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Read how third grade teacher Genia Connell generated reader’s theater scripts in her classroom. The results-a fun way to practice fluency as they expressively read the same passages over and over again during rehearsals. This year, Genia put a bit of a different twist on her reader’s theatre and it worked so well, and like the kids, she can hardly wait until we do it again.
I told my students that they would have to write their own Reader’s Theater scripts. Squeals of delight filled the room.We generated a list of all the chapter and picture books we had read as a class this year. Next, the students, who were still in their Winn Dixie groups, selected one book they wanted to turn into a Reader’s Theatre production. During our language arts time the next two days, scripts were written and rewritten using a graphic organizer I had provided. The guidelines were simple–each play needed to be between 3-5 minutes long and everyone in the group had to have just about the same number of lines, even if it meant one person playing a few different roles. I suggested that they use the formatting of the Winn Dixie script they had just read as a model. I stood back hesitantly and watched as students argued over what the narrator would say or how a character would act. As conflicts arose and they looked to me, I didn’t intervene but told them compromise was the word of the day.What resulted at the end of the second day amazed me. The type of jaw-dropping amazement you don’t expect in a third grade classroom the last week of school. This twist on Reader’s Theatre–an impromptu decision of having the students write their own Reader’s Theater scripts, may have been the best decision I made this year. Group after group went in front of the class and performed well-written, spot-on scenes from Stone Fox, Wayside School is Falling Down, The Whipping Boy, and The Tale of Despereaux. Each script honestly sounded as if they were reading from one which was professionally written. Using materials from the prop box added to the fun as girls played boys’ roles wearing hats and mustaches while the boys happily sported pink tutus and hula skirts to read the roles of female characters. I can also honestly say, that just like my students, I can hardly wait ‘til next time.
Teachers have shared with us that when you want to stage an impromptu readers theater or play-there is one must have to make the experience fun for all your little thespians–you have to have props waiting in the wings.
Props, simple masks and costumes are a great way to extend the Readers Theater experience. We suggest that you build a box of costume props, hats and masks to keep at the ready whenever the dramatic mood comes out in your classroom. Props can be collected from parents and discount stores. Masks can be simple or elaborate and resources to create masks are found everywhere—from crafts stores to kitchen cabinets.Be sure to shop for items for your costume box right after holidays. You will find treasures in the clearance aisle—angel halos and wings after Christmas, crowns, hats, boas and beads after New Year’s, and bunnies, baskets, eggs and chicks after Easter. Michaels, Target “Dollar Spot,” Walmart and the 99 Cent Store hold a bonanza of treasures for holiday items that can be used and re-purposed for your dramatic creations.
Quick Ideas for Props!
I loved teaching with the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. My students acted this play out with enthusiasm–we all acted out the planting of the magical beans and then jumping back as the beanstalk grew to the sky in front of our very eyes. We climbed to the heavenly home of the Giant, stole that goose and scurried back down the beanstalk to show off our treasures.
Why not try Jack and his beanstalk out in your classroom? eReaderstheater.com has done all the work for you-Plays with great teaching resources and only $1.99 each. And there are 3 versions of this play to try out!
Jack and the Beanstalk, a quick play for grades 1-3 in ereaderstheater.com–costumes are as simple as a piece of ivy, a plastic egg, a wig or two, an apron and a goose (try a yellow boa!) Another rendition of Jack and the Beanstalk is designed for emergent readers in grades K-2. Or you might want to try Jack and the Golden Sunflower for grades 2-4.
Hit your prop box for a quick staging of this fun play.