Reader's Theater

      Reader's Theater has become really popular in the last couple years as a way to practice and perfect student's fluency and speaking skills.  There are many different ways to use RT in the classroom.  I have heard of some teachers using it in small groups during guided reading as a center activity.  Students practice throughout the period and then perform it for the whole class at the end of reading time or recording themselves on tape.  Below I will share how I learned to do RT.




Using Reader's Theater Instructionally in the Classroom


Using Reader's Theater As Fluency Practice for Homework


Where Can I Find Scripts?


Extension Activities for Reader's Theater




Using Reader's Theater Instructionally in the Classroom


A few  years ago we had Readers Theater as a Special (like PE, Art) with the Reading Specialist.  It was awesome and the kids loved it!  Here is how she organized a week and how I have copied her.  I usually do Readers Theater as a whole group. Normally, because of class size we generally have two groups with a different script each.  Normally I start Reader's Theater on a Monday and we perform on Friday.  I have found that a week is just enough time and students don't get bored.  Fridays are usually good days for other classes to come watch the performance.  So far I have been pleased with the organization and "flow" of doing it this way.


Day one: I introduce the scripts.  I like to use scripts that are based on pictures books (like A Porcupine Named Fluffy and Dogs Breath).  First I read the picture books and we discuss the stories and any twists or interesting pictures. Then I will read aloud the script as a model for the children on how a fluent reader would sound..  If there is anytime left kids each get a script and read the WHOLE thing independently.

 I really talk up how actors practice the parts over and over to get it just right. They may try saying things different ways to see how it sounds.  We are not memorizing these scripts but perfecting our voices.


Day two: Kids sit in a small circle (about 5 or so) and read the script.  No assigned parts, they just read whatever part comes next.  It is pretty much round robin.  Generally I do not do round robin, but for this activity I think it serves its purpose.  I purposely DON'T assign parts yet because I want all the students to practice first.  Then at the end of the day I try to let the kids pick the parts they want.  Sometimes two or three kids will want the same part so I get them to choose a number between 1 and 10.  The child with the number closest to the one I secretly choose, gets the part.


Day three and four: Practice, Practice, Practice!  We practice introducing the play (I usually give this to the student with the smallest part), introducing ourselves and parts (My name is ___ and I will be playing the part of the big bad wolf.), and standing up in our chairs and sitting!  I like to line up the chairs and as students say their parts they stand up.  We practice standing up first, then saying our part! 


Since I have two groups going at the same time, I work with one while the other practices and then I switch.

A great activity to do on these days is to video tape each performance (make sure you have permission to videoed each child first!).  Then watch the video as a whole class.  Take the time to compliment each other and share what we liked.  Then give time for students to brainstorm ways to make the performance better.


Day five: Performance!  We try to perform for a younger class, like a kindergarten or first grade class.


Using Reader's Theater As Fluency Practice for Homework

     Last semester I read an article about improving fluency in the classroom.  I have often heard of using reader's theater, but was intrigued by this new twist.  The teacher randomly passed out reader's theater scripts on Monday.  Each script had one part highlighted.  Students were to take to script home and practice it each night with a parent or adult.  The adult then signed off that the child had practiced.  This was the only practice that was done.  Then on Fridays students were given a short amount of time to work out the kinks (10-15 minutes from what I gathered) and then it was show time!  The students performed the reader's theaters for each other.

       The kids seemed to enjoy this because they liked to perform and it was exciting!  However, she also had students buddy read, and complete time reading passages.  The reader's theater didn't do it all! All this really impacted students fluency and comprehension.

       So I figured, I could actually do this.  It would take very little time to implement.  I will pass them out on Monday morning during our class meetings and give students time to chat about them and practice (10 minutes tops- we have our specials EARLY!) Then it would be nightly homework.  I don't want to make anymore copies than necessary (because the scripts are going to REALLY max out my copy count) so I will ask parents to sign the student's agenda each night they read.   If they don't read and practice AND have a signature, no recess the next day (This is a grade level procedure.  No homework= no recess). 

      As far as organizing this, I will:

Make one copy of the script per child as well as 3 extras. I will then highlight one part per script.  I will try to select scripts with a small number of parts so I can have about 2 or 3 groups.


Pass out the scripts on Mondays.  Students will STAPLE the top left corner INTO their agendas (with my help I am sure!) so it doesn't get lost.  Students will be asked/ told NOT to pull the script out so that it does not get lost!!!


I will check agendas Tuesday- Fridays for a parent signature.  Those without signatures will have study hall. They can practice in study hall.


On Fridays, students will meet in their groups for about 15 minutes to get it all together (However, I will give them a few more minutes the first go around!)


Students will perform for each other!


Since I teach two classes Language Arts we will alternate weeks, to reduce copying.  I have also recruited some other teachers on my grade level to do this as well, so we can share the copies (and copy counts!).  Most of the reader's theaters will be adaptations of picture books (since these are the most available).  I was thinking, if I am feeling frisky, it would be nice to send home a copy of the picture book with one student a night and then have the students rotate the book so they could all read it before performing.  But, I am not guaranteeing anything!!!


Where Can I Find Scripts?

Here are some websites with FREE scripts:

Pages and pages of readers theaters to down load

Another great ones with tips on using RT.

Lots of different resources for all ages.


A few holiday and fractured fairy tales.

Readers Theaters from PBS.

several short readers theater




Extension Activities for Reader's Theater

Have the students create headbands for their part.  Students write the character's name on the band and then can attach pictures of things that represent their character.  I have been really surprised at some of the thinking they will do to come up with "just" the right picture. I only do this one occasionally.

Here is an idea that was shared on

Cute idea from the workshop, get an old white sheet or a piece of white/off white material, attach to the ceiling when you're doing a play and let drop down. On overhead transparency have kids draw a scene from the play that could be a backdrop and turn it on (behind the material) and you'll have an instant backdrop. The presenter said the kids just love it, and it changes each time you do it.



All graphics are from