Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reader's Theater, An Overlooked Powerhouse!

Happy Summer!  I hope that everyone is taking a little time to catch some R&R while summer is still going strong.  Above, I am dropping my soon to be 4th and 5th graders off at church summer camp (sniff, sniff)!  We have never done this before and I don't know who was more nervous me or them?!  Poor baby girl was heart broken because sisters aren't around to play with her...good thing mommy is!  I have played barbies, read a million books, and played beachball volleyball...all before lunch!  Good thing I am a Plexus Powered mommy, cause I wouldn't be able to keep up without it!  These all natural products give me the health and energy to keep up with the demands of life!

I am a huge proponent of Reader's Theater in the classroom!  It does take a little creativity and organization to fit it into the elementary day.  I committed about 10-15 minutes each week and it was WORTH every minute!  The pay offs are BIG!

Powerhouse Pay-Offs

-Kids are excited about reading!
-Parents get involved, are excited, and supportive too!
-Poise, intonation, ennunciation, and authentic fluency and voice are learned through practice, repetition, and peer demonstration!
-Kids are empowered and aquire greater self-esteem about their abilities as a reader!!

These are huge benefits because kiddos who believe they can read are more willing to take risks and push themselves to become better readers!  What teacher doesn't want that for every student who walks through their classroom door?!

How it works for me:

In my classroom I dedicate a roster strictly to keeping track of who is assigned to what script.  This helps ensure that NO one is left out and keeps track of what scripts I have used that year (I try REALLY hard not to repeat).  In the beginning, I try to pick scripts by flexible reading groups.  This allows me at least 1 initial lesson to go over my expectations of a Reader's Theater presentation.  It allows the group to learn to follow a script, ask questions, etc.  I initially did this with 1st graders and it worked just as beautifully with 2nd---I have not yet braved trying this with my preschoolers.  Not sure how it would go or how to modify.  If you have ideas, PLEASE share!!  Our initial lesson during group time would also give me a chance to go over intonation and voice with my kiddos.  We discussed how it was important to read through and understand what your character was like based on their actions  (super authentic reading lesson!!).  We would also discuss what props they might be able to look for at home to help support their role as this character.  (in my letter explaining the scripts to the parents it is noted that they are NOT to go out and purchase props.)  Props are a lot of fun and add to the experience, but I had many students who never got into that sort of thing and that was perfectly fine.  Props were completely optional. In my experience, as the year went on and the kiddos grew more confident, I saw more and more props.  I had to eventually make a rule, that if you brought a "costume", you had to be able to slip it on over your school clothes---no running to the restroom to change!  (great problem to have to solve in my opinion--kids so excited they are willing to go the extra mile to present their script to their peers.)

The Schedule:

So a typical week would have been that I handed out the scripts with explanation letter and part attached on Thursday or Friday.  This would give them the weekend to begin going over their lines.

The next Monday or Tuesday I would utilize 1 reading group time to meet with my theater performers.  This lesson is essential in the beginning to "set the stage" so to speak.  If you have high expectations, like I do, it is necessary to ensure they don't get up their and read like robots or stumble over all their lines.  I'm not talking perfection---but I AM talking practiced.  In fact, in my class I told them that if they could not read their lines then I would become their character.  No one likes to have to struggle in front of their peers.  (this only happened once or twice, Reader's Theater is a pretty strong motivator!)

Then depending on our schedule that week we would present to the class on Wed or Thursday.  I would take pictures that I would post to my website, there was applause and bowing, and then we would have comments.  I would call on 3 people from the polite audience who had a compliment for the group.  Then I would call on 1 person who had a thought for something the ENTIRE group could work on.  (this takes training...if your kiddos are new to this type of feedback sharing, I would let them do the complimenting and YOU do the "work on" part.  Eventually they're coming up with ennunciation all on their own!  Easy, right?!  

I have such fond memories of our Reader's Theater times!  Here are a few of the pictures I dug up from years past.
sometimes I would use the smart board to project an image.  Especially if we were doing a nonfiction Reader's Theater!  The kiddos LOVED this!

 Can you guess what we need to work on here?  If you guessed eye contact and not hiding behind your script, you are right!  Always an unending battle!!

 Before our first few presentations we would always review what appropriate "audience" behavior looked like and sounded like.

Eventually if I did not have an image that needed projected.  I would just project the stage template found in the images on notebook software.

I hope this helps to either affirm or inspire YOU to utilize the reading powerhouse of Reader's Theater in YOUR classroom!