Teaching Strategy

Readers' Theater

Responding to the Read-Aloud Text
Grade Level


During a readers’ theater, two or more students dramatize a text by reading expressively.


During or after reading


Readers’ theater helps children gain reading fluency and engage fully with text. The strategy requires attention to pronunciation, unfamiliar vocabulary and interpretation. Performance experiences increase children’s motivation to read and critically engage with complex texts.


  1. Select a Perspectives text. Any prose or poem, fiction or nonfiction makes a good readers’ theater text.
  2. Enlarge copies for use as scripts. Instruct students to highlight their assigned lines.
  3. Allow students time to rehearse in class. Encourage students to take their scripts home to practice reading with inflection.
  4. Use familiar classroom management strategies if children become overly excited while preparing to read. Motivate and manage student behavior by conducting the same readers’ theater text multiple times with student in different roles.
  5. For large classes with varying ability levels, double-cast selected roles. Instruct students in double-cast roles to choral read their lines within the readers’ theater.
  6. Once roles are cast, coach students in their respective roles. Prompt students to research the characters by going back to the text. Investigate the character with probing questions like:
    • What would the character say?
    • What does the character look like?
    • How does the character feel?
    • How does the character act and interact with other characters?
    • What other facts do you know about the character?
  7. Depending on the age and ability level of your students, you could invite students to respond to these questions in pairs if roles have been double-cast or in writing. Each of these options would require students to return to the text to get a more complete picture of their assigned character. This writing could be used as an informal assignment, where students are not required to write in complete sentences and are simply meant to "get their thinking out," or it could be a formal assignment where students turn it in after the performance assessment.
  8. Prior to the performance, make sure each child feels comfortable reading in front of classmates. Clarify unfamiliar vocabulary. Answer last minute questions. If a student gets stage fright in the middle of the reading, act as a narrator to move past the silence. Allow students to make mistakes, recover from them and continue their performances.
  9. Spend time debriefing and evaluating each readers’ theater experience with students.

English language learners

Modify readers’ theater for English language learners by assigning roles that fit students’ ability levels. If readers are double cast, strategically pair English language learners with a medium-high reader in the class. Spend a few extra minutes with your English language learners to address vocabulary and delivery concerns.

Connection to anti-bias education

Drama is a crucial part of literacy learning for all children. It allows students to engage in language across in-group and out-group boundaries and value language-dependent interactions. Play-making builds on a strength children bring to school. Students do not need to rely exclusively on their individual language resources.

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