Readers Theater is one of the most effective reading fluency activities. Scripts are readily available making teaching reading fluency and learning it fun for everyone!
The development of reading fluency hinges on repeated reading of text until it can be read smoothly and with fluidity. Such skill is necessary to understanding what is read.
If reading is done word by word with lots of stops and starts, meaning is lost and children are unable to remember what it is they have read.
It is often the case that children leave third grade unable to read for meaning. Often responsible is lack of reading fluency. It is therefore absolutely critical that teachers not only learn how to teach reading fluency but also become committed to reading strategies to help fluency.
What is Readers Theater?
Readers Theater is a dramatic production - a play - in which parts are read, not memorized. Often teachers and parents misunderstand its intent and praise children for memorizing their lines when in fact this is counterproductive to its purpose. Improvement in reading fluency occurs because students practice reading their parts over and over until they are able to read them without faltering.
Reading with expression is an important aspect of the strategy making it an important skill needed for comprehension. The use of drama strengthens the learning and is especially helpful to those children who are right-brained.
Where can I find scripts?
Scripts are available free at many sites online. One of the best sources is, however, under your own school roof.
Partnering with another grade level is the perfect way to acquire them by having older children write scripts for your students to perform.
Some of the best I have ever read and my students' favorites are sight word scripts that were written by sixth graders. Of these, one of my favorites is "Priscilla," a fractured version of the Cinderella story in which the Prince finds the glass slipper, breaks it, and says, "You're hot, Priscilla, but I could never grow to love you very much. You're too selfish."
These sight word scripts, created by sixth graders, generated a great deal of interest among both my second grade students and the sixth grade writers. Children practiced their lines until they could read them fluently, then I made videos of their performances which we shared with the young authors.
It was one of the best reading strategies to help fluency because not only did it help my second graders, it also benefited the sixth graders and gave them a sense of pride and ownership of the project. It is one of the ways that
writing can support reading instruction by building fluency.
Readers Theater is the perfect opportunity to incorporate art into your teaching. If you can't find the time (though with centers, it is easy to do!) talk with your school's art teacher. Every one I've ever known has been thrilled to have a project to correlate with classroom instruction.
Just remember that these performances are not the same as that of a play. Resist the urge to have students memorize their parts because if you do, that defeats the purpose of repeated readings to develop reading fluency!
Here are some really breathtaking examples of scenery produced by art classes at our school. Enjoy!
Gotham City scenery
Rain forest scenery done by art class
More rain forest scenery
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