"Fluency is the crucial bridge between word recognition and comprehension. And repeated oral readings are a key method for building fluency in all students." - National Reading Panel
The definition of reading fluency is reading with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. But did you know that accurate expression is the biggest factor in building reading fluency? It's less about if a student pronounces a word correctly or says it quickly but more about HOW they are saying that word.
Plays inherently come with built-in strategies to help students read better. The acting out of story dialogue compels readers to work more closely with the text to interpret and project meaning into the experience. As a result, students show improvement in vocabulary, comprehension, and retention.
That's where Reader's Theater comes in.
"Learning in and through the arts can even help students overcome the obstacles of disadvantaged backgrounds" - The National Endowment of the Arts
Reader's Theater engages students of all ages. It is especially beneficial for struggling readers and those who are English Language Learners (ELLs). In fact, one study showed that ELLs who participated in a Reader's Theater program improved their reading comprehension scores by an average of two grade levels! That is no small feat.
The benefits of Reader's Theater are evident in the many advantages it has over traditional reading methods such as silent reading and teacher read- alouds. Along with improving literacy, "repeated, oral guided readings" also increase fluency as well as comprehension scores. In fact, repeated oral readings have been found to improve vocabulary skills by an average of 25%. The benefits of Reader's Theater are clear: it is an evidence-based strategy that leads to improved literacy skills for all students.
"Repeated and monitored oral reading most effectively improves reading fluency and overall reading achievement" -Put Reading First (Second Edition), U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
What Is Reader's Theater?
So, what exactly is Reader's Theater? Reader's Theater is a form of oral reading in which students perform short dramatic scripts. These scripts can be original or adapted from stories, poems, or plays. In Reader's Theater, students take on different roles such as narrator, protagonist, antagonist, etc. They read their parts aloud with expression and receive feedback from their peers. This interaction helps students to better understand the text and its meaning.
Reader's Theater is more cost-effective and impactful than putting on a play with students. It also saves teachers tons of time in lesson planning and preparation. While costumes and props are encouraged, they are not required. Lastly, while plays have bigger roles or "star" roles, everyone in Reader's Theater is a star!
Reader's Theater Scripts with Proven Outcomes
Playbooks Publishing Inc.is a great example when it comes to evidence-based Reader's Theater scripts that drive results. CentroNia's Community Engagment and Education Department used the Reader's Theater curriculum from Playbooks Publishing Inc. to conduct a summer reading study to measure regression versus improvement. This is what they found:
Of the 175 students for whom they have both pre and post test data, 85% maintained or increased their reading levels over the summer! Also, over 1/3 of these students actually INCREASED their reading levels! Their results were confirmed with alignment to student Fountas and Pinnell reading levels in the fall.
These results indicate that a strong Reader's Theater program can be a great opportunity for Teachers to increase the reading fluency for their students in a fun way!