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September 28, 2015

Increasing Reading Fluency With Reader's Theater

By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    Of the five components of reading: phonemic awarenessphonicsvocabularyfluency, and comprehension, the one that has garnered lots of attention lately is fluency. Many teachers struggle with how to work on fluency organically. One of the methods that teachers seem to favor is to send home reading passages and have students do a timed reading to see how many words they can read in the set amount of time. This isn’t an organic or fun activity for students to increase fluency or a love of reading.

    The easiest way to increase a student's reading fluency is to increase a student's interest. And I have found a dramatic way to achieve that end through reader's theater. Reader's theater has many benefits for students including an increase in reading fluency. Students' fluency increases because they are repeatedly reading their lines for a purpose. You see the fluency improve as they practice reading with the rest of the cast. They also have exposure to and practice with reading with expession and following the story arch. Another beautiful, added benefit is that students begin supporting each other. I have seen students begin to help others when someone forgets a line or moves in the wrong direction if they are performing. This, of course, helps build a sense of community.

    Here are a few things to keep in mine when using reader’s theater in your classroom:

    The Cast: Small or Large

    Reader’s theater is great to use during small group guided reading. Each level of reader in your classroom can work on a script over the course of a week. On Friday, each group gets to perform their script for the class. These short scripts that require just a few people are easy to find. 

    You can also use reader’s theater for a whole group activity. The larger the cast, the more instructional time you will need to use to get the play presentable, but the prouder your students will be of their work.

    The Scripts: Putting the Words in Their Mouths

    My favorite place to find a great script is eReader’s Theater. It’s easy to search by content area and grade level. Another place to find scripts is on children's author Aaron Shepard’s Home Page

    When I’ve used reader’s theater for a large group, I had to create my own scripts so that that there were parts that were appropriate for all students in my class. Check out my take on the fantastic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Voirst, and the classic story of Stone Soup.

      Alexander Book  Stone Soup Play


    Make sure that each student has their own copy of the script. Even reluctant readers will want to take home their script to practice, which of course, increases their fluency!

    If you fear that using reader’s theater will take too much of your instructional time, then find a script that also covers a science, math, or social studies topic. You'll be teaching cross-curricular with ease! Thanksgiving will be here before we know it, and one of the best reader's theater scripts can be found in Scholastic's spectacular First Thanksgiving unit.

    The Props: To Have or Not to Have

    My best advice is to give each student one prop. I count costumes as props. The focus of using reader’s theater in your classroom is to work on reading and possibly dig deeper into a content area so be sparing when deciding on a prop. Too many props or costumes can actually cause teachers to lose sight of the focus of reader’s theater. You want characters to be able to enter and exit the stage quickly.

    Crown Prop

     

    The Audience: How Loud is Your Clapping?

    Your students will work very hard on getting their reader’s theaters ready for an audience so don’t forget to invite others to come and enjoy the show. If you are using reader’s theater with a large group or you are presenting several smaller scripts, it is a great time to invite parents, administration, and other classes into your room to see all the good things that you are working on. Just performing one small script? Take it on the “road” and allow your students to visit a few other classrooms to show off their skills. Younger grade students thoroughly enjoy seeing what they have to look forward to in the coming years. And all students will be supportive of the effort your students put into their work.

    Connect with me, dad2ella, on Twitter and Pinterest.

    I can’t wait to see you next time.

    Of the five components of reading: phonemic awarenessphonicsvocabularyfluency, and comprehension, the one that has garnered lots of attention lately is fluency. Many teachers struggle with how to work on fluency organically. One of the methods that teachers seem to favor is to send home reading passages and have students do a timed reading to see how many words they can read in the set amount of time. This isn’t an organic or fun activity for students to increase fluency or a love of reading.

    The easiest way to increase a student's reading fluency is to increase a student's interest. And I have found a dramatic way to achieve that end through reader's theater. Reader's theater has many benefits for students including an increase in reading fluency. Students' fluency increases because they are repeatedly reading their lines for a purpose. You see the fluency improve as they practice reading with the rest of the cast. They also have exposure to and practice with reading with expession and following the story arch. Another beautiful, added benefit is that students begin supporting each other. I have seen students begin to help others when someone forgets a line or moves in the wrong direction if they are performing. This, of course, helps build a sense of community.

    Here are a few things to keep in mine when using reader’s theater in your classroom:

    The Cast: Small or Large

    Reader’s theater is great to use during small group guided reading. Each level of reader in your classroom can work on a script over the course of a week. On Friday, each group gets to perform their script for the class. These short scripts that require just a few people are easy to find. 

    You can also use reader’s theater for a whole group activity. The larger the cast, the more instructional time you will need to use to get the play presentable, but the prouder your students will be of their work.

    The Scripts: Putting the Words in Their Mouths

    My favorite place to find a great script is eReader’s Theater. It’s easy to search by content area and grade level. Another place to find scripts is on children's author Aaron Shepard’s Home Page

    When I’ve used reader’s theater for a large group, I had to create my own scripts so that that there were parts that were appropriate for all students in my class. Check out my take on the fantastic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Voirst, and the classic story of Stone Soup.

      Alexander Book  Stone Soup Play


    Make sure that each student has their own copy of the script. Even reluctant readers will want to take home their script to practice, which of course, increases their fluency!

    If you fear that using reader’s theater will take too much of your instructional time, then find a script that also covers a science, math, or social studies topic. You'll be teaching cross-curricular with ease! Thanksgiving will be here before we know it, and one of the best reader's theater scripts can be found in Scholastic's spectacular First Thanksgiving unit.

    The Props: To Have or Not to Have

    My best advice is to give each student one prop. I count costumes as props. The focus of using reader’s theater in your classroom is to work on reading and possibly dig deeper into a content area so be sparing when deciding on a prop. Too many props or costumes can actually cause teachers to lose sight of the focus of reader’s theater. You want characters to be able to enter and exit the stage quickly.

    Crown Prop

     

    The Audience: How Loud is Your Clapping?

    Your students will work very hard on getting their reader’s theaters ready for an audience so don’t forget to invite others to come and enjoy the show. If you are using reader’s theater with a large group or you are presenting several smaller scripts, it is a great time to invite parents, administration, and other classes into your room to see all the good things that you are working on. Just performing one small script? Take it on the “road” and allow your students to visit a few other classrooms to show off their skills. Younger grade students thoroughly enjoy seeing what they have to look forward to in the coming years. And all students will be supportive of the effort your students put into their work.

    Connect with me, dad2ella, on Twitter and Pinterest.

    I can’t wait to see you next time.

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