Reader's Theater

Written by: Brooke Vitale


Am image showing a short vowel sounds reader

When it comes to reading, there’s a big difference between sounding words out in your head and sounding them out aloud. There’s an even bigger difference between sounding words out aloud and reading them to other people! For some children, the idea of reading aloud can be nerve-wracking. They may fear stumbling over the words or that they will be laughed at if they get a word wrong. Luckily, there are tools out there to make a new reader more comfortable, and one of those is Reader's Theater!

What Is Reader's Theater?

Reader's Theater is a short dramatic performance of a story put on by students. In a Readers’ Theater performance, each student is given their own script and their own role to read. These performances are typically easier to put on than a play because not much is required in the way of movement or props. Rather, children are encouraged to focus on the script in front of them. Doing so requires students not only to read, but also to listen, focus, and work collaboratively.

What Are the Benefits of Reader's Theater?

There are a lot of reasons to put on a Reader’s Theater performance, but one of the best ones is that it is fun! It’s not uncommon for children participating in Reader's Theater to have so much fun that they don’t even realize they are doing work! But of course, having fun isn’t the only reason to put on a performance. So let’s take a look at the other benefits of Reader's Theater.

Perfect for re-reading

Reader's Theater scripts are meant to be performed more than once. After all, each interpretation of the story and each performance is unique! So what does that mean? That a student is less likely to complain about re-reading a Reader's Theater script than about re-reading the same book or passage over and over.

Develops fluency

Putting on a Reader’s Theater performance requires practice. A lot of practice. And that means reading the same text more than once. Repeated exposure to the same text is proven to lead to greater fluency when reading. The more a child sees a word, the faster the word gets hard-coded into their memories, turning a word they may have struggled with into a sight word. And more fluent readers are more confident readers!

Increases comprehension

In order to act out a story, a reader first needs to understand—or comprehend—what is happening in the story. Performing in a Reader’s Theater encourages students to ask questions about the story they are reading. It forces them to recognize the meaning behind the words so that they can put on a believable performance. It also requires a reader to focus not just on the words, but on the punctuation. To perform a story properly, questions must sound like questions, and sentences ending in exclamation points must be conveyed with enthusiasm. The need to properly capture the emotion in a sentence begins by studying the punctuation to understand what is intended.

Increases reading motivation

No child wants to sit back and let everyone else have all the fun! Even a reluctant reader can find joy in performing in a Reader's Theater, and the success they find is likely to encourage them to keep reading so that they will be ready to perform again.

Gives an excuse to read

How often is a child asked to read something and the response is “why?” or “not now.” Reader's Theater gives children a reason to read. It puts purpose behind picking up a piece of paper and sounding out the words. Because without doing so, a student can’t participate in the fun! 

Perfect for partner reading

While performing in front of a class is fun, Reader's Theater scripts can also be effective for small group reading. The script is already broken into parts, which makes dividing the reading up among group members easier. Even better, once the group has read the story once, they can swap parts and try again!

Charge Mommy Books is committed to getting children the resources they need to learn how to read. But we know that not every parent and teacher around the world has access to our printed books. That's why we offer  free beginning reader books and resource on our site. Sample resources include:

  • PDF downloads of beginning reader books
  • Reader's theater
  • Decodable passages
  • Phonemic awareness activities
  • Seasonal activity packs

An image showing Charge Mommy Books Free Downloadable Decodable Books, Passages, Reader

Tips for Getting Started with Reader's Theater

Model a performance

Following a script doesn’t come naturally to kids, so be sure to show them how to use it. Walk your little readers through the script, pointing out where each part changes. You might even consider partnering with another teacher or parent to put on your own performance to show kids how it works! And remember, emotion is everything. Model expressive reading so students will understand they should do the same in their performance.

Practice marking parts

While some Reader's Theater scripts will be clearly delineated by part, others won’t. Show your students how to highlight or mark their part so they know when it’s their turn to speak. Be sure they also feel comfortable holding their script—and following along with it—while moving around the classroom.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Give your students plenty of time to prepare. Offer time to read the script individually and as a group. Make sure they are also given time to practice a full performance—including the use of any movements or props—before the final performance. Watch these early rehearsals to offer feedback on interpretation, volume, positioning, and props! Consider leaving one copy of the script at school and sending another one home so children can practice their fluency.

Begin with short performances

As fun as Reader's Theater is, kids can get tired quickly. Start with short scripts they can get through quickly. Once they build up their stamina, then you can offer longer stories.

Decodable Reader's Theater Scripts

It’s not hard to come by Reader's Theater scripts, but do make sure the reading level is appropriate for your student. Words that are too hard will cause frustration, especially when read during a performance. Below are several Reader's Theater scripts that align with the Charge into Reading scope and sequence.

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