Monday, August 9, 2010

Reader’s Theater: A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to a Workshop

Last week, one of the workshops that I led was titled Motivating Struggling and Reluctant Readers. In preparation for this program, I had gathered all kinds of research about motivation and what really makes kids want to read. I had it boiled down to a few basic things:

1. Allow them to choose what they want to read.

2. Respect their choices—comics, graphic novels, gaming manuals, and websites are all valid sources of reading material.

3. Help kids know what’s out there to read: Read aloud, bless books.

4. Build in success—don’t require kids to read things that are too hard. People WANT to do things they feel they CAN do.

In the vein of building in success, one of the things I had planned to promote was reader’s theater. It’s fun and engaging. It makes kids want to reread which helps to build confidence and fluency without raising and eyebrow.

And then a funny thing happened.

Two nights before the presentation, my seven year old son Nathan was reading at bedtime. He had pulled out his old friends Elephant and Piggie. Instead of curling up next to me to read aloud like he normally does, he decided he needed to “perform.” On this particular evening, Are You Ready to Play Outside? (Amazon affiliate link) looked like this:

Through his hand gestures and expressions, Nathan internalized the meaning of the words he was reading. He was able to take a book that he loved and make it dramatic and theatric—all without a script.

As he read, Nathan reminded me that reader’s theater doesn’t have to be a time consuming, over-the-top production. We don’t need to run out and purchase commercially produced materials in order to be able to implement this variety of shared and performance reading. The requirements for reader’s theater are actually quite simple: eager students and books. The rest comes naturally from rereading. .

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