What is Reader’s Theater?

In its simplest form, Reader’s Theater is an activity where students read a play aloud with the scripts in hand. They often do so without having memorized the script. They may not have props, act out the action of the play, or even move. There doesn’t need to be an audience besides the readers themselves.

Reader’s Theater can be used with scripts or stories or even poems. Sometimes the teacher or students rewrite stories in play form for the purpose of doing Reader’s Theater. This can be a great way to get students writing creatively.

Integrated Skills Through Drama Series from Alphabet Publishing

Why Reader’s Theater?

When using scripts written for the classroom like those in the Integrated Skills Through Drama series, the advantages of doing a script as Reader’s Theater are:

Considerations

As written above, Reader’s Theater can be as simple as putting students in a circle, assigning parts, and having them read a script. However, it can be a lot more involved than that as well. Here are some considerations and decisions to make:

Performing Reader’s Theater

Students can read for each other or for an audience from another class.

You can break the class into two halves, have them read to each other, and then discuss where they made different choices.

Because theatre is inherently dynamic, each cast will produce a unique production.

Extending Reader’s Theater

Reader’s Theater can be the culmination of the study of any piece of literature. After analyzing and reading the story, you can make a Reader’s Theater performance a kind of final celebration or showcase of the student’s understanding of the text.

Reader’s Theater can also be a prelude to a full performance. It can be a part of the rehearsal process in fact. Many performances of plays, TV shows, and films start with what’s called a table read where the actors read the script for the first time sitting around a table. They make notes of how they might read their parts as well as what parts of the script might need rewriting or adapting.

In fact, consider inviting actors to adapt scenes or add new scenes to reflect their changing understanding of the story. Perhaps they can improvise with situations that they want to explore. Ask what if questions, put the characters in new combinations, send them back in time or forward to see where decisions are likely to lead. In this way, Reader’s Theater offers a way to take language from the page and move it into the real world.

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