Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Act Your Age! A Schoolwide Readers’ Theatre

By Peter DeWitt — January 28, 2013 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

If we can’t have fun in an elementary school, we don’t belong there.

A positive school culture should be a never-ending goal these days. There are so many mandates and changes happening in education. The cloud of accountability seems to follow us as we negotiate our way through the days and weeks. Sometimes we worry about them so much that they take our eyes off what is really important about what we do day in and day out. A positive school culture can help us refocus on our goals of educating students and expose them to opportunities they may not get anywhere else.

One of the ways teachers do this is through readers’ theatres. It helps them make strong literacy connections with students. Readers’ theatres are simple to do, and once you get passed the idea that you don’t need to be Andrew Lloyd Weber to create one, they are a great deal of fun as well. Teachers find a good script (resources below) and students act them out with the script in hand. No need for acting lessons or a big Hollywood production! It gives students a real opportunity to use their voice and practice inflection.

According to ReadWriteThink sponsored by the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English, Readers’ Theaters serve many useful functions:
• The use of Readers’ Theatre can offer a different context in which students are exposed to texts focusing on poetry, science, social studies, or other content-related topics.
• Readers’ Theatre is another way to enhance comprehension of text, as well as to create interest in and enthusiasm for learning.
• The Readers’ Theatre format provides an opportunity for students to develop fluency through multiple readings of the text by using expressiveness, intonation, and inflection when rehearsing the text.

Equal to all of those great benefits is that they are just plain fun.

Teachers can take it a step further and create simple backdrops which will help engage those artists in the classroom. Other times teachers invite parents in so they can watch the readers’ theatre. Most of them only take about 10 to 15 minutes. There are so many scripts available on-line teachers can find a variety of scripts that give the opportunity for each student in a class to have a part. Remember...there are no small parts; just small actors....literally.

School-Wide Readers’ Theatres
We know that there are numerous benefits of having students act in a readers’ theatre. They help expose students to a literature-rich environment and may help foster the joy of reading and acting. What about involving teachers and the principal in school-wide readers’ theatres? There are just as many benefits for students when teachers and the principal perform in readers’ theatres.

The school where I am principal does a few readers’ theatres a year and during these times of increased accountability it has helped us maintain a fun and engaging learning environment in school. Our school culture benefits from participating in these events because they focus on positive stories and students see the adults in the school working together and having fun.

We typically sign staff members up for parts and for some odd reason I always get to play the Good Knight. Perhaps they’re type casting! Our staff has many very funny actors and actresses and from time to time we involve students in the production. If we can’t have fun in an elementary school, we don’t belong there. However, there is plenty of room for a readers’ theatre in the upper grades.

A few weeks ago we did a readers’ theatre for our One Book, One School program. Our theatre setting was the Fairy Tale Wheel of Fortune and the characters...and students had to solve the puzzle to find out what our school-wide book would be. By the end of our acting and laughing session the students were able to solve the puzzle where they found out our book would be K.C. Hilton’s The Magic of Finkleton.

We are not concerned with memorizing, or even sticking to, the lines on the paper. We carry our scripts on stage and through the audience. There is a bit of upstaging happening but it’s all in good fun. The students seem to really enjoy seeing their teachers, aides and principal in different roles than what they are used to on a daily basis.

I would encourage your school to try one. Besides the One Book, One School program, we focus on character education and in the past have done a few evening events for parents where we also serve dinner. It helps bring the community together and gives parents and students another perspective of their child’s school. Readers’ theatres are a win-win for the school.

Curtain Call
Readers’ theatres are great for building a literacy-rich environment in the classroom but they are equally as important in building a better school culture. Students who see their teachers and principal take risks up on the stage feel more comfortable taking risks in the classrooms. It models a love for learning and reading and highlights the camaraderie between staff.

For more information about Readers’ Theatre, please visit the following resources:
ReadWriteThink

The Best Class

Literacy Connections

National Council of Teachers of English

International Reading Association

Reading A to Z

Connect with Peter on Twitter

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Professional Development Online Summit What's Next for Professional Development: An Overview for Principals
Join fellow educators and administrators in this discussion on professional development for principals and administrators.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education 'Widespread' Racial Harassment Found at Utah School District
The federal probe found hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets, and harsher discipline for students of color.
1 min read
A CNG, compressed natural gas, school bus is shown at the Utah State Capitol, Monday, March 4, 2013, in Salt Lake City. After a winter with back-to back episodes of severe pollution in northern Utah, lawmakers and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will discuss clean air legislation and call for government and businesses to convert to clean fuel vehicles.
Federal civil rights investigators found widespread racial harassment of Black and Asian American students in the Davis school district north of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo
Education Tiny Wrists in Cuffs: How Police Use Force Against Children
An investigation finds children as young as 6 and a disproportionate amount of Black children have been handled forcibly by police officers.
15 min read
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Nam Y. Huh/AP
Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read