Reading in the elementary classroom looks different across the day and across subject areas, while also serving different purposes. Reading is conducted in whole and small groups with a goal to improve comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and vocabulary with a focus to either inform, persuade, or to entertain. Both whole group and small group reading instruction promotes critical thinking skills, practice synthesizing information, and working in collaboration with others. There are a variety of texts that support the different reading purposes and goals in the classroom, as well as a variety of leveled texts for more targeted instruction. One key instructional tool that addresses all of the above, in addition to promoting flexible grouping, performing in front of an audience as well as self-assessment and reflection, are reader’s theater performances. Through this modality of reading, students engage with text and content in authentic and exciting ways, and become intrinsically motivated to perform well based on the social nature of this reading method. Reader’s Theater is an engaging reading method where one does not memorize a script, but is instead provided appropriate leveled text to improve fluency and enhance comprehension, whilst performing in front of an audience.
The addition of quality reader’s theater scripts to Sierra Expeditionary Learning School’s current book selection, would continue to support readers in invaluable ways, as well as further the reading formats and strategies with which the students currently engage.
All students are able to benefit from the addition of reader’s theater; both students who are performing as well as observing gain from the experience. Students who are performing are placed together based on flexible grouping criteria, including academic, social and emotional needs, and learn to work cooperatively with all participating individuals. Students take a risk when standing in front of an audience to perform, particularly when followed by dramatic follow up techniques such as character interviews, when audience members use questioning tactics to probe deeper into the thoughts or motivations of the characters. This in turn makes it necessary for the performers to call upon various comprehension techniques, such as inference, synthesizing information, and comparing and contrasting texts and characters; while also utilizing accuracy and fluency skills not only when performing, but also to communicate responses clearly.
In a summative assessment context, success for the addition of quality reader’s theater scripts will be acknowledged through improved comprehension, accuracy, and fluency scores as noted in the Developmental Reading Assessment or DRA. Formative assessment of running records and anecdotal notes of student behavior and skills, will help define success on a more regular basis. Further success will be noted through student engagement, participation, and excitement of the content.
Reader’s theater texts will be housed in the main office for all classroom teachers, and reading specialists. Some texts will be used in an integrated fashion with a current topic of study. Other times scripts will be used to support comprehension, accuracy, or the fluency needs of students while also promoting interpersonal relationships and character building.
All elementary classrooms can benefit from the use of the reader's theater scripts.