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Teaching Strategies: About Reader’s Theater

Janelle Cox

Reader’s theater is a fun way to get your students enthusiastic about reading. Students get to develop scripts, perform in groups, and act out and depict different characters from the stories that they are reading. It’s a great opportunity for students to read with expression and improve their comprehension.

All of this sounds great, but putting on a big class production may seem like a lot of work. You probably imagine that you will need to carve out a lot of class time to develop these types of teaching strategies, but in actuality you can make it work quite easily. Here are a few tips on how to make it work in your classroom.

These Teaching Strategies Just Take 20 Minutes

When you think of reader’s theater, you probably imagine a huge production that will take your students hours to complete. What you don’t realize is that you can fit the script into just about any part of your day. Here’s how.

  • In lieu of morning work, having students read their script.
  • Practice scripts while students are waiting to go home.
  • Use reader’s theater as part of your literacy center rotations.
  • Match your scripts to the learning standards of other subjects like social studies.
  • Have students put on their production first thing in the morning.

You Can Make it a Small Production

Reader’s theater doesn’t mean that you have to put on this huge production. You can leave the props and costumes out once and awhile, and just focus on the students reading their parts. Have students sit in a circle with their scripts in hand and take turns reading their part. Wait until you have a lot of extra time carved out of your schedule to create a big production where students produce the play, and create their props and costumes.

Focus on the Skills Students are Using

Reader’s theater is much more than just putting on a play. Remember that students are using the repeated reading strategy which enhances their reading fluency. It is also using cooperative learning, problem-solving skills, and not to mention the common core learning standards of speaking and listening. To ensure students understand this is not just play time, be sure to set some guidelines like these:

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  • Read with expression.
  • Speak loud and clear.
  • Speak at a steady pace (not too fast or too slow).
  • Listen as others speak.
  • Pay attention and be sure to practice.

Reader’s Theater Can be Adapted

Reader’s theater can be adapted for any age and any reading level. Students in 5th grade can really put on a great production, it’s not just for the little kids. Search or even create your own scripts that is at your students’ reading level. You can even mix and match scripts to differentiate learning. Here is a free reader’s theater script on Johnny Appleseed for grades 3-6.

Give Students Time to Practice

You can assign a script for homework so students can get acquainted with it, then allow students to come in in the morning and practice. You can always find a few extra minutes throughout the school day to practice.

Preparation is the Key to Success

The Internet is your friend when it comes to finding scripts. Teachers Pay Teachers has a lot of free scripts that you can download. You can also ask your fellow teachers or go on a teacher blog and ask if anyone would like to share with you. Once you have a script make sure that you make a ton of copies. This way you can use it year after year. To make it easy on yourself and your students, highlight the parts ahead of time. You can either laminate the scripts or keep them in a clear sleeve and place them in a three-ring binder so they will last. If you are lucky enough to have a teacher assistant or a classroom volunteer, then highlighting and laminating is the perfect job for them.

Reader’s theater creates a purpose for reading and it makes it an enjoyable activity. It’s a great way to bolster your students reading, listening, and thinking skills in a fun, interpersonal way.

Do you do a reader’s theater in your classroom? What tips do you have that work well for your class? Please share with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the elementary education expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or visit her website at Empoweringk6educators.

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