I have previously written about the joys of Reader’s Theater in the secondary classroom, but I wanted to share two new ways I’ve incorporated RT into my classroom and curriculum this second quarter.
Students Rewrite a Difficult Text as a RT Script and Perform the Script
For the second part of The Odyssey, I wanted a way to give my students more autonomy as readers since we read the first half of select episodes together with a great deal of scaffolding to support them through a more challenging text, especially at the beginning of the academic year. I decided to form students groups, assign them certain episode(s), and have them rewrite the episode as a Reader’s Theater script.
We first began by performing some RT scripts—we did one I found online related to Greek mythology and the second was the text I will share later in this post. With both readings, we brainstormed qualities that made a good script as well as performance. Once rosters and readings were created, groups read the episode(s) aloud to each other. I then asked them to brainstorm a rough list of possible characters and top 10 events or ideas they wanted to convey through their script.
Once I checked off this work, the real work began with students collaborating to draft the script using a very basic template I provided. About two groups worked well throughout the entire process, but the majority of groups needed some major coaching in terms of crafting their content and reminding them about the work habits I expected with collaborative work. At times, I had to have some very honest and hard conversations with certain groups, but I am happy and proud to say they stepped up, pulled themselves together, and came through with a quality script in the end!
While I did have an alternative assignment on standby if needed, I was pleased that the groups worked through the rough patches and successfully completed their scripts. It was sometimes hard to watch them struggle and to not feel stressed since they took about 10 days longer than I anticipated to complete all the work, but I think it was worth the investment of time since our project addressed quite a few ELA standards; more importantly, students learned how to tackle what was a creative challenge for them and overcome it.
Students did independent self-assessments of their own work as well as their groups once scripts were completed. We then took a day for groups to prep their scripts with highlighting of the parts and doing any practice/rehearsing they wanted to do with their recruited “actors” and “actresses” in the class.
We were able to complete all performances in one class period. Once all performances were complete, students were able to complete a survey in Google Forms to vote on their two favorite scripts and performances. They also had two open-ended reflection questions; here are some highlights:
What did you enjoy about the script and performance? What qualities stood out to you as excellent?
I enjoyed how everyone used their voice and made it fit with their character. Everyone was pretty still and had good body language. Something that stood out is how people projected their voice and weren’t shy.
What I enjoyed about the script and performance part of this project was the freedom we got to use while making it. We really could write how we saw what was happening in the story, and use it in the performance. That honestly made the whole performance aspect of it better, and, in my opinion, more natural feeling.
I loved how creative and detailed the scripts were. I liked how in Zac’s group they had a person for sound effects. I thought it was a really creative and smart choice. Then in Gavin’s group, there script had a lot of details that made their script more enjoyable.
I enjoyed the humor in the script and performance. A lot of the groups put a lot of humor in their scripts. This caused that groups performance to be more entertaining.
What do you feel you learned through the creation of a script as well as listening to those performed by your peers?
I think I learned how to write better as well as my peers. I also learned much more information from the other scripts. I also know learned how to perform better.
What I learned was that if you and your group work together on the script, you can become super creative. Your group can give you ideas you never even thought of. I also learned that when you perform you script, you should have emotion.
I learned that it is a little harder then I thought it would be.It certainly helped me to see the characters in a different light. I also think my peers did a good job on acting out the emotions of there characters, some a little more then others but I think they all did well.
I feel like I learned that making a script is hard. I say this in more when you are working with a group of people, everyone wants to have a certain part go a certain but others might disagree. It was a good learning experience because it was really fun.
I learned that creating a script takes a lot of thinking. This is because when you are making a script you have to make the script make since to your audience and keep your audience entertained. This means you have to be creative in the words you use and how you say them.
Use RT To Jazz Up Less Than Exciting Content
Sometimes you have to be really creative to find ways to pump up the engagement and interest level for content that is required but not always incredibly exciting. We are in an informational text unit, and one of our standards addresses text structure. Rather than giving students a dull lecture about the virtues and qualities of different text structures, I provided students an easy set of notes from Teacher Thrive, and I crafted a Reader’s Theater script to perform. Not only did I manage to craft a script that addressed the qualities of various text structures, but I also wove in two timely topics: bullying and the Atlanta Braves playoffs + Joc Pederson and his pearls!
It took me about two hours to crank out the script, but it never felt like work because I was having so much writing it and envisioning my students performing it. Much to the delight of my students, my principal came to perform her part for two of my classes, and all three administrators were able to make it to my first period to be in our RT play! I sincerely appreciate them coming to read their roles, especially when I knew they were very busy with regular duties plus an upcoming accreditation visit.
We were so busy performing, learning, and having fun that I did not get any photos of the glorious learning experience, but I am including the script below for you to read and enjoy! I share it to emphasize that you can involve performance, speaking, and listening when introducing new content to capture student interest and help them to understand and/or review their understandings of prior knowledge.
How are you using Reader’s Theater in the secondary classroom?