Reader’s Theater is often overlooked in kindergarten! I believe that skipping over Reader's Theater this is an injustice to our students because it covers a vast array of standards and is extremely fun all at the same time! Students love Reader’s Theater because it helps them practice speaking and listening skills and builds their confidence; meanwhile it is allowing them time to “play” while practicing re-telling stories with their friends!
Here is what I do to set up this activity!
I organize this activity from beginning to end by putting students into small groups. I am very particular about who is in each group- I think about who should have the main speaking role, who should have the supporting speaking role and who only needs a small speaking role. I go ahead and put the students into these groups in the beginning (before my second read of the story) so they can all listen for “their part” and pay attention with those who they will be working with by their sides.
After the second read, when they are in their groups, but before I allow students to do this activity in small groups or independently, I make sure to model what I expect from them. One way I love to do this is by creating Teacher’s Reader’s Theater with a fellow teacher- that way, both of our classes can see a meaningful example of our expectations (and we can have fun)! Basically, we play all of the characters ourselves, but we model using different voices, speaking loudly and re-creating the story in order. Once we have done that, the kids are ready!
Here is what I expect students to do for this activity!
Students know their character names and roles in the story.
(Sometimes I assign roles and other times I let students draw names or choose them. I like to decide, depending upon the story, how I give students their characters.)
Students work together to decide who says which lines and in which order.
(This teaches teamwork and respect for each other. I love having students participate in learning activities that help to build a more respectful culture.)
Students practice going event by event and speaking with each other.
(I like to have students get behind a table or a couple of chairs for this so they can really practice smashing in and genuinely working together. It is important that they practice because this means they are planning out their play while also talking through the story with each other. This is where some students will help correct others and I think that is the best part of this chunk of time!)
I monitor the students, watching and listening to their efforts.
(I praise good work and I correct work that needs adjustment. This is the time where I can hear students' misconceptions and either watch them clear them up for themselves or go and guide them through clearing them up myself.)
*At this point, if I notice multiple groups either skipping an event or mis-ordering the events, I will call all of the students back to review the story briefly.
Students have one final run through, practicing the following:
Use your loud speaking voice.
Change your voice to fit your character(s).
Work with your partners well and make your characters do the same.
Use your puppets, etc. to really SHOW the audience the story.
THINK as you create your “play!”
It's almost showtime! Students prepare to act out their story here following these rules!
Now, onto to show!
Students will go up, as a group, and hide behind a piece of furniture. Once hidden, students will get out their puppets (sometimes real ones, sometimes paper ones on popsicle sticks). After all students have their puppets prepared, they begin their play. Throughout the play, students must use their loud speaker voices so their audience can hear. Students are also expected to act out and move their puppets around, showing the main events in the story in the correct order. As students act out their story, I pay attention, watching and listening, while the other students who are observing will work to be good listeners who pay attention!
I expect to see students creating something similar to this one group's version of Jack and the Beanstalk Reader's Theater.
I pay close attention to students as they act out their story. I also make sure other students are listening; if you're not a good listener, you may not deserve to show your acting!
I am looking to see the following things from students:
1- Are your events told in order?
2- Is your team working well together to portray individual characters?
3- Are you using a good speaking voice when presenting?
If I am grading this assignment, I use a simple six-point rubric and send that home with students to share one area of strength and one area for improvement.
Attached here is a Student Self-Assessment for Reader's Theater that I like to use for assessment purposes!
Reader's Theater can be done for any familiar story. It can be made as long or as short as needed. Sometimes, I love to have students do this during inside playtime and let them have fun while also strengthening their understanding of a story-- the kids don't even know they are working!
Often, I like to take poems and have students act them out for sustained practice.
This is a great activity to introduce during the first weeks of school when we are working on reading nursery rhymes fluently because it allows students to work on mastering their rhyming skills, while also memorizing the order of events.
I like to use Reader's Theater as an extra station for students who complete their centers early. When kids are done working, I tell them they can come to pick a story, pick a puppet and act it out! Kids really like this because it allows them to act out multiple stories (that others may not have had the chance to act out). Also, using this as a supplemental activity for centers helps reinforce to students that they need to finish their center work! Using Reader's Theater to supplement centers or as a center really provides the best of both worlds for the students and the teacher!
Sometimes, we may want to teach students a script or have them read a script instead of using a story. This is a way to support students who cannot remember their lines OR a way to have some students read to be able to act. Technically a script can either support or challenge a student! Attached are some really helpful documents for scripted Reader's Teacher activities. The first one is How to Use a RT Script. Also, there are a few scripts! There is The Very Cranky Bear RT Script, The Three Little Pigs RT Script and Too Many Pumpkins RT Script.