Reading Dyad


Reader's Theater

    Reader's Theater is a dramatic enactment of a text. As such, it offers students a dynamic context in which to practice a myriad of reading skills. These skills include comprehension and fluency, with its concomitant components of rate, accuracy, phrasing, intonation, and expression. The theater also improves proficiency in body language, hand gestures and voice. Moreover, the venue’s impending audience provides an implicit motivational factor for young students, so eager to read before, and win, the galleries’ approval.

    The Web Files, by Margie Palatini, is my choice for a third grade Reader's Theater. This selection has a reading difficulty level somewhat below the children’s instructional level. The story is a spot – on, tongue-in-cheek parody of the old TV detective show "Dragnet." The story takes place on a farm. The plot involves two protagonists, Ducktective Web, and his feathered sidekick, Bill, and their attempts to crack the case of the disappearing vegetables. The book is replete with witty dialogue and the narrative is endowed with a swiftly moving, action - filled plot. The author has "peopled" her work with a wide variety of amusing barnyard characters. Adult humor, well within the reach of the children, weaves its way through the story. A collection tongue twisting alliterations also abound, exponentially increasing the fun factor for the student actors.

    The illustrator, Richard Egielski, has portrayed the characters and settings in a series of colorful, droll sketchings that inform and enhance the story line. These illuminations can ably serve as models for the children when they eventually draw their characters on the headbands they will wear. Moreover, a kaleidoscope of shifting scenes and supporting characters affords the teacher the opportunity to include several narrators, over and above the twelve articulating characters, for the purpose of audience cuing,

    Adapting the "Web Files" to a Reader's Theater format offers many productive paths with which to improve the students’ fluency and comprehension. The following thirty minutes a day schedule will expand on these venues.

    On the first day of the lesson, the teacher models fluency when he/she reads aloud the story upon which the script is based. Insights into the narrative and characters increase as the teacher involves students in a discussion about the story. Minilessons, which include direct explanations and feedback, are also included in this initial activity. This exercise will afford the teacher the opportunity to work on such aspects of fluency as phrasing, expressiveness, rate, and accuracy. Modeling these skills is an important aspect of the teacher’s delivery. Following this, the students will read the entire script independently. That evening they will practice the scripts at home for further refinement.

    The second day will find the children orally reading the scripts, as they tackle a different highlighted role for each succeeding reading. Throughout the practice, the teacher monitors the activity, offering advice and instruction. At this point, comprehension is enhanced as the children actually become the characters and grow more familiar with their feelings. The teacher stresses the importance of basing intonation and expressiveness on insights into the characters, rather than having the performers merely provide the audience with vocal gymnastics. With the enticement of performing before a real audience, the script naturally becomes more meaningful. This will produce enthusiastic rereading of the material, with its attending increased adeptness in rate and accuracy.

    On the third day, following more practice and constructive criticism by the teacher, each child will choose the part he/she wishes to play. If there is a conflict, the teacher will conduct a minilesson in group skills, paying particular attention to conflict resolution. The teacher will then distribute individually highlighted scripts and encourage the students to concentrate on their specific characters. That evening the children will be expected to once again practice their script at home.

    On the fourth day, the last before the live performance, the children will get a final opportunity to rehearse together. They will then create their character headbands, and become familiarized with their place marks on the stage. The fifth day is "curtains up." The students will perform in front of a live audience.

    In conclusion, Reader's Theater provides a format that encourages repeated readings in a meaningful, proactive context. This exercise has a built-in motivational factor (performing in front of an audience), and has been found to improve comprehension, reading rate, fluidity and expressiveness. Cyclical in nature, the five day rotation can be renewed each week throughout the school year. This can result in multiple performances in a variety of genres. The scheme is adaptable as well. It can be developed on a multi level arrangement, with two or three "repertory groups" simultaneously working on different scripts. Additionally, the children can choose to write their own scripts based on the stories, giving them increased ownership of the project. For these reasons, I have found Reader's Theater to be a worthy addition to any classrooms reading agenda.



For a wide variety of reader's theater scripts, go to:









"You can observe a lot just by looking around."

-Yogi Berra

    This lesson on visualizing encompasses three readings of the same story. To begin, the teacher explains that a very important comprehension strategy is to visualize (seeing events in your mind's eye) as they read, or listen to a story. The teacher reminds students to create mental images as they listen to the read aloud. He/she suggests that as the story is read, they run a movie of the tale in their mind. This will help them to better understand the setting, events and characters in the book.

    For the initial reading, the students concentrate on the setting. Have the children close their eyes and imagine themselves in the time, and place related to the story. They are not to verbalize these scenes, just visualize them. Let their minds' eyes look around - in front, in back, on all sides. What do they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch? Are they in a city, or in the country? Is the story set in the modern era, or in the past? What does the background look like? Name some colors that they see. Study other objects. Are they smooth, rough, large, or small? After the story is completed, ask them to open their eyes and describe what they saw. Write their responses on the board. Read the visualizations back to the students so that they can hear, as well as see, how their words sound.
Next, reread the story. This time have the students concentrate on the characters. What are they like? Explain that when students describe a person, or animal, they should include its size, color, and other distinguishing traits, such as facial characteristics (blonde, weather beaten, etc.). They should also tell us how the subject is feeling - happy or sad. Is he/she mean or friendly? Is he/she young, or old? Elicit as many details as possible. Once again list and discuss the responses.

    Finally, for the third reading, everyone keeps their eyes open as they listen to the story. This time they are to visualize events. The children should also include the setting, and characters in this iteration. As they do this, two volunteers, in the role of illustrators, are depicting their own visualizations on the board. The youngsters in the audience compare and evaluate their own visualizations as the story proceeds. At the end, the two volunteers describe their drawings as part of a whole-class discussion.



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