With summer vacation just around the corner, it's a great time to practice reading skills. Children who love to read are probably already looking forward to spending time under that favorite tree in the backyard just soaking up words. But even reluctant readers may warm up to reading when it's part of a boisterous, competitive, fun-for-the-whole class (or family) game.
Didax's new literacy catalog is jam-packed with reading games that aim to boost children's grammar, spelling, vocabulary, comprehension, and speaking and listening skills as they amuse. These games are perfect to bring on a camping vacation or long car trip, or to while away a rainy July afternoon, or even as an end-of-school-year classroom literacy activity.
Be sure to check out our fabulous May special on the best and newest of these reading games. And for other reading and literacy activities where the emphasis is on fun, just scroll down to catch this month's article and downloadable activity pages. We hope this issue of Class Ideas will help you wrap up the school year in style!
For children growing up in the 1930s and '40s, gathering around the radio in the evening to listen to a radio play or a ballgame was an exciting family time. Borrowing from an earlier age, readers' theater can be defined as a cooperative dramatic reading of a text. A little like a radio drama, it is an easy and dynamic way for students to practice reading. Connecting oral reading, literature, and drama, this highly motivational strategy combines reading practice and performance in a unique and interesting way. It can be used effectively with both novice and more competent readers and with many different age groups.
Why Use It?
As a whole-class literacy activity, readers' theater can have numerous benefits:
It makes reading fun. Participating in readers' theater enables to student to engage with text in an enjoyable, nonthreatening way. It stimulates their interest in reading by making the words they read and the characters they encounter come to life. Students are presented with a clearly defined and easily understood purpose for practicing their reading skills.
It encourages reluctant readers. As the teacher, you can ensure that students are given the time and opportunity to practice reading their parts and that each of the students participating is successful. In fact, teachers using readers' theater as a reading activity are often able to encourage previously reluctant readers into practicing reading the parts.
It improves reading skills. Readers' theater is an effective way to include repeated reading in a class reading program. This is important because the widely accepted view, backed by extensive research, is that repeated reading of a text improves students' comprehension as well as their fluency and expression.
It yields social benefits. Participating in a readers' theater requires students to work cooperatively and help each other as they read the text. One student will often prompt another student or offer advice on how a character may be feeling and how these thoughts and feelings can best be expressed. The fact that there is a clearly defined goal and that students will have many opportunities to practice, improve, and refine their reading of the selected text makes this collaborative process more meaningful and acceptable to them.
It's an assessment tool. Readers' theater presents the teacher with opportunities to monitor and assess students' group interaction, communication, and cooperation skills. Various aspects of students' literacy can also be appraised, including their use of linguistic features such as pause and emphasis and their ability to adjust speech to the demands of particular situations and to interpret shades of meaning.
It promotes listening skills. To participate in readers' theater successfully, students need to listen carefully to each other so they don't, for example, miss their cues. This helps them to improve their listening skills and develop more effective listening strategies. Students should be encouraged to listen for differences in tone, volume, and intonation as feelings and emotions are expressed.
It facilitates differentiated instruction. Readers' theater provides opportunities for the teacher to adjust instruction for the different achievement levels in the class. The less confident students can be given easier, shorter parts to read while the more confident students can tackle longer and more demanding text. The role of the narrator can be quite demanding and is often taken by the teacher or a very competent reader.
Introducing Readers' Theater to the Class
Follow these simple guidelines to make readers' theater an effective and enjoyable reading activity:
Select an appropriate text and a student to read each part. Decide whether you will use a commercially produced readers' theater text, download one from the Internet, or adapt the text of a familiar and well-loved story into script form.
Make sure each student has a copy of the script. (If you are using a book and you don't have enough books to go around, make photocopies of the pages you'll be using.)
If using a story book, have students highlight their parts to avoid reading indirect speech or expository text.
As the teacher, model reading the different parts for the class as they read through the text with you.
Have the students participating in the performance stand or sit in a semicircle. Since the drama is provided by students using only their voices, they are able to perform in quite a small space.
In summary, readers theater is a simple but effective strategy that is relatively easy to introduce into classroom activities. It does not require a great deal of preparation or equipment such as props and costumes. And, like the radio plays of an earlier era, it can be highly entertaining!
New to the Didax catalog, Sight Word Bingo Ladders and Vocabulary Games for Any Word List help children master their sight words and expand their vocabulary in engaging game formats. These reproducible resources are ideal for impromptu literacy sessions at home or school.
Class Ideas will be back in September with lots of ideas to help you start off the school year right. In the meantime, be sure to watch your inbox for Didax's midsummer sale featuring back-to-school savings on some of our most popular products. Have a great summer, and see you back here soon!