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Reader’s Theatre and Script Writing

Reader’s Theatre? Readers’ Theatre? Readers Theatre? RT? They’re all right and used interchangeably. So what is the main difference between RT and performance theatre? RT has scripts and actors are not required to memorize lines. RT does not need audience; the performers are enough.

Last week when we did Staged Reading, we had already discussed some of the benefits of this drama activity in building fluency and comprehension. I think Amanda sums it up pretty well in her powerpoint too.

Benefits of Readers Theatre

Benefits for ELLs

Having done a not-so-good readers theatre “unit” with my students,  I now have a few ideas on how to improve it. One suggestion is that the students MUST  try and read different roles before deciding. Students should not pick roles until at least the third day/lesson. If students fight over roles, pick out of a hat. Even if you end up deciding roles for the students, it will still be better that they had read several parts. When I did RT with my Gr.2 class, I had students take the scripts, read it once then choose their roles. This was probably not the best way to do it. In fact, I’m sure amongst themselves, some groups had already chosen their roles before reading through the script.  One of the main problems  was students not knowing when/where their lines were and when it was their turn to speak. If they had read multiple parts, then they would know the script that much better. Many students just had their heads buried in their scripts with their papers covering their faces – some muffling their voices- that it really took away from the effectiveness of their reading. Again, perhaps for some students, scripts need to be enlarged so the font size is easier to track? Looking back, I realize now that they also just did not have enough time and practice with the scripts.  Amanda suggests a 5 day/lesson schedule, but in Anthony Fredericks Building Fluency with Reader’s Theatre, he suggested students new to RT should have 3 weeks before performing. Looking back, I was disappointed with the “results” of their RT performances, but really they just needed more time for repeated readings. I’m not even sure why we performed them when we did- partly because I thought they were tiring of them, but there was so much more they could have done. Amanda also suggests having the groups decide whether they will perform for an outside audience or just the class, but all group members should agree to be fair. One adaptation for younger students (K/1 or beginning readers) is to write scripts with symbols to facilitate reading. Full scripts might be too daunting for little ones, so choral reading of poems, chants, and songs might be more manageable but still build the same skills with expression and fluency.

Amanda's 5 day lesson plan

RT Schedule for Beginners (click to enlarge)

RT Schedule for students with Experience (click to Enlarge)

Script writing

Ultimate goal: students write their own script (independently if older, in groups if younger) and practice and perform the script as RT.

First time scripting with students: have them choose a book (picture book, doesn’t have to be at their grade level necessarily but easier for purpose of turning into script the first time, later have them write their own stories with dialogue then turn into script)

Turning stories into scripts

To write their own original script, have students choose a setting, then identify/come up with problem and solution, identify characters that will be in the story.

I had never thought to do script writing this way. In my mind, I always thought it required taking a story and turning narration into dialogue- a substantially harder task. I thought a script could not work if the narrators had too many lines because then it would be boring. I had never thought it was enough to just have them read fluently within their own group and that would be enough. This method takes the difficulty out of script writing because it’s literally copying the text as is, but assigning parts. Amanda suggests using Narrator___ during the writing until you’ve figured out just how many narrators are needed. There’s still some room for creativity however, because you can play around with parts that are read by all or by two/three/four for added emphasis or certain effect.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Amanda
    August 11, 2011 at 11:43 PM

    Lovely reflections. I really like your idea of using symbol scripts for Kindergarten. Nice thinking out of the box! I hope that my RT tips help you in the future. Also, you do not at all have to do it in a week (you could take a month if you like) and I definitely would not suggest performing in front of an audience until at least January.

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