Engaging & Educating with Reader's Theater

Collaborating to Refine Key Literacy Skills

By Courtney Lofgren, Learning Designer, Learning Design & Content Development ; Tiara Smith, Copywriter & Content Strategist

Fluency is an essential skill that allows students to successfully navigate and comprehend rich, complex texts independently. In fact, it is this skill, in conjunction with others, that helps readers decode words with automaticity and ease and read texts accurately at an appropriate speed with expression. Though finding meaningful and engaging ways to build fluency can be challenging, Reader's Theater can be a great solution to encourage fluency and build interest in reading.

The Benefits of Reader's Theater and Elevating Learning

Reader's Theater is a strategy that encourages students to read and perform scripts to enhance reading fluency and comprehension skills. The scripts are often performed without props, costumes, or a set, making implementation easier and more accessible to teachers and students. When working with a script, students do not need to memorize the text. Rather, students read the script multiple times to help them accurately and automatically read the words. Reader's Theater activities also help students strengthen the following skills:

  • Collaboration: Reader's Theater scripts require students to work together to create a successful performance. As students work in small groups with assigned roles, they’ll engage in thoughtful cooperation, reciprocal feedback among peers, and open communication, strengthening new speaking and listening skills they never knew they had.
  • Motivation: Reader's Theater can be a motivational strategy for some students because it introduces them to the element of choice when it comes to choosing the role they play in the script and provides context for them to practice reading fluency. As their motivation increases, students will feel more inclined to put forth more effort.
  • Active listening: Students improve their listening skills as they track the text within the scripts and listen for context cues. As they practice active listening, they’ll be equipped to accurately respond and deliver their lines at the right time.
  • Academic Curiosity: Reader's Theater scripts are entertaining and students are likely to enjoy the time they spend reading, reviewing, and performing them. The experience these scripts provide are different from other fluency activities, as they engage students in multimodal learning that taps into a variety of senses.
  • Familiarity with a new genre: Some students may have limited experience reading drama or other genres that they have not yet been exposed to. Through Reader's Theater, students have multiple opportunities to learn about the elements of drama and other genres of reading materials and to acquire the associated vocabulary.

Tips for Implementing Reader's Theater in the Classroom

If you’re looking to implement Reader's Theater as a regular practice in your classroom, it is important that you establish clear expectations and routines that set students up for success. Keep the following tips in mind as you make plans to integrate this activity into your literacy block:

  • Provide individual copies of the script for each student to allow them to annotate it and highlight their lines.
  • Give students ample time to practice their lines before they perform to help them develop more confidence, which will translate to oral reading confidence in the future.
  • Pre-teach and review difficult vocabulary words that students will encounter in the script.
  • Assign roles or help students choose roles that target their individual learning needs and interests.
  • Provide feedback for students to ensure that they deliver their lines with the correct inflection, intonation, and speed.
  • Find texts that are appropriate for your students by considering their needs and interests.
  • Invite students to perform their scripts in front of an audience. Be sure to go over expectations for audience behavior, as well.
  • Modify the scripts to differentiate instruction and practice as needed.

Incorporating Reader's Theater for Interactive Language Learning With Raz-Plus

Incorporating a Reader's Theater activity into your literacy block is definitely beneficial, but it can be a little overwhelming at the start. To remedy this, Raz-Plus offers Reader's Theater Scripts that have been adapted from different texts to help students build oral reading fluency skills. Teachers can use these scripts as stand-alone resources, or make connections to the original texts they were derived from to practice reading printed texts and their corresponding scripts with increasing levels of fluency. As students take on varying character roles, they’ll also begin to understand new literary elements, such as motivation and characterization, while exposing themselves to new, more challenging vocabulary words, strengthening their listening skills, and deepening their understanding of the text.

Reader's Theater: Where Imagination and Literacy Converge

Reader's Theater is the perfect activity to help students develop a sense of creativity while strengthening reading comprehension and oral fluency. As you determine whether or not Reader's Theater is right for you, we recommend you check the Reader's Theater Scripts and other Science of Reading-aligned resources Raz-Plus has to offer.

Build Fluency, Strengthen Reading Comprehension

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  1. “Basics: Fluency.” Reading Rockets, WETA Washington, D.C., www.readingrockets.org/reading-101/reading-and-writing-basics/fluency. Accessed 15 Sept. 2023. 
  2. Bafile, Cara. “Reader's Theater: Giving Students a Reason to Read Aloud.” Reading Rockets, WETA Washington, D.C., www.readingrockets.org/topics/fluency/articles/readers-theater-giving-students-reason-read-aloud. Accessed 15 Sept. 2023. 
  3. Rasinski, Dr. Tim. “Dr. Tim Rasinski on Implementing Reader's Theater.” Literacy Connections, Literacy Connections, www.literacyconnections.com/rasinski-readers-theater-php/. Accessed 15 Sept. 2023. 
  4. Hoberman, Mary Ann, and Paul Fleischman. “Reader's Theater.” Reading Rockets, WETA Washington, D.C., www.readingrockets.org/classroom/classroom-strategies/readers-theater. Accessed 15 Sept. 2023. 
  5. Mraz, Maryann, et al. “Improving Oral Reading Fluency Through Readers Theater.” Reading Horizons: A Journal of Literacy and Language Arts, vol. 52, no. 2, 2013, pp. 1–20, https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/reading_horizons/.
  6. Carrick, Ed.D., Lila Ubert. “Readers Theatre.” Read Write Think, NCTE, www.readwritethink.org/professional-development/strategy-guides/readers-theatre#research-basis. Accessed 15 Sept. 2023. 
  7. Hoberman, Mary Ann, and Paul Fleischman. “Reader's Theater.” Reading Rockets, WETA Washington, D.C., www.readingrockets.org/classroom/classroom-strategies/readers-theater. Accessed 15 Sept. 2023. 
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