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Reader's Theater Lesson Plan

written by: virtualibrarian • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 4/5/2012

This language arts lesson involves all students in a class taking part in simple plays that can be staged without the need for props, costumes or sets and with minimal rehearsal time.

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    Choose a Play Script

    Select a play script to use for your class reader's theater. There are a number of books featuring scripts specifically designed to be used for reader's theater and aligned with classroom learning objectives, but if you do not have access to or wish to purchase these, you may use any theatrical script or you may select a script from a website such as Reader's Theater Scripts and Plays. You may even prepare your own script from a story or a folktale.

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    Assign Roles

    Assign each student to a role. If the script does not have enough roles to go around, you may need to double up on some roles, or split them. For example, turning a role for one narrator into two narrators. If you have struggling readers, you could have them "role-share" with stronger readers, both performing a part in unison. You could also assign certain students to perform "special effects" roles like making certain sounds or performing certain actions as the script calls for them. Yet another idea is to split students into groups, and have each group perform its own play.

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    Distribute Copies

    Make copies of the script - one per student, plus a copy for you (the director). Pass out highlighter pens as well if the students do not have their own. Have everyone go over the script, highlighting their own individual roles.

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    Rehearse the Script(s)

    If students are working in groups, give each group some time to rehearse their own play, with each member reading his or her own role(s) aloud in a quiet voice. If the entire class is working off a single script, you may choose to skip the rehearsal and go straight to a performance.

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    Perform the Play

    If students are working in groups, set aside one or more class periods as needed for each group to present its work in front of the class. If the entire class performs together, you may just do one read-through, or you may rehearse and then present your play to a selected audience (another class, the parents, etc.). No props or costumes are necessary, but if you wish to add a little "window dressing" you may certainly feel free to do so - arranging the readers in a certain setting or using classroom items and furniture to suggest different props and scenes.

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    Assess the Lesson

    If the reader's theater lesson is to be graded, you will primarily be assessing student participation instead of critiquing technique. You can, however, instigate a group-led discussion of what elements of the performance worked, and which ones could use some improvement. Elements to assess include readers' diction and projection (could the audience hear what was being said?), entrance cues (did the play flow in a timely fashion?) and characterization. Try to facilitate such a discussion in a manner that allows it to be constructive group self-criticism rather than negative remarks directed towards specific individuals.