Learning with Readers Theatre.
Neill Dixon, Anne Davies, Colleen Politano.
Grades 1 - 6 / Ages 6 - 11.
All: Readers Theatre...Readers Theatre...Readers Theatre...So begins the first sample script in Learning with Readers Theatre, a highly recommended volume in the Building Connections series for teachers. The authors are well qualified. Dixon has been teaching readers theatre (RT) as a road to reading comprehension for many years and has been a member of the faculty of the Institute for Readers Theatre in San Diego. Davies and Politano are experienced classroom teachers and this book evolved from their workshops on Readers Theatre. The Canadian connection is also strong - many of the materials were developed and extensively used in schools in Courtenay, British Columbia.
Reader 1: Readers Theatre.
Reader 2: What is it?
Reader 1: It is reading.
Reader 3: Reading a script...
Reader 2: as a character...
Reader 1: as a storyteller.
Reader 3: It is theatre...
Reader 2: that isn't memorized...
Reader 1: and we can read more than one part...
Reader 2: by changing our voices.
This book focuses on using RT with elementary school-aged students and covers mainly language arts topics with a nod to reading across the curriculum. Its presentation is more like a manual than a book, with easy-to-read font, and black and white illustrations/diagrams which are helpful visual representations of the ideas being discussed. Teachers can pick and choose sections and will find reproducible scripts and complete directions that will allow them to start using readers theatre with a minimum of preparation. The book's organization facilitates this process with a detailed table of contents (chapters on writing scripts, staging and evaluating, for example); a brief but helpful glossary (eight terms); and a bibliography for those who find their appetites whetted for further information. Unfortunately, however, there is no index.
Learning with Readers Theatre is the best book on the topic I have seen. It will replace many bits and pieces in my own collection with a single book. If I were to criticize its treatment of oral language for learning, I would have to point to the rather weak coverage of RT in the content areas. I found the ideas here to be mainly adjuncts to rather than being woven into the teaching of various subjects. One example is a script made up by teachers to introduce continents, oceans and provinces in a Social Studies class. The danger I saw in this script was that it could encourage using RT as a performance activity rather than a learning one. This, I hasten to add, is not the message in the rest of the book and it was disappointing to see it here. By grades 5 and 6, students should certainly be doing rather sophisticated work in science and time to do RT must be carefully used to ensure that curriculum concepts are being met.
In conclusion, I highly recommend Learning with Readers Theatre for teachers who have never tried this approach or for those who would like to add an easy-to-use manual to their collection of RT scripts. Reading/writing, listening/speaking, viewing/representing were never easier to integrate than with the Readers Theatre approach!
Dr. Begoray is a faculty member of Education at The University of Winnipeg with teaching and research interests in English and Language Arts teacher education.
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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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