Recurring Lesson

Readers Theatre

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time
Four 60-minute sessions
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Students become excited and enthusiastic about reading when they are presented with the opportunity to participate in Readers Theatre. In this lesson, students develop scripts, perform in groups, and practice using their voice to depict characters from texts. Through this activity, students have the opportunity to develop fluency and further enhance comprehension of what they are reading.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • The use of Readers Theatre can offer a different context in which students are exposed to texts focusing on poetry, science, social studies, or other content-related topics.

  • Readers Theatre is another way to enhance comprehension of text, as well as to create interest in and enthusiasm for learning.

  • The Readers Theatre format provides an opportunity for students to develop fluency through multiple readings of the text by using expressiveness, intonation, and inflection when rehearsing the text.


Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

Materials and Technology

  • Chapter books or short stories that contain large sections of dialogue

  • Highlighters (various colors)

  • Music stands to hold scripts (optional)

  • Overhead projector, transparencies, and markers

  • Stools for Readers Theatre performers (optional)




1. Choose a variety of above-level, on-level, and below-level scripts from Reader's Theater Scripts and Plays. It is best to select stories that are well known to students for the first session. Make multiple copies of the selected scripts (enough for each member of the cast and a copy for you).

2. Review Aaron Shepard's RT Page and his RT Tips: A Guide to Readers Theatre in particular to develop a good understanding of using Readers Theatre in the classroom. You may also want to photocopy selected pages from these sites and distribute them to students as assigned reading the night before the first session.

3. Assign groups to work with selected scripts, keeping in mind the students that should work with above-level, on-level, and below-level scripts.

4. For Session 2, select one scripting sheet from Aaron Shepard's RT Scripting Sheets for each group. Make enough copies so that each member of the group has a copy of the scripting sheet. Choose one scripting sheet for modeling and create a transparency.

5. For Session 3,  select specific chapters or stories that contain large sections of dialogue from your collection of chapter books or short stories. Assign a different text selection for each group, keeping in mind appropriate levels. Make photocopies of the text selections for each member of the assigned group.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Reformat a text according to Readers Theatre guidelines

  • Perform a Readers Theatre piece

  • Read with fluency and expression

Session 1

1. Introduce Readers Theatre to your class. Give an overview of what it is and how it will be used in the classroom. Review Aaron Shepard's "RT Tips: A Guide to Readers Theatre," which provides tips on staging, scripting, and reading. Encourage students to apply these strategies in their preparation and performance.

2. Introduce the Readers Theatre Rubric and make sure that students are aware of how their performance will be assessed.

3. Place students in groups to work with selected scripts, and assign students in each group the role (or roles) they will read.

4. Have students use a highlighter to highlight their roles in the script. It is a good idea for each student in the group to use a different color highlighter or for students with multiple roles to highlight each of their roles in a different color.

5. Provide time for the groups to practice reading through the scripts. Circulate around the room and give assistance as needed.

6. Have groups take turns "performing" their script in front of the class.

7. Lead a class discussion on ways that the groups could make their performance more enjoyable for the audience, reminding them of tips from "Readers on Stage."

Session 2

1. Explain that today, rather than simply read a premade Readers Theatre script, the class will begin learning how to create their own scripts.

2. Discuss the following script roles:
  • Narrator(s)

  • Character(s)

  • Silent Character(s)

  • Sound Effects Person
3. Place the selected scripting sheet for modeling on the overhead. Demonstrate how to identify the specific script roles for the selected script. Delineate between narration and dialogue. Narrators read what is "outside" the quotation marks and characters read what is "inside" the quotation marks. Make a list of the roles.

4. Read through the script on the overhead and have students identify who is reading each part of the text. Write the name of the role on the transparency to identify each portion of the text.

5. Select students to read through the script on the overhead based on the roles that were identified. Adjust roles as necessary during the reading in the event a role was omitted.

6. Place students in the same groups as Session 1, and assign one scripting sheet to each group (giving each member a copy).

7. Have students work in groups to identify the roles on their scripting sheet. After all the roles have been identified, students should read through the script to ensure that roles have not been overlooked.

8. Have the groups read their scripts in front of the class. If any of the groups did not have time to perform during Session 1, make sure they do so during this session.

Session 3

1. Give students an overview of their task. Each group should create a Readers Theatre script from the text selection that has been assigned to their group. They will be expected to "perform" their script the following day. Briefly review the "RT Tips: A Guide to Readers Theatre" with the class to remind students of some tips on scripting and staging.

2. Review the Readers Theatre Evaluation form and remind the groups on the aspects of their script and performance that will be assessed.

3. Have students identify the different roles in their selection and mark them on the copies. Groups can then assign specific roles to each member.

4. Encourage students to use highlighters to identify their portions of the text. If one member is playing multiple roles, using different color highlighters will help him or her distinguish the roles and know when to use a different voice.

5. Have students practice performing their scripts within the group.

Session 4

1. Have each group perform their Readers Theatre script in front of the class.

2. Use the Readers Theatre Evaluation form to assess each group's performance.


  • Conduct a lesson on the Readers Theatre Rubric. Give the students practice in scoring other groups using the sheet. Students can then assist with the evaluation of the final performances.

  • Have students perform plays from the PBS Kids ZOOM Playhouse.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Assess student copies of scripts to determine if the text was appropriately formatted for the performance.

  • Use the Readers Theatre Rubric to assess student performances.

  • Each student should complete the Readers Theatre Rubric to self-assess his or her own performance.