Readers Theatre With Jan Brett
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In this lesson, students in grades 1–2 interact with the book Hedgie's Surprise by Jan Brett and create a Readers Theatre that is performed for an audience. Students make predictions about the story prior to reading and listen to a read-aloud of the story. Postreading, they make observations about the characters, setting, and plot. The focus on the literary elements of the story leads students to create costumes, props, and sets for the final Readers Theatre performance. Although Readers Theatre does not typically employ such devices, the use of costumes and sets affords early elementary students a better understanding of the story.
Readers Theatre script for Hedgie’s Surprise: The sample script for Hedgie’s Surprise provided with this lesson can be used for the Readers Theatre or as a model for students to write their own script.
Aaron Shepard’s RT page: For helpful tips on conducting Readers Theatre and some additional sample scripts, see Aaron Shepard's RT page.
From Theory to Practice
- Literature-based instruction provides authentic learning experiences and activities by using high-quality literature to teach and foster literacy development.
- A guiding principle of the literature-based perspective is that literacy acquisition occurs in a book-rich context where there is an abundance of purposeful communication and meaning is socially constructed (Cullinan, 1987).
- Student participation in storybook readings (e.g., a Readers Theatre performance) increases comprehension and the sense of story structure, thereby enabling students to more thoroughly integrate the information.
- The element of drama enables students to realize that reading is an activity that permits experimentation-they can try reading words in different ways to produce different meanings. As they practice their roles, readers are also given the opportunity to reflect on the text and to evaluate and revise how they interact with it.
- Educators have long elaborated on the benefits of using Readers Theatre and related strategies for increasing reading fluency and sight-word vocabulary, improving reading comprehension, providing opportunities to interpret dialogue and communicate meaning, and increasing awareness and appreciation of plays as a form of literature.
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.
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).
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
Materials and Technology
- Hedgie’s Surprise by Jan Brett (Putnam Juvenile, 2000)
- Chart paper and markers
- Various art supplies
Session 1 Preparation
|1.||If you are not familiar with Readers Theatre, visit Aaron Shepard's RT Page for helpful tips and a few free sample scripts.
|2.||Photocopy a prediction chart for each student and obtain the book Hedgie's Surprise from the library.
|3.||Conduct individual prereadings with each student for a 100-word segment of Hedgie's Surprise. Use the fluency chart to assess each student's level of fluency prior to the lesson. While students read, use a stopwatch to determine how many words per minute they are reading. Also note whether students are able to recognize words and whether they read with prosody or expression. (Mark yes or no in each of these columns and add notes if you like.) You will complete the fluency chart again at the end of the lesson for assessment purposes.
Session 2 Preparation
|1.||Have a supply of art materials ready for students to create masks, puppets, or costumes. Some materials that work well are paper plates, paper sacks, yarn, colored file folder stickers (for eyes), markers, crayons, glitter, colored feathers, straws, colored chalk, paint, glue, construction paper, felt, tissue paper, and crepe paper. Any other items that can be used as art supplies would also be useful.
|2.||Since this can be a messy activity, it is best to have one group working on their costumes at a time. Plan center activities to engage the other groups when they are not creating their costumes.
Session 3 Preparation
Have a supply of art materials ready, this time so students can create multiple sets for the Readers Theatre performance. Some materials that work well are colored butcher paper or bulletin board paper, construction paper, markers, crayons, glue, and scissors.
Session 4 Preparation
Review and make student copies of the Readers Theatre script for Hedgie's Surprise that is provided with this lesson. You may have students read from this script or create their own script (although this will add considerably to the estimated lesson time). Also, photocopy a sequencing chart for each student.
- Engage in a storybook read-aloud by making predictions prereading, listening to the story during reading, and making observations about the characters, setting, and plot postreading
- Demonstrate an understanding of text structure by retelling and sequencing a story
- Demonstrate an understanding of the characters, setting, and plot in the story by creating costumes, props, and sets for a Readers Theatre performance
- Practice oral fluency in English by performing the Readers Theatre script
|1.||Show students the front cover of the book Hedgie's Surprise, and have them write or draw their predictions of what will happen in the book in the left-hand column of the prediction chart. They can write or draw several predictions.
|2.||Come together as a whole group and record some of the students' predictions.
|3.||Conduct a "picture walk" by showing and discussing the pictures in the book before reading the text.
