Reader's Theater

Katrin Beinroth & Kim Leimer, International Charter School, Pawtucket, RI


Program Background Unit Plan Lesson Plan Teaching the Lesson


This Reader’s Theater unit addresses two main goals of dual language programs: developing literacy skills in both languages and promoting cultural competence. Reader’s Theater is an efficient and effective strategy for addressing the first goal because it engages students actively in reading with understanding.  The second goal is addressed by selecting Reader’s Theater scripts that lend themselves to making cross-cultural connections.  To address both goals, it is crucial to give students access to different genres (humor/drama, realistic/fantastic, historical/modern, folktales, fairy tales, etc.) during the two cycles of the unit (5 days in English and 5 days in Spanish).


This Readers’ Theater unit supports and extends students’ ability to read in two languages by teaching strategies for understanding characters and by emphasizing the importance of reading with appropriate expression and fluency. The unit looks at how text clues, such as exaggeration and idioms, create a mental image of the characters that helps to explain their actions. Students spend time thinking and talking about what is stated and what can be inferred about characters in the Readers’ Theater scripts. In order to explore characterization and performance strategies in both program languages, as well as to ensure that students have the opportunity to practice reading fluently in both languages, the 5-day cycle is conducted first in English or in Spanish and then repeated in the other language, but with different texts.


Because much of the work in this unit is done independently or in small groups, the teacher should circulate among groups to provide language support, prompt learners to extend their thinking, and facilitate cooperative group work. The teacher can also use those opportunities for noting what elements of the lesson are giving students trouble and addressing those points in future mini-lessons.


The teacher ensures that the goal of developing cultural competence is addressed by prompting whole-class discussions of different cultural aspects addressed in the scripts read in class. By encouraging students to describe their own cultural practices and learn about others’, the teacher creates a climate in which students learn about cultural differences and respect their integrity.


The lesson developed for this toolkit takes place during the first week of the cycle, which is conducted in English. One of the language objectives for the lesson is reading with expression and fluency. Reading with expression requires comprehension of the text, including understanding of the characters. Students show that they have understood textual clues to the characters’ personae as they read aloud (e.g., indicating emotion in the sound of their voice).


The culture goal is addressed in discussion when students are encouraged to make cross-cultural connections between one of the characters in the play The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale, and a literary or mythical character associated with one of their traditional celebrations. Students can discuss the characteristics of the Dutch Saint Nicholas in the play and compare it to a similar character from their culture. The teacher can help to expand the students’ vocabulary and knowledge of dialectal and lexical variations from different Spanish-speaking countries. For instance, in countries like Puerto Rico and Venezuela, el Día de los Reyes is a very important celebration that takes place in January, whereas that day does not have the same importance in Colombia or Chile.  Moreover, different countries have different names for the same character. For example, Saint Nicholas is called Papá Noel in Colombia, El Viejito Pascuero in Chile, and Santa Claus (pronounced /klos/) in Puerto Rico. All of these differences and commonalities can be used to enrich students’ cultural understanding in a dual-language classroom. Later in the cycle, when students are working with the scripts they have chosen, the teacher can pay particular attention to underlying cultural values and beliefs that are embedded in stories.