By Rhonda McDonald, Reading Specialist, Guest Blogger
When you teach reading for fluency and expression, have you considered looking for plays to interest your students? Reader’s theater is an exciting approach to motivate struggling readers because they can portray a character in a play. In today's post, I'll explain how you can help your students transform into someone or something new so that they can strengthen the ability to identify points of view. First I'll start with how you can use a level M fairy tale from Story World Real World. Then I'll describe how you can use a level N high-interest, low-level play from the SuperScripts series.
Select a traditional tale, or choose a new fiction book to read to the class. Next, give students time to read through the entire story. Discuss the roles of each character in the script. This is a perfect opportunity to teach point of view by assigning roles to students to show them how to analyze actions and speech in a story. One way to introduce analyzing is to ask students to create a web of ideas or character traits that pertain to their assigned roles.
For example, if you use the level M narrative text of Cinderella in your guided reading lesson, assign the following parts to students before they read: Cinderella, the prince, the stepmother, stepsisters, fairy godmother, the coachmen, guests at the ball. Ask students to work together to map out the character traits of their role. Some adjectives that they list could include kind, thoughtful, selfish, stingy, bully, conceited, sweet, bossy, shy, pushy, etc.
To teach the concept of point of view, have students write a new plot twist to the story told from a selected character’s perspective. Give students a prompt, such as Imagine the fairy godmother is telling the story, and her magic does not work. What would she do? You can also have students create a new ending to the story by asking them to think about what would have happened if the prince caught Cinderella before she ran away from the ball.
Another idea that you can use to practice reading with kids and teach point of view is changing the story by adding a new character. You could ask kids questions the following questions: What if two princes were searching for a wife? Would they be competing with each other for Cinderella? Or would one of them have chosen someone else at the ball?
Assign an animal role to be the narrator and let the student reading those parts tell the story. For example, the mice could say how shocked they were to become horses and describe the experiences when students are retelling the story. When you require creativity in your classroom activities, there are no right or wrong answers. Reluctant learners are more likely to join in the discussions and contribute some fantastic ideas when you create a comfortable learning environment and use time effectively. If time allows, you could develop props and backgrounds to enhance the performance of the story.
For older students, there are eight stories in a series called SuperScripts that are written in play format targeting reluctant readers. These scripts are written for third through twelfth-grade students who are reading up to level P. In King Kevin, a character named Josh is a new student in a high school. While a new friend named Michael shows Josh around, they encounter a group of bullies led by Tyrone.
This group enjoys intimidating other students. King Kevin has a group of friends who regard him as the leader of all the groups in the school. Tyrone’s group of bullies challenge Kevin for the chance to be the top in the school, so they steal money and an iPod from Josh. Since Josh tells Kevin that Tyrone’s gang plans to fight him, Kevin stands up for Josh and asks him to join his group.
To use this play to teach point of view, introduce the level N text by having a discussion about bragging and bullying. Explain to students that it's wrong for someone to bully another person or steal from them. Assign parts and read the play through the first time. Then ask the students to describe their characters. Ask them why a school may have a group or gang that tries to control other students. Spend some time discussing options to solve the problem of bullying.
On the second day, have the group reread the play. This time, ask students to pay attention to the flow of the words, focus on where their part comes in, and add expression to the script. If there are troublesome words, practice the correct pronunciation. Repeated readings and practice will help your students become confident with the parts in the play as well as improve reading comprehension and fluency. After the group has mastered the text of the story, they may want to add movement or action. Students may also have suggestions to make props to act out this story.
It would be best if the group practiced the script for a few days before performing the work in front of others. They could show the play for their classroom or another class, but older students should be able to practice reading with expression in small guided reading groups without a lot of teacher intervention.
If there are students who do not want to portray a character with a speaking part, be sure to create other opportunities for them to practice learning about point of view. You can assign the student the role of director or costume designer. Regardless of students' roles, it's important to emphasize that everyone should think about the point of view when they help because every contribution is essential for the final performance. If they don't believe you, point out movie credits at the end of a movie to show the vast number of roles that are listed to make a film.
Reader’s theater is a valuable tool that can create a climate of teamwork within your classroom. Always keep the primary objective of making reader's theater fun as you're lesson planning because this method of teaching should be a motivational tool. When you actively involve students in the learning, they will remember the experience long after they read text on pages of a book.
Be sure to return to our blog soon for new ideas and tips for teaching reading skills and literacy strategies!
Rhonda was a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia. She now substitutes and visits schools and libraries to lead writing workshops, story time, and parent workshops. She is also an author of children's books and several titles in our Kaleidoscope Collection and Zoozoo Animal World series. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more by Rhonda on our blog.