4 Ways to Use Readers’ Theater to Build Fluency [+ FREE Script]

Photo of a Readers' Theater Script with text that says: 4 Ways to Use Readers' Their to Build Fluency (Plus - Free Script!)

Readers’ Theater is fun for students, while also secretly building reading fluency. Try it today with a free readers’ theater script.

Readers’ Theater scripts are one of my favorite reading texts in first grade! The kids have so much fun reading and feel so successful. They ask to read the texts again and again – even in their free time. It makes my teacher heart happy!

As a bonus, Readers’ Theater is a great way to practice reading fluency. But kids have so much fun, that it rarely seems like work.

Keep reading this post to learn more about using Readers’ Theater to build fluency in your classroom, and nab a FREE Readers’ Theater script to use in your classroom tomorrow!

But first, let’s start with the basics…

What is Readers’ Theater?

Readers’ Theater is a type of performance reading where students read a script out loud, without fully dramatizing the text. In Readers’ Theater, students typically read from the script (rather than memorizing it) and perform it either standing or sitting in one spot.

The primary emphasize of Readers’ Theater is the use of fluency in reading, including:

  • phrasing
  • reading rate
  • expression
  • inflection

What are the benefits of Readers’ Theater in 1st grade?

A Readers’ Theater performance can be very engaging and motivating for students. The text feels manageable to students because it is broken into parts for different characters and shared among several students.

Readers’ Theater scripts are also socially engaging for 1st graders. Students often love the opportunity to read the scripts with partners.

In addition to increased reading engagement and enjoyment, Readers’ Theater scripts help students intentionally practice fluency through: 

  • repeated reading
  • use of dialogue
  • using character voices (or making it sound like talking)

The short parts in Readers’ Theater allow students to focus particularly on making their part sound interesting to other readers (or the audience).

To learn more about the benefits of Readers’ Theater scripts, read this blog post.

How do you use Readers’ Theater?

Use the script with a small group reading instruction, across several days. In this setting, the students simply perform the Readers’ Theater for one another.

As an alternative, have students rehearse the script repeatedly then performed for a larger audience, such as classmates, a neighboring class, or parents. This can be fun for students, but can also take more time to prepare.

For more detailed suggestions on using Readers’ Theater in 1st grade, check out this blog post.

How can you use Readers’ Theater scripts support fluency?

This kind of text is frequently touted for its role in helping develop more fluent readers. But, how do you, as a teacher, make fluency happen?

First, encourage students to reread the text, at least three times, with a focus on fluency. (It might be helpful to narrow the fluency focus to one aspect of fluency, such as phrasing, rate, or expression.) Simply repeatedly reading a text is shown to improve fluency, as noted here and here.

Second, encourage students to make the characters actually sound like a person who is talking. Students might even want to use fun voices, but some prefer to simply use their own voice.

Encourage the narrator to read their part like a “storyteller,” working to keep the audience’s attention. (Or, have them sound like the teacher during read aloud – they know what that sounds like!)

Finally, if students need to work on projecting their voice clearly (volume, clear enunciation), it might be helpful to have them perform the readers’ theater script for an audience. This gives them a reason to speak a bit more loudly.

Ready to try Readers’ Theater?

Perfect! Grab this free script to get started!

This script, “The Elephant and the Mouse,” is a traditional tale from Turkey, that is less well-known than many folktales, but greatly enjoyed by readers.

It’s the story of a small mouse who thinks he is the king of the forest. His uncle finds this idea amusing and warns him that the elephant wouldn’t like to hear that.

So, the small mouse (who has never seen an elephant) sets off to find this mysterious creature and set the record straight about who is the king of the forest.

In the end, the elephant quietly lets the mouse know who is really the king of the forest, in a way that children find amusing!

You can grab the script here.

What makes this script special?

The script is specially designed for early readers, with an easy-to-read font and simplified text created with young readers in mind

The script for “The Elephant and the Mouse” has 8 characters. Five of these characters have smaller parts. If you have fewer than eight readers, some children can read multiple parts.

Each character’s lines are indicated by a colored box, making it easy for children to follow along (and saving you the effort of highlighting each part.) This color-coding also makes it easy to use for partner reading.

The script also includes head band and badges for each character. Students can wear the badges as a necklace or turn them into stick puppets. These can be used in both small group performances and performance for a larger audience. 

Finally, this is an engaging little story that children find humorous. They will truly enjoy reading it over and over.

Give it a try in your classroom by getting using this script.

Give it a try with a FREE Readers’ Theater script!

Readers’ Theater is a great way to increase reading engagement while helping students build fluency skills. The short parts in the scripts encourage repeated reading, which supports fluency. Plus, students love the social interaction when reading with friends or performing for family.

Let your students have fun with readers’ theater using this FREE Readers’ Theater script! You can get it here

Want to learn more about Readers’ Theater? Check out these posts:

Photo of two pages of a script about "The Mouse and the Elephant."

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