Money Trouble: A Reader's Theater Script

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SWBAT identify key details in the text and read the text with expression by acknowledging characters' points of view.

Big Idea

Take the show on the road! Reader's theater “enriches” our study of money and banks. Students will role play opposing points of view.

Get Ready

30 minutes

My class loves to perform. When I discovered Money Trouble on the ReadingAtoZ site, I was excited by the possibilities I saw for my students to enjoy creating a performance and deepen their knowledge about the purpose of banks. This related directly to my states social studies standards about services in a community and was an extension of our money unit that addressed the CCSS for math.  The fact that this is READER’S THEATER also meant that I could address ELA standards as well. I don’t know who I was more excited for; me or my students!

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As I read through the script, I made some notes about what standards I could teach using the play. I decided that Money Trouble was a positive text choice for many reasons:

  • It's a grade level text, so most students will be able to participate, and challenged readers will be supported with fluency.
  •  It provides practice in speaking and listening.
  • The topic extends our study of banks and our money unit.
  • It matches CCSS because students must identify the key details to fill out the outline,and practicing character voices talking about the same thing acknowledges differences in points of view.

I think my excitement was contagious! Here’s what I did:

  • I gathered students to the rug.
  • I divided students into heterogeneous groups of five students each.
  • I made sure all students have a script.
  • First read – task is to get fluent and learn the features of a play (for example, no quotation marks or descriptive prose). 
  • Students read the script in “round robin reading,” going clockwise around the circle, reading whichever character’s line is next.
  • After the first read, I check in with the students for fluency and comprehension issues.
    • Are there any words that were bothersome? What does interest mean?  Any other words that need to be clarified?
    • What is the problem/solution?
    • What do the boldface words mean?
    • What is a narrator?
    • Who are the characters? What if the list of characters said “parent” instead of “father” and “sibling” instead of “brother?”

Get Set

30 minutes

I want to build fluency, and if the students are to actually perform this piece, they need to be familiar with the story and begin to add intonation and a little drama. Besides, getting to read something that you’ve already read builds confidence, and reading with a whole new group of kids builds excitement. I ask the students to stand up, mix up, sit back down. I use the knee circle grouping strategy with the added caveat that students can only have one or two students in their new group from their first group.    

Have the students start reading again, only this time let the children choose roles. Have sticky notes with Petula, Edgar etc one for each character in each group, so they remember who they are.  Have all the narrators stand and choral read their lines, all the Petula’s etc. Stop and discuss HOW the characters are saying their lines. What does “excitedly” sound like? How does the dad sound? (Stern)

Finish reading the play all together. 

Go To Work

20 minutes

I mix the kids up again, using the knee circle strategy.  I don't worry if they are in groups with "repeating" friends.

This time I give each group a Story Outline on a clipboard and five different colored pencils - one for each member of the group. The outline must have all five colors on it.

I direct the groups to start with the tallest member and begin filling out the blanks in the outline. 

Each student should read the section heading, and ask the others in the group what should be entered.  Encourage students to use the look-back strategy to find evidence of their answers.  After the blank is completed, pass the clipboard and a new member fills out the next bit.  This will give the students practice CCSS SL2 - describing key details from a text read aloud.


Actually performing the play for live audiences is really closure for this lesson. As the audience claps, my hope is that the sense of accomplishment solidify confidence, joy and understanding as plays as written expression of authors' purpose.

I tell the students that they have done such a good job on this play that they may go to perform it for other classes. I do make this optional, because some students would rather not, and I have mined a lot of learning from this activity.

This part of the lesson can be completed now or continued later. I let my students choose performance groups, because it happens that my class has friendships that aren't at all related to reading ability, so I was pretty confident that I would get a mix of abilities in every group. And because the roles were gender specific, there would be a mix of boys and girls in each group.  Use your teacher intuition. You might need to assign groups.

I called each group an acting troupe, and recorded which students played which role. Having multiple troupes solved the problem of a key player being absent on performance day - we had four understudies for each role!  

Then I sent out the email to colleagues - we've got a ten minute play - when can we come perform it for you? 

The students practice reading their parts in order with expression. When they feel smooth enough, they may perform for another class. (One group off to different classes.)  

I post the Troupes, the roles, and the performance times and "venues" (other classrooms) on the board. It takes all week, but all willing students get to perform.