Reader's Theater

UDL 5.1

Reader’s Theater is when students read aloud from a script adapted from literature without requiring a set, props, or memorized lines. Students can read existing scripts or they can write their own to perform based on a familiar text. Instead of acting out the story as a play, during Reader’s Theater students aim to read the script aloud accurately, and they enable the audience to visualize the action by taking on different character voices. Students repeatedly practice the script, adding intonation, facial expressions, and some gestures to bring the text alive. As students collaborate to practice and perform Reader’s Theater scripts, students develop reading fluency skills and deepen their understanding of a text.

Implementation Tips

Selecting Scripts
Choose scripts of familiar texts or stories. Make sure selected scripts have enough roles for each student to participate and they are written at reading level appropriate for the students in the group. This [[|site]] includes numerous Reader’s Theater scripts.
Teacher Modeling
Distribute script copies to students and invite them to sit in a circle for a read-through of the new script. The teacher can give the students a few minutes to quietly read the script, and can model how students can consider reading with expression (e.g., pay attention to punctuation, decide the type of voice a character might have). This will help prepare students when they receive their roles and begin to practice their parts.
Selecting Roles
Write the names of character roles on small cards and place them in a bag. After the group read-through, allow each student to pick a character role out of the bag. Collect the cards after roles have been designated for future use.
Reusing Scripts
Invite students to choose new character roles from a rehearsed script. A teacher can reuse scripts when students particularly enjoy a play and to support readers that feel intimidated by new texts, since students will already be familiar with the script.
Give students the opportunity to rehearse multiple times before presenting or recording a script. Teachers can allow students time to read the scripts independently or with a partner to obtain feedback. This provides students with the opportunity to build confidence before the final presentation.
Provide opportunities for students to present their scripts to an audience so they can connect their work to an authentic performance. Teachers can invite others (e.g., staff, other students, parents) to watch the presentation, or teachers can record the performance so students can review it later.
Using Video Recordings
Distribute a personal reflection sheet to each student prior to playing the recorded version of their presentation. Teachers can ask students to check off aspects where they think they did well and circle areas that they want to improve (e.g., reading smoothly, right speed, right volume, expression). This gives students the opportunity to reflect and set goals for later Reader’s Theater performances.


English Language Learners
While working with English language learners, a teacher uses Reader’s Theater to help students understand plots, settings, and characters, and build background knowledge. The teacher reads aloud a text multiple times (e.g., fairy tales or other familiar stories), remembering to preview characters and vocabulary words, and then introduces the Reader’s Theater script version of the story. Students are assigned roles and practice reading their lines with a partner. The class then sits in a circle and reads through the script aloud.The class practices the same script for a week, allowing language learners to strengthen speaking and reading skills.
Emergent Readers
A teacher gives students a printout of several familiar nursery rhymes and poems. While sitting in a circle, students take turns reading alternating lines to practice engaging with print and build speaking skills (e.g., pronunciation, inflection, expression and varied volume). After each poem is read, the teacher asks students to highlight sight words they notice in the text to help promote awareness of high frequency words.
A teacher creates a Reader’s Theater centers as an option for students during Reading Workshop or independent reading time. At each center, students select scripts, practice them, and act them out in small groups with limited props. After practicing, groups sign up to present their script at the end of the session.
After a class has performed several Reader’s Theater scripts, a teacher invites students to write an adapted script. Students form partnerships and select a familiar script to adapt. During writing instruction, the teacher models rewriting portions of the script to enhance the plot, characters, and dialogue to better engage the audience.

Related Strategies