Making Stories Come Alive in K-6 Classrooms Through Role Play
written by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas
• edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom
• updated: 7/22/2015
Students enjoy hands-on learning, especially when it involves play-acting. Scenes recreated from stories aid students' comprehension, while providing an entertaining way to learn as well as including students who have special needs, as well as students who speak English as a second language.
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Teaching Tools and Objectives
When teachers in K-6 classrooms combine children, books and role-playing, magic happens. Magic is an essential ingredient in literature for children, which, when enhanced by the following teaching tools, makes dreams come true in the classroom. The following reading activities work well for all students, including those with special needs.
Here are the required tools and their objectives for creating a reader's theater:
Focus on the students - By creating dramatic interpretations (role-play scenarios for children) of the book, chapter, or scene being read, students are able to express themselves, in addition, all students can participate.
Teach by doing - Teachers model how to dramatize a story by acting out the details with the students; therefore, the students learn by doing what has been modeled.
FUNdamental Learning -Students, who are allowed to be creative, learn to a deeper level. They enjoy the work presented, taking ownership for their learning. This develops a student's sense of self as well as community.
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Task One - Finding the Book/Story
Personal Interest Reading
Begin the children's literature unit with stories that reflect the interests of the students in the class. This can be developed in different ways. For instance, prior to the unit, the classroom teacher can brainstorm topics of interests with students. The list created by the brainstorm can then be voted on. The top two or three topics are used to pull together reading materials for the class to study.
Alternately, the classroom teacher can have the students make a list of the students' countries of origin or heredity. Stories from around the world can then be collected and used for the unit. This is an excellent way to present literature in a multicultural classroom, as it allows the students to connect with stories that relate to their own lives. This unit can be linked to world history, as well, furthering the discussion as well as the learning processes.
In addition, many schools use "Theme" teaching. Books based on the particular theme can be gathered. For example, if the class or school were observing the theme of "Rainforests," books about the rainforest or books taking place in the rainforest would be gathered for students to explore.
Finally, the classroom teacher, if they have a prescribed curriculum, can have the students preview the books from the curriculum and then vote on the one or two they wish to use for their dramatization. What is important to remember is that children and reader's theater are a winning combination.
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Task Two - Model the Process
One of the fundamental theories of teaching is that when something is modeled for a student, learning is easier. This theory has been proven in classrooms across curriculum around the world.
Once a story has been chosen by the class, depending on the age group and ability of the students, the classroom teacher has several options. The students can choose to model a character, or with some of the students, model a scene. Older students or those in gifted programs can rewrite a scene into a skit for the class or small group to perform.
In early elementary classes, picture books would be used. Students can become the pages of the book by posing, i.e., recreate what is shown on the pages without speaking parts, or act out the story impromptu. By allowing students to give an impromptu presentation, they do not have to concern themselves with memorization, which can often be difficult.
Students with disabilities or students who speak English as a second language are more able to pose to recreate the pages, while students in gifted classes might memorize the lines. The teacher would read the text or other students can hold up cards with text for the audience to read. Of course, all of this would depend on the dynamics of the class as well as the school community.
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Task Three - Have Fun
Children's literature taught in a manner that students enjoy greatly is fundamental to learning. Learning, which is fun, inspires creation. Creativity sparks the learning processes into action. Students who are active participants in the learning process grasp concepts with enthusiasm as well as retain what they have learned.
Even with standardized curriculum, teachers can incorporate these free reading activities for a reader's theater to enhance the students' learning of language, history, science, culture and other subjects taught in K-6 classrooms.
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Some content in this article is from the author's own experience.