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Jersey City, New Jersey
|Strategy Guide Series||Performing Literature to Promote Fluency and Comprehension|
Readers Theatre is a highly motivational reading strategy that provides a context for authentic reading. Students read to convey meaning using their voice, facial expressions, and gestures. They also analyze and respond to literature and increase reading fluency. The only requirement is the script; costumes, props, and make-up are not necessary.
Readers Theatre taps the multiple intelligences of a reader and allows for multiple ways of understanding (Gardner, 1985). Support for the comprehensive nature of Readers Theatre is found in several reading theories and educational paradigms including those of Samuels (1979), Rosenblatt (1979), Schreiber (1980), and Slavin (1987). More recent studies by Griffith and Rasinski (2004) and Young and Rasinski (2009) indicate that Readers Theatre also promotes fluency and interest in reading. Through repeated readings of the text, students increase sight word vocabulary and the ability to decode words quickly and accurately (Carrick 2006 & 2009). The repeated readings allow the students to phrase sentences appropriately, read punctuation markers, and read with greater ease. This fluent reading enables students to spend less time on decoding and increase comprehension (Pikulsi & Chard, 2005).
The Readers Theatre script acts as an incentive to elicit thoughts, ideas, and past experiences from the reader. This allows the reader to read the script through an interpretive process and use both the cognitive and affective domains (Carrick 2001 & 2006).
Carrick, L.U. (2006). Readers Theatre across the curriculum. In T. Rasinski, C. Blachowicz, & K. Lems (Eds.), Fluency instruction: Research-based best practices (pp. 209–230). New York: Guilford Press.
Carrick, L.U. (2009). The effects of Readers Theatre on fluency and comprehension: A study on fifth-grade students in a regular classroom. Saarbrucken, Germany: VDM.
Gardner, H. (1985). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: HarperCollins.
Griffith, L.W., & Rasinski, T. (2004). A focus on fluency: How one teacher incorporated fluency with her reading curriculum. The Reading Teacher, 58(2), 126–133.
Pikulski, J.J., & Chard, D.J. (2005). Fluency: Bridge between decoding and reading comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 58(6), 510–519.
Rosenblatt, L. (1978). The reader, the text, the poem: The transactional theory of the literary work. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Samuels, S.J. (1979). The method of repeated readings. The Reading Teacher, 32(4), 403–408.
Schreiber, P.A. (1980). On the acquisition of reading fluency. Journal of Reading, 12(3), 177–186.
Slavin, R.E. (1987). Cooperative learning and the cooperative school. Educational Leadership, 45(3), 7–13.
Young, C., & Rasinski, T. (2009). Implementing Readers Theatre as an approach to classroom fluency instruction. The Reading Teacher, 63(1), 4–13.
Strategy in Practice
- Distribute and introduce the script to the students and have them make predictions about the story or characters. Ask students to follow along as you read the script aloud, modeling the appropriate intonation, volume, and pitch as well as varied voice inflections for different characters. After you finish, discuss the story and ask feedback questions such as “Were our predictions correct?” “What do you like about the story?” “What can you say about the characters? The setting?”
- Create a list of vocabulary words found in the script. Write the words on the board or large sheet of paper and refer to this list while reading. Students are encouraged to refer to these words and use them in their writing activities.
- Divide the class into pairs. Assign a specific number of pagers to be read, keeping in mind that a longer script can be divided into several sections. Paired students should take turns reading every other entry in the script, giving all students an opportunity to read the same amount of material. The students can reread the script and read the alternate entries. Specific parts of the script are not assigned at this time. This eliminates the practice of assigning the stronger readers the larger roles and the poorer readers the minimal roles.
- Circulate and offer assistance with the pronunciation of words and model fluent reading by reading with expression, using the appropriate rate, pitch, tone, and volume. At the close of the session, do a group read-around of the script, giving each student an opportunity to read one entry of the script or assign roles and have students perform a portion of the script.
- Depending on the length of the script, students may eventually work in small groups of three to five students with assigned roles. Everyone should be given an opportunity to read equal parts of the text. Therefore, a reader can read more than one part.
- As a final activity, let the students perform informally for their class or other classes. You can also transform the classroom into a theater and invite other classes, family, and friends to a more formal presentation.
Grades 3 – 5 | Lesson Plan | Standard Lesson
Water covers 71% of the earth’s surface—does it get the instructional time it deserves in your busy curriculum? Students wade right in to the study of bodies of water as they read and discuss science trade books and work together to develop Readers Theater scripts based on selected titles.
Grades 3 – 5 | Lesson Plan | Recurring Lesson
Students develop scripts, perform, and use their voices to depict characters from texts, giving them the opportunity to develop fluency and further enhance comprehension of what they are reading.
Grades 1 – 2 | Lesson Plan | Standard Lesson
Students in grades 1-2 use Jan Brett’s Hedgie's Surprise for a Readers Theatre experience.
Grades 3 – 5 | Lesson Plan
Students compare a book to its film adaptation, and then perform readers theater of a scene from the book that they feel was not well represented in the movie version.
Grades 3 – 5 | Lesson Plan | Standard Lesson
Students produce a Readers Theatre performance to compete to be named the Reading Idol. Students vote on the final performances and record them as podcasts.
Grades K – 2 | Lesson Plan | Standard Lesson
Students participate in shared reading, choral reading, and readers theater, using books by Bill Martin, Jr. Repeated readings and literary performances help students with their reading accuracy, expression, and rate.