Blog Posts

Readers’ Theater

Scholastic Storyworks
Cinderella: The True Story
by Louise Rozett and Monique D. Hall

How do you engage students the day before vacation? 

How do you engage students the day before vacation after two days of ELA state testing?

On Friday, I decided that READERS’ THEATER was the way to go.

Readers’ theater is a great way for students to practice reading fluency. It is not about memorizing lines in a play, the focus is on students acting out the parts using their voices.

I’m not sure that this is the “official” way to do readers’ theater, but here’s how I’ve been doing it for more than thirty years:

  • First, find some short plays. On Friday, I went through all of the Storyworks issues we’d received this year and students helped to choose one. We went with a fractured Cinderella fairy tale –told from the perspective of the “wicked” stepsisters. However, if you Google “readers’ theater”, you will find a ton of free scripts online.
  • Decide if the readers’ theater will be done as a whole class or in small groups. We went with the whole class option on Friday. 
  • No stage is needed…but students should be able to see each other as they read the script. For our whole group readers’ theater, we rearranged desks to form a circle in the room so we could all see each other. (Side note: Now, students want to keep the desks like this. We agreed that this arrangement would be perfect for the last few weeks of school.)
  • Because this was our first readers’ theater of the year, we spent some time looking at the features of the play (cast of characters, setting, stage directions) and discussing its structure (acts, scenes, lines/dialogue).
  • Students read through the scripts independently.
  • Everyone is encouraged to participate in readers’ theater but I do not make students read aloud to the class. Performing a part in the play is on a volunteer basis only. However, there is always a need for someone to introduce the play or call out scene changes. These roles are a great way for reluctant actors to dip their toes into the world of readers’ theater.
  • We had to get creative with assigning parts because there were more students than parts. We split some of the larger roles between two students.
  • We read through the play twice, changing roles each time.

Why Readers’ Theater?

In addition to being an engaging way to practice fluency, readers’ theater is also great for comprehension. With the fractured Cinderella fairy tale, we discussed point of view, tone/mood, and theme. Furthermore, students learned a few new words like promenading and ruckus.

Most of all–WE HAD FUN! My fifth graders now want to write their own readers’ theater scripts and perform them for the younger grades–which will be the PERFECT activity for the last few weeks of school in June!

2 thoughts on “Readers’ Theater”

  1. My 5th graders LOVE reader’s theatre. I save it for days like yours when I need engagement and do a bunch of them at the end of the year!

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