Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reader's Theatre (4)

In Reader's Theatre (1), I described Reader's Theatre as a great way to have kids interact with a story, as well as develop their imaginations. In Reader's Theatre (2), I revealed the Book Chook method for turning a piece of literature into a Reader's Theatre script. In Reader's Theatre (3), I showed you the Book Chook way of leading a group of kids to performance. Now it's time to discuss different ways to use Reader's Theatre.

Once your Reader's Theatre script is written (or perhaps borrowed from somewhere else - see * below - if you don't have time to start from scratch), what can you do with it?

Family Read Aloud

Reader's Theatre scripts are great for families to use in a read aloud time. Once you have a few scripts to choose from, kids can swap parts with each other, and unconsciously internalize lots of language. Everyone's reading fluency and expression develops, particularly after repeated readings. Choosing a script that makes everyone laugh is a great way in for a family new to read alouds. Little ones can buddy up to read with Mum or Dad, and reluctant readers might enjoy reading just the sound effects to start with. Kids might like to dress up to suit their part, or even bring along a prop they think might suit the story.

Radio Play

Do you remember the old days when radio plays were popular? No, neither do I, I'm too young. But I know the basics - it's like TV with no visuals. You can use a Reader's Theatre script as the basis for a radio play. Kids will have fun working out the voices they should use, devising sound effects and perhaps composing or finding introduction music. Once they've practised, they can record themselves. Programs like Audacity are free to download, and microphones aren't too expensive. Or you may have a tape recorder still at home. If all else fails, children can read their script while hiding behind a closed curtain or suspended blanket, allowing audience members to close their eyes and use their imaginations to follow the story.

Neighbourhood Concert

Putting on a play, with everyone memorizing their parts, takes a long time. Reader's Theatre is much quicker, and more accessible to a wide range of groups. Very short and simple scripts can be used at the kindergarten level. Parents make an appreciative audience, or kids might like to perform for the local preschool. If your library has book groups, or perhaps a special summer program for students, and you need an activity to engage kids, why not get them started on creating and performing a group script based on a favourite novel, or characters from a game? Reader's Theatre is also ideal because it allows for a range of ages and abilities to be involved. Tweaking, by say adding small extra parts for younger readers, or giving them signs to hold, encourages inclusivity. If there's going to be a block party in your neghbourhood, you have a ready-made audience for children to perform Reader's Theatre.

Reader's Theatre - the Movie

There are so many resources available for making little movies. Many families have video cameras, some computers have built in cameras, and some "still picture" cameras have video capability. Even if the performance is only you and one child, it will be fun to video yourselves using the computer camera, and play it back. If you're not happy with it, try again. Practising is a great way to build fluency, but you will know when your child has had enough. (That'd be when their eyes close, and they begin to snore!)

Once your kids have recorded a Reader's Theatre performance, there are post-production resources that enable them to make changes to the video. They can add soundtrack, add special effects, edit and learn many great skills while so doing. Software, like iMovie for Mac, and Movie Maker for PC, allows children to edit, and then share their creations.

For any of the above ways to use Reader's Theatre, developing an accompanying soundscape can be useful. The simplest soundscape might be a child clanging two saucepan lids to herald the arrival of a King, but quite complex ones can be built with ingenuity and technology. Encourage children to think about where in the script to use sounds, and how to make them.

Weave sound together in layers with taped music and voices, add percussion instruments, or look for great sound clips online. Kids might like to create their own tunes in Garageband, or with a keyboard at Kiss Tunes. If it's too difficult to use a pre-recorded soundscape, you might consider just pre-recording an introduction and conclusion, and relying on a real life sound effects person or team for individual noises.

Aaron Shephard describes Reader's Theatre as the "perfect combination of education and fun." I think he's right!

* In Reader's Theatre 5, I'll bring you resources useful to those interested in Reader's Theatre - places to find scripts online when you don't have time to make your own, as well as links to general articles with more information. I will also have a gift for you from The Book Chook, one of my own scripts.

Photocredit: Morguefile


  1. Latest post: Reader's Theatre (4). Some different ideas for using RT with your kids.

  2. RT @BookChook<wbr></wbr>: Latest post: Reader's Theatre (4). Some different ideas for using RT with your kids. GREAT for fluency!

  3. Kelly Burstow18 March, 2010

    Loving the family idea. Will have to try that.

  4. Book Chook18 March, 2010

    It's a nice way to add something a little different to family read aloud time, Kelly. Gets kids away from the screen and brings a focus on some home-made entertainment.

  5. Excellent ideas for using a Readers Theater outside of the classroom, I am loving the neighborhood concert and family read-aloud ideas. Thanks!

  6. Book Chook19 March, 2010

    Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for all things that make learning enjoyable, Kelly!

  7. Liz Dougherty21 October, 2010

    This is such a great site! I found it doing research for my Childrens Literature class. I'll definently share this site with my professor.

  8. Thanks for the great feedback, Liz!

  9. I'm so glad you shared a link to this in a comment on my blog today. You have great ideas here.
    I'll let you know when I link back to some of your resources and ideas in a future post on my blog or on a new Squidoo lens I create.


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