corpus Christi, TX 78412-5834
361-825-3661 | Fax 361-825-3377
Chase.young@tamucc.edu




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