What is Reader’s Theater? According to Wiki, “Reader's Theater is a style of theater in which the actors do or do not memorize their lines. In Readers Theater, actors use vocal expression to help the audience understand the story rather than visual storytelling such as sets, costumes, and intricate blocking.”
Just looking at this definition we can begin to see why Reader’s Theater could be valuable in an afterschool program setting. First, it gives extra practice time to youth on reading and reading expressively and with meaning and understanding. Secondly, if you showcase the Reader’s Theater and invite parents and others to a performance, Reader’s Theater is a perfect project. Third, you can help youth build self-esteem as they come to see themselves as “proficient” in reading.
Where do you get the scripts for Reader’s Theater? Certainly you can purchase Reader’s Theater scripts. There are companies who have these scripts for sale. You can also get the scripts on line by goggling “reader’s theater scripts free” and having a large number of free scripts become available at various websites. One of the ways I like to do to come up with scripts is have youth translate a story or book that they have been reading into a reader’s theater script. The challenge, in most cases, is finding a text with enough dialogue included in the book or story, or one that presents plenty of opportunities to translate a third person narrative into a conversation to include many different readers. I like developing a script because it helps youth work deeply and in many ways with a single piece of text. Developing scripts from books also makes the supply of scripts essentially endless.
What would a Reader’s Theater Showcase look like? One of the things that you can do in a showcase is to celebrate a number of different works. You can have individual performances in which one youth performs the entire theater, adopting different voices to indicate different characters. You can have cross-age groups perform as well as single grade level performances. Depending on the scripts you select, you can create an interesting agenda of scripts. You might want to consider a “Dinner Theater” set up where guests sit at tables and perhaps enjoy a dessert.
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