What is Readers Theater?
Reader's theater is often defined by what it is not -- no memorizing, no props, no costumes, no sets. All this makes reader's theater wonderfully convenient. Still, convenience is not its chief asset.
Like storytelling, reader's theater can create images by suggestion that could never be realistically portrayed on stage. Space and time can be shrunk or stretched, fantastic worlds can be created, marvelous journeys can be enacted. Reader's theater frees the performers and the audience from the physical limitations of conventional theater, letting the imagination soar.
Almost any story can be scripted for reader's theater, but some are easier and work better than others. In general, look for stories that are simple and lively, with lots of dialog or action, and with not too many scenes or characters.
Readers Theater involves children in oral reading through reading parts in scripts. Unlike traditional theatre, the emphasis is mainly on oral expression of the part. Readers Theater is "theatre of the imagination". It involves children in understanding their world, creating their own scripts, reading aloud, performing with a purpose, and bringing enjoyment to both themselves and their audiences. Readers Theater gives children a purpose for writing, for reading, and for sharing their learning by bringing others into the joyful "imagination space" they create. Readers Theater "succeeds in giving the same suggestive push to the imaginations in the audience that the act of silent reading gives to the imagination of the perceptive silent reader". It is a simple, effective and risk-free way to get children to enjoy reading. As children write, read, perform and interpret their roles they acquire a better understanding of the literature.
"Everyone needs to talk - to hear and to play with language, to exercise the mind and emotions and tongue together. Out of this spirited speech can come meaningful, flavourful language, worth the time and effort of writing and rewriting, phrasing, rehearsing, and reading aloud."
The above is excerpted from "Readers Theatre in Elementary Classroom" and "Strategies for Reading: Readers Theatre in the Middle School" by Lois Walker.
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