How to Do Readers’ Theater: Keeping It Simple, But Fun

Photo of a simple readers' theater script. Text says: How to Do Readers' Theater - keeping it simple, but fun.

Have you always wondered how to do readers’ theater? Are you wondering what readers theater actually is and why it’s used in the classroom? Keep reading to find out answers to these common questions about readers’ theater.

My students adore readers’ theater. Their faces light up anytime I pull out a script and they beg to do “the play.” And their reading fluency improves so much when they are reading the script. That’s why this is one of my favorite reading activities to do with my students.

What is Readers’ Theater?

Readers Theater is a dramatic performance of a story by students. However, it is different than a play – much simpler, in fact. In readers’ theater, students read from a script, rather than memorizing parts. They also perform by standing in front of the class, without costumes (although headbands, necklace nametags or signs can help the audience tell the characters apart.) 

These scripts are frequently taken from the text of a favorite book or tale. The text is divided into parts for students to expressively read. But these scripts can also incorporate science, social studies and social-emotional learning concepts.

Photo of a readers' theater script for The Mitten.

Why Use Readers’ Theater?

Readers’ theater is fun for kids! Your students will find it highly engaging and motivating. High levels of engagement increase student learning. Additionally, more time spent reading increases overall reading performance. Students are more likely to read when they find it fun and engaging.

You can also support reading fluency when you use these scripts in your classroom. The repeated readings of the same text will help your students to notice and make use of the punctuation to influence their phrasing and pauses. Because most of the script is dialogue, it encourages students to read with expression, representing the feelings of the characters. As your students really get into the script, they may even use character voices, which make it easier to incorporate intonation and emphasis.

How Do You Teach Readers’ Theater?

The key part of readers’ theater is the script. It’s relatively easy to create your own script, either by rewriting a familiar tale (such as The Three Little Pigs) or a by using a favorite story from your classroom.

The best books for readers’ theater have lots of dialogue. The Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems is one of my favorites to use. Kids can easily relate to the characters and the books are completely dialogue. Choose any book that your students enjoy to create a script.

Type the script, primarily using the dialogue. You can simply use the exact words the characters say in the text. Add a minimal amount of narration, as needed. Choose just enough narration so the plot makes sense. 

Next print enough scripts for each character. You might print it on card stock for durability. You could also consider putting the pages for each character in a pocket folder with brads to keep it organized as students read in front of an audience.

Photo of a readers' theater script in a three-prong pocket folder.

Many teachers highlight the lines for each role. For instance, on one script you might highlight the lines for Pig 1. Then highlight Pig 2’s lines on the next script. This will make it easier for students to know when it’s their turn to read.

Finally, rehearse the script and perform it. Students can perform the readers’ theater just within the small group, for their classmates, or for a wider audience of families or other classes.

Laura Candler shares even more tips for classroom performances in this blog post.

Seem Like Too Much Effort?

You don’t have to create scripts yourself. Plenty of pre-written readers’ theater scripts exist already.

Photo of script for Stone Soup.

In fact, I have over 40 readers theater scripts available in my TPT store. My scripts are targeted specifically at beginning readers – many are perfect for kindergarten and early first grade. They are based on familiar folktales and fairy tales, so they fit fun themes in your classroom.

Photo of a readers' theater script for The Three Little Pigs.

Take a peek at my Three Little Pigs Readers Theater. Each character’s role is color-coded and includes an image of the character, making it easy for students to track their lines. The font is easy for beginning readers to read and the text is simplified for your little friends. Plus, each script includes headbands and name tags for each character, making a public performance easy on you!

Photo of a readers theater script and character headband for The Mitten.

You can also get scripts for The Little Red Hen, The Gingerbread Man, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or a bundle with five favorite folktales.

Photo of a script for The Little Red Hen.

If you haven’t tried readers’ theater in your classroom yet, I encourage you to try it! Your kids will have so much fun, and it will re-energize your small group instruction. Not sure where to start? Try a FREE script for Aesop’s fable about The Fox and the Crow or a FREE script for The Itsy, Bitsy Spider.

Photo of a script for The Fox and the Crow.

Happy Reading!

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Photo shows a readers theater script with one character's lines highlighted in yellow. Text says: How to Do Readers' Theater - keeping it simple, but fun.

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