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Reader's Theater


Many students struggle to engage emotionally with text. They may read the words but not really process the meaning, and they may have trouble relating to the characters and the content. Reader’s Theater allows students to immerse themselves in a text by acting it out. It can greatly increase their interest in, and comprehension of, texts. Through this activity, many students come to relate to characters that might otherwise seem remote, and they develop emotional engagement with the narrative.


Catherine Ullman-Shade

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Visualizing
Interacting with the Text

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Academic Vocabulary
  • Metacognition


  • Identify the text that you would like students to act out.
  • Determine whether you want to use a pre-written script (not available for all texts), if you want to create a script yourself, or if you want students to create their own script. Keep in mind that the scope of the activity varies greatly depending on whether you want students to write their own scripts or to use one already created.
  • Locate or write the script, if applicable.
Activity Steps 
  1. Students read a text.

    Reader’s Theater usually works best when students have already read a text in its entirety. However, occasionally it can be incorporated into an initial reading, particularly if the text is a play, or if the students are particularly difficult to engage.

  2. In pairs, students go through the text and identify the dialogue. They highlight the dialogue on the original text. They type this dialogue into a document that will serve as a script. Students next identify any important action or events that are not con

    As noted above, you can also provide students with a ready-made script and skip this step. Many scripts are available online for commonly studied texts. You can make a script yourself. Finally, you can do this activity with a play, in which case the script is already prepared. If students are writing their own scripts, expect to devote at least a day to this activity, longer if it’s a lengthy or complicated text.

  3. Students get into groups corresponding roughly to the number of characters in the script.

    Consider assigning groups to ensure that students will work together with maximum effectiveness.

  4. Within each group, students assign a role to each student. Students read the scripts, each taking a role. They should be encouraged to act out the scripts and use props, etc. as appropriate, but the emphasis should be put on clear reading and good express

    Circulate as students are reading and working, and ask them about what they are noticing and thinking. Help them to further their ideas.

  5. Each group takes a turn presenting all or part of their script to the larger group.

    Encourage students to notice what is similar or different about the presentations. Ask them to consider what they learn about the story or the characters from each presentation.

  6. Students reflect on their learning in groups or individually, either in conversation or writing.

    Students respond to questions including: · What did acting out this text teach you about the characters? · What did it teach you about the meaning of the text? · What did watching these scenes teach you about the characters? · In what other context might this activity be helpful for you? · How could you use it in science? In history? How could you use it to solve social conflicts?

Downloadable Resources 
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