Reading comprehension worksheets, BORING! Listening to that one student struggle to read that paragraph ONE.MORE.TIME, BRUTAL!

But you gotta get your kiddos reading better, right?

Readers’ Theater to the Rescue!!!!!!

readers' theaters

Now we all know that some of our little student darlings can sometimes be a little dramatic.

There’s little so-and-so exaggerating that “injury” from recess, and little miss so-and-so giving you an Oscar performance about why her homework is late (or missing) once again!

Doing a readers’ theater script will be right up their alley. 😛

Readers’ theaters are great for not only helping students improve reading comprehension, reading fluency, accuracy, and expression, but they’re actually a lot of fun to do!

Your “dramatic” kiddos will finally have a stage to flex their acting chops (cabbage patch dance! HEY!!)

So What Exactly is a Readers’ Theater Script?

So let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

In a nutshell, readers’ theaters are short plays that focus on vocal rather than visual expression. There’s no need for students to memorize lines or create fancy costumes (can we say low maintenance?!)

The focus is on helping students gain reading fluency, accuracy, and expression. 

The comprehension part comes in when a readers’ theater is used to learn about concepts related to social studies, science, math, and/or literacy.

Readers’ theater scripts are FUN and enrich students’ understanding of a variety of academic subjects. This is done by bringing content to life through the use of imagination and (organized) play!

These scripts are flexible teaching resources and can be used in your lessons a bunch of different ways!

Get a FREE Math (Shapes & Solids) Reader’s Theater Script! Perfect for Grades 3-5!

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A Readers’ Theater is Best for Which Grade Levels and Subject Areas?

A readers’ theater can be adapted for any grade level and for any subject area. Use them for math, science, social studies, and of course, literacy.

How Do I Get Started with a Readers’ Theater?

First, you need a script.

The script that you choose will depend on the age of your students, the number of students that are going to present the readers’ theater, and also your teaching objectives.

If you simply want to use a readers’ theater to improve students’ reading comprehension, fluency, accuracy, and expression, then any readers’ theater script will do~ just as long as it is of some interest to students and more or less on their reading level.

If you, however, want to focus on a specific content objective (e.g. learning about the solar system), then choose a readers’ theater focused on that topic.

math readers theater scripts free

Photo Credit: Lorelyn Medina, Shutterstock.com

Readers’  theaters focused on content are called content-based readers’ theaters.

Students learn about specific content objectives in addition to improving their reading comprehension skills. This is a WIN-WIN situation!

Where can you find readers’ theater scripts?

Find them online or create your own.

Check out my growing collection of readers’ theater scripts!

So, How Do You Do a Readers’ Theater?

Once you have decided on a script, begin practicing it with students.

Ideally, practice the readers’ theater several times and for many purposes.

Students’ fluency, accuracy, expression, and comprehension of the text will improve after each read.

1.  Introduce the Script

First, do the readers’ theater as a “Read Aloud” to model for students what good reading fluency, accuracy, and expression sounds like.

Modeling to students several times how to read the script before they practice it with their peers or by themselves is very important. They need to hear the expressions and tones of the different characters in the script.

They may also have questions about the pronunciation of words in italics or words written in parenthesis. These are great teachable moments!

For younger readers, modeling the presence of punctuation is equally important.

Some students have a hard time paying attention to periods, commas, etc. while reading. Hearing a well-spoken model is super important.

2.  Guided Practice

After modeling for students, do the readers’ theater as a “shared reading” with the whole class.

Shared reading is reading the play with students. Because this is practice, they can read from their desks.

If you are having students do a readers’ theater only for improving reading comprehension, fluency, and accuracy, do a few reads with them, and then have them practice in pairs or independently.

If the script is content-based, focus on learning the content within the script. As the script is read, pause for discussion of concepts and of key/bold vocabulary.

If possible, use tangible objects to help deepen the concept for students. Basically, you are using the readers’ theater script as a reading text. Super!

Repeated readings of the script, but with a different purpose, are so beneficial.

For one read, you may focus on reading fluency or expression, for another read, the content objectives, and so on.

How often you read the script with your class depends on their specific academic needs.

3.  Independent Practice

Once you’ve had many opportunities to read the script with the class, it is now time for students to practice independently from you.

  • Divide students into two or three groups. Within each group, assign each student an individual part from the script.
  • Adjust parts as needed based on the number of students in your class.
  • Have students practice their parts with their group. The focus is on reading with fluency, accuracy, and expression.
  • Monitor and assist students with vocal expression as needed.

As students practice the script daily (in class and/or for homework), have them complete accompanying activities if the script comes with additional reading comprehension exercises.

Have students practice the readers’ theater for about ten to fifteen minutes daily in class with their group.

Monitor and facilitate as needed.

How many days or class periods you spend doing these steps will depend on the needs of your class and the makeup of your daily teaching schedule.

readers' theaters

How Do Students Present the Readers’ Theater?

You, the teacher, decide when students present the reader’s theater to peers or to other groups of individuals.

  • Readers’ theaters are usually presented in front of an audience~another class, parents, or class peers~in the classroom.
  • Students stand in a straight line, facing their audience.
  • Position them by the order of characters in the script.
  • Make sure that each reader has a script with his or her individual parts highlighted.
  • When presenting, students place individual scripts on clipboards or inside folders to give a more “fancy” look.

This short and sweet video shows the gist of presenting a readers’ theater.

Get a FREE Math (Shapes & Solids) Reader’s Theater Script! Perfect for Grades 3-5!

As a subscriber, you’ll also get 24/7 Access to the FREE content library, sneak peeks of new featured products, and occasional promotional emails.

Extra Tips for Your Readers’ Theater to Be a Success!

  • Change character names within the script if students wish.
  • Use visuals such as props, scenery, and/or simple costumes to add more context.
  • Some readers’ theater scripts have more or fewer characters than the total number of students in your class.  Have students with fewer lines take on other roles or tasks. They could be in charge of creating simple props. If you have more characters than students, have students read the parts of two roles.

Let’s Wrap This Up!

Done well, readers’ theaters will definitely boost your students’ reading comprehension, reading fluency, accuracy, and expression skills.

And with content-based readers’ theaters, the benefits are even greater!

You’ll have fewer headaches in helping your kiddos improve their reading, and they’ll be happy to be getting some positive attention!

There’s flexibility in how you present a readers’ theater to your students. They can even be used as a text for literature circles!

Use your imagination and expertise, and let me know how it goes!

Don’t forget to check out Curriculum Chef’s selection of cool reader’s theater scripts!

In the meantime,

Happy teaching and learning!

~Missi

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