|4.||Tell students that they will work in groups to turn the book into a play or Readers Theatre. Explain to students that to turn the book into a play, they must truly understand the entire work.
|5.||Read the story aloud.
|6.||As a class, discuss the story elements. Use the white board, chalkboard, or butcher paper to make a Story Elements chart, with three columns labeled as "Characters," "Setting," and "Plot." Record students' observations about these story elements in the appropriate columns.
|7.||Make sure to have students fully describe the characters and setting by asking evaluative questions such as:
|8.||To fill in the plot column, have students tell you what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of the story.
|9.||Have students return to their tables and write or draw what really happened in the book in the right-hand column of the prediction chart. As a class, discuss whether students' predictions were true, false, or partly true and why.
|1.||Read Hedgie's Surprise again.
|2.||As a class, list all the characters on chart paper. Describe the characters' physical attributes as well as their personalities, and write these characteristics beside the characters' names. Make sure to include minor characters such as the goslings, the rooster, and the chicks.
|3.||Divide the class into small groups of 6 to 10 students each.
|4.||Within the groups, each student can elect which character he or she would like to play. Have students write their names by the characters on the chart paper. There may not be enough parts for everyone to have their own character, so students may need to share roles.
|5.||Still working in groups, each student can use the art supplies to create a mask, puppet, or costume that represents his or her character. Make sure students write the names of their characters, as well as their own names, onto their masks, puppets, or costumes.
|6.||Store the masks, puppets, or costumes until Session 5.
|1.||Have students help you orally summarize Hedgie's Surprise. As a class, come up with a one- or two-sentence summary of the story and record it on the board.
|2.||Remind students that the setting or the set is where the action of the Readers Theatre takes place and that there are often many settings in one story.
|3.||Have students list the different settings from the book and, if necessary, conduct a "picture walk" to remind students of different areas such as the henhouse, Hedgie's house, the pond, and the hayloft.
|4.||Decide as a class which settings the students will construct, and have students form the same groups from Session 2.
|5.||Assign different student groups to create each set by having them design a sheet of bulletin board paper using markers and construction paper to create the scene from the book. Make sure students label (e.g., "Hedgie's house") and sign the set that they created.
|6.||Hang sets in the area of the room in which students will perform the Readers Theatre.
|1.||Reread Hedgie's Surprise to the students.
|2.||Tell students that they need to make sure they understand the order of the story. Discuss and list the main events of the story in order.
|3.||Have students write or draw the beginning, middle, and end of the story on the sequencing chart.
|4.||Explain the terms script and rehearsal. Have groups practice the Readers Theatre script for Hedgie's Surprise. Help students rehearse what they are scripted to say. At this point, they will know the book well and should know when it is their turn to talk.
Note: Have groups practice their Readers Theatre performances during this session and throughout the day when they have free time. Ideally, each group should read through the script about four times before the final performance.
|1.||Have students put on their masks, puppets, or costumes.
|2.||Quickly review the book and script with the class.
|3.||Have each group perform the Readers Theatre for an audience—either the other groups in your class or other classes in the school.
|4.||Lead a whole-class discussion about what students liked most about the performances and how they felt when performing. Have students illustrate and write about whether they better understood the story through the Readers Theatre experience.
- Have students read Hedgie's Surprise Newsnotes to get a better understanding of how Jan Brett came up the ideas for her story. Ask students to bring in photographs or magazine pictures of their favorite animals or places. Have them create a collage from the pictures and include notes about each one (much like Jan Brett's online newsnotes). Then have students write their own stories using the ideas from their notes.
- Students can send Jan Brett a letter online and tell her about their Readers Theatre experience.
- Students can write their own Readers Theatre script for another book using the tips on Aaron Shepard's RT page.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Conduct informal assessments throughout the Readers Theatre experience using students' sequencing charts, prediction charts, costumes, and sets. Keep anecdotal records for individual students to determine how well they connect character and set creation to the actual text.
- After the Readers Theatre performance, have students read a 100-word segment of the book Hedgie's Surprise, recording his or her fluency on the fluency chart. Compare student's fluency before and after the lesson to see if he or she has improved.
Students who work together as a team seem to develop camaraderie and strive to do their best. Working together to practice the parts of the play and creating their own simple settings and costumes, builds a confidence and trust in students. When students are comfortable with their fluency, they tend to enjoy reading. Thank you for this lesson!