Using Reader's Theater With Kids, Part 1
Have you thought about using Reader's Theater with your kids? What exactly is Reader's Theater anyway?
Strictly speaking, Reader's Theater involves children reading aloud a simple script based on a book or tale. There's no need for costuming or acting. The focus is on increasing fluency by having kids rehearse and read aloud material they already know well. Children don't need to memorize lines, but may bring the script to life with their face, voice, and gestures. However, often the emphasis is also on a shared reading from the script, rather than having an audience watching and listening.
When I work with children, I try to encourage them to strive for the clearest possible communication with a chosen audience. Sometimes this means departing from the traditional "rules" of Reader's Theater to add other features. We bring in costumes, and create props and backdrops. We improvise action or even add short rehearsed scenes to our script. We usually read from the script, but if needed, we deviate from that, too. It may not end up as Reader's Theater BUT what it definitely becomes is children communicating to an audience about a book they know.
Whether you and your kids stick with the tried and true approach to Reader's Theater, or incorporate my extras into the script you develop, I believe you'll notice great benefits. Children will strive to bring part of the book you choose -- or a shortened version of that book -- to life. During this process, they'll have opportunities to increase fluency and comprehension, to develop communication skills, and to make connections with what they have read. Via this process I've seen huge growth in children's social skills and self-confidence, particularly in reading and speaking. It's always such a joy to see children responding to something they've read, and sharing it with others.
Although Reader's Theater is mostly used in the classroom, writing a script based on something kids have read makes an excellent family activity. I suggest you start with something simple and well known. Children might like to write a script for a beloved fairy tale or picture book. Check out sample Reader's Theater scripts at Aaron Shepard's website before you write your own, or borrow my Reader's Theater script based on The Three Little Pigs, available for free from my website.
Reader's Theater immerses kids in literature. I love this quote from Judy Freeman on Reading Rockets: Reader's theater allows children the luxury of lingering over a story; acting it out many times so they come to understand all of its nuances. Too often, children read a story and only understand it at its most superficial literal level. With reader's theater, they're not just reading a story; they're living it.
In my next blog post, I'll share my process for creating a Reader's Theater script with kids.
Have you ever used Reader's Theater with your kids? What tips do you have for the rest of us? Let us know on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.