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READ ALOUDS – READERS THEATRE

Kaye Lowe

Monitoring and Assessment

Four Resources Guideposts

First Steps Reading Developmental Continuum

Classroom Organisation

Engagement: Empowering Teachers with Successful Strategies

Readers Theatre is a form of minimalist theatre. Students read from prepared scripts either adapted from stories or they create their own scripts. They use limited actions and the setting does not require complex organisation or arrangements of props.

Readers Theatre provides effective models of reading and through group interaction around the text, learners gain an understanding of the elements of story, oral expression and the role of characters. It is a fun and interesting way to explore all the elements of story and students transfer texts – fiction or factual – into an enlivened version that is performed for their peers.

This strategy has the support of a group and the group provides the necessary encouragement and support for those who are less confident when reading aloud. The group rehearses the script prior to performing it and any assistance with unfamiliar words is provided at the time of need.

Engagement: Engaging Students in Purposeful Social Practices

Strategy

Readers Theatre

Text

Any adolescent fiction/nonfiction, novel, short story

  • encourages students to make sense of texts using the four cueing systems
  • builds on the knowledge of the group to become familiar with the text and then to present it to their peers
  • reinforces the importance of expression, projection, intonation, pace and rhythm in oral reading
  • reinforces that reading is about meaning making and is to be enjoyed
  • provides a model of what good readers do when processing print and scaffolds less confident readers
  • scaffolds and assists readers to deal with the demands of new texts and topics
  • presents oral reading in a non-threatening way because readers rehearse their sections and are supported by the group
  • provides a way of sharing stories, poems, plays and songs
  • creates a link between language and drama
  • incorporates skills of interpretation, composing, discussing, writing and reading
  • are short and concise and have
    – a limited number of characters
    – implied action
    – strong visual images
    – interesting and enjoyable storylines
  • cover a range of text types

Texts online

Storytelling, Drama, Creative Dramatics, Puppetry & Readers Theater for Children & Young Adults
http://falcon.jmu.edu/
~ramseyil/drama.htm
– a set of useful links

Readers Theatre using an Indonesian folktale
http://www.curriculum.edu.au/
accessasia/catalog/readers.htm

Readers Theatre: Dramatic Storytelling in the English Classroom
http://www.aspa.asn.au/
Projects/english/rtheatre.htm

Readers Theatre: Onion Tears
http://www.aspa.asn.au/
Projects/english/rtonion.htm

Teaching Ideas and Units
http://www.discover.tased.edu.au/
english/readerstheatre.htm

Especially for Teachers – Resources
http://www.discover.tased.edu.au/
english/lstrat.htm

Readers Theatre Evaluation, Readers Theatre Outline and Assessment
http://library.trinity.wa.edu.au/
subjects/english/drama/readers.htm

NSW BOS English K-6. Readers Theatre
http://www.racismnoway.com.au/
upload/1.%20Teacher's%20Notes.rtf

Four Roles/Resources of the Reader

Based on the Four Roles/Resources of the Reader developed by Freebody and Luke (1990), Readers Theatre involves students in the following repertoire of purposeful social practices:

Code breaker

Decoding the codes and conventions of written, spoken and visual texts, eg:

  • transfers written text into oral text
  • interprets words and associated meanings through dramatic performance
  • develops good oral reading skills through modelled shared reading experience
  • develops effective oral expression and intonation to engage the audience

Text user

Understanding the purposes of different written, spoken and visual texts for different cultural and social functions, eg:

  • listens to and shares the experiences of texts with others
  • explores varying interactions between characters according to the context in which the interactions occur
  • interprets and adapts texts ensuring that the group works towards a consensus that accommodates cultural differences
  • understands through experience that reading is a shared endeavour that is enjoyable

Text participant

Comprehending written, spoken and visual texts, eg:

  • interprets texts and demonstrates comprehension through performance
  • forms a shared understanding of the meaning to be conveyed through group rehearsal of oral presentation
  • listens to interpretations and explanations of others in order to enhance comprehension skills

Text analyst

Understanding how texts position readers, viewers and listeners, eg:

  • recognises the modes of interaction between characters and the variety of views held by the characters portrayed
  • understands that reading is an interpretative process
  • analyses the text in terms of characters, setting, and dramatic representation
  • considers the importance of the imagination in creating visual interpretations of texts

Four Resources Guideposts

Readers Theatre Guideposts provide a useful assessment tool.

Implementing the Strategy

Preparation

Select a script from the above websites or have students create a script from a familiar story. The story should have a strong storyline, implied action and no more than six characters.

Steps

  1. Form groups according to the number of characters in the story. Supply a complete copy of the script for each member of the group. Students read the script through together to get an overall understanding of the storyline.
  2. Students allocate themselves to a character role. On the second reading, students highlight their specific reading sections.
  3. Groups rehearse their scripts and decide on a minimum of props to support their performance. It is recommended that the props be limited to four so that the group has to prioritise what is important to conveying meaning in their script.
  4. Groups perform by reading their scripts aloud in front of their peers. The setting should be kept to a minimum. The best arrangement is one where the group forms a semi circle and actions are limited. As students perform, they should try to maintain eye contact with the audience. This is possible if they have had sufficient rehearsal time to become less reliant on reading the script closely.

It is also recommended that groups are scheduled to perform over a period of days rather than in one setting.


References

Dixon, N., Davies, A., Politano, C. (1996). Learning with Readers Theatre. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Pegusis Publishers, 1996.

Latrobe H. K. & Laughlin, M.K. (1990). Readers Theatre for Young Adults: Scripts and Script Development. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Walker, L. (1997). Readers Theatre Strategies in the Middle and Junior High Classroom: A Take Part Teacher's Guide: Springboards to Language Development Through Readers Theatre. Colorado Springs, CO: Meriwether Pub.

Fredericks, A. & Stoner, A.A. (1993). Frantic Frogs and Other Frankly Fractured Folktales for Readers Theatre. Westport, CT: Teacher Ideas Press.

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