This post is by Ava English teacher Zak Hamby.
I always encourage educators to develop their own Reader’s Theater plays. There’s nothing more invigorating than seeing something that you have created bring about a genuine learning experience. Below I have highlighted the various steps of transforming source material into a reader’s theater play.
1. Choose your source. RT plays aren’t required to be created from “stories” necessarily. Your play could be a dialogue between the founding fathers or a series of monologues given by famous historians, mathematicians, scientists, writers, or athletes.
2. Adapt the source by adding dialogue. Once again, it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Identify your students’ current comprehension level and challenge it, but keep the language from growing too daunting. When they encounter your script, they will be reading it for the first time. Avoid extremely hard-to-pronounce words, or add a phonetic pronunciation after the word. If you are translating something that already has dialogue, you may need to tweak it slightly, adapting it to your students’ level.
3. Almost every script should have a narrator to give details through description. In a reader’s theater play there should be no stage directions. The narrator describes what happens when a character is not speaking. (The teacher should perform the part of the narrator to be involved in the play with the students.)
4. If a certain line demands a certain emotion, give a small direction at the beginning of the line. For example: (passionately), (angrily). Also, in any part that would require one, insert a sound effect. For example: (whoosh), (ka-pow)
5. If your play contains multiple characters, creating a cast list at the beginning is a good idea. This will help you remember which parts to assign. It’s also a good spot to give preliminary information. For example: Arthur King of All England.
6. After you have completed your script, don’t look back over it and think, “This is stupid.” Students will latch onto anything that is different from the norm. Worksheets, lectures, and textbooks fill their education. This will be something different, and they will enjoy it.
7. Distribute scripts. Highlight, and assign parts. You are the director in this step. Select students that you perceive to be stronger readers for larger parts, but do not neglect other enthusiastic students. Small parts are a great way to give everyone a shot. Assign the sound effects as a certain part, and by doing so include a student who may not be a strong reader.
8. Read. Make sure that the students who do not have a part are following along. The combination of auditory and visual reception of the words builds better reading comprehension in some students.
9. Enjoy yourself. If the students perceive that you are enjoying the play, it will only motivate them to do the same. This is a time for you to experience material along with your students. Eat it up.
10. Go back, and fix the problems. Revision only makes things better. Add sound makers, sets, or costumes to your script to spice it up. Do anything and everything to make the material exciting.