Reader's Theater Teaching Tips
Using the ScriptsYou can make the performance as simple or elaborate as you wish. For quick oral practice, students can read their lines while sitting at their desks. You also may perform reader's theater in the classroom simply by having the readers stand in front of the class to deliver their lines. You can even create a full stage performance with costumes, props, and an audience of students, parents, and teachers.
You will need enough copies of the script for all students. Sharing scripts often leads to confusion and missed cues. Have students highlight their lines. It is also a good idea to review and pre-teach difficult vocabulary. Allow students plenty of opportunity to practice fluent delivery of their lines before performing reader's theater. A quick check of each student's reading will help you know when the cast is ready. Coach readers to occasionally look up from their scripts to make eye contact with the audience and other characters/readers as they read their lines.
It is always a good idea to allow more rehearsal time when applying extra touches, such as costumes or movement.
Due to the nature of character roles in the scripts, some roles will be larger than others. To evenly distribute lines, you may want to assign multiple small roles to one student or divide one large role between two or more students. Feel free to change character names to accommodate gender.
Staging the PlayA few dramatic techniques can add an element of flair and fun to a performance. Encourage students to think about expressions and movements characters might make. For example, have students think about how people look and move when they are mad, happy, angry, or nervous. Have students practice facial expressions. If the characters are animals, have students practice animal movements. Allow them to create a "voice" for their characters. Let them ham it up and play creatively with the script to increase the entertainment value of the performance. But keep in mind that the most important purpose of reader's theater is to teach and practice fluent reading of printed text.
You can use portions of the classroom or the entire classroom as a stage. Students can use the floor, tables, and desks. Of course, make sure that students are careful and safe.
Use these simple tips to keep the performance smooth and entertaining.
- Make sure a reader is positioned within view of all members of the audience. It is important that the audience can hear lines and see movements and expressions.
- If you choose to place all the readers in front of the audience at once, it is helpful to have them stand in a semicircle so that each reader can be seen by all the other readers and by the audience.
- Don't allow one reader to block the audience's view of another reader.
- Remind students to look at, talk to, and react to the other readers/characters. However, the narrator may face and speak to the audience.
- As an alternative to having all the readers stand together in the performance area, you may want to direct the performance by having readers enter from and exit to the side before and after delivering their lines. Having readers move in and out of the performance area will require more rehearsal time.
Extras: Costumes and PropsThe face and head command the most attention, so a hat, mask, or makeup can work as an entire costume. Have students obtain permission before borrowing items from other people. It's best not to let them cut, paint, or modify any clothes unless you bring in special "costume clothes."
Students will have their scripts in hand while performing. Keep this in mind when choosing props; objects that require two hands may not be practical. Encourage student imagination as they transform everyday objects into props.