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Meaningful talk part 5: Collaborative conversations via readers theater

Engage students in drama with in-depth analysis, reading practice, fluency improvement, and deeper comprehension

Readers theater engages students in collaborative conversations before they read a play out-loud to peers.

As a reminder, we are exploring ways to ensure that students read, write, listen, speak, and think every day. We have so far explored reciprocal teaching, conversation roundtable, pinwheel discussion, and the fishbowl discussion. Now we will take a look at readers theater – a protocol that supports all students – including struggling and hesitant readers. It allows students to study a text deeply before reading it out-loud – helping build fluency and confidence to read in front of peers.

The basic premise

Day 1 – Teacher introduces the text, including building background knowledge and vocabulary. Students are assigned to a passage or scene.

Days 2-4 – Students reread their sections, discuss roles, and rehearse their scenes. Students get deeper into the text and more comfortable with their performances.

Days 5 (and longer if needed) – Each student group performs their scene or passage.

Example lesson plan

This lesson will use 7th grade TEKS and use a traditional 7th grade text – A Christmas Carol.

Learning intentions

  • Students will perform a scene from a play, showing deep comprehension and understanding

  • Students will respond in writing to a play, showing their understanding of character development

Success criteria

  • Students will accurately analyze the text in groups through discussion

  • Students will accurately perform their selections

  • Students will write a response explaining how playwrights develop characters

Day 1 – Teacher introduces the drama – with background knowledge and overview of the text. The characters are introduced, as is setting, and themes. Students are divided into groups, each group taking a scene from Act I. There are five scenes in this act.

Days 2-4 – Each group reads and rereads their scenes. They discuss the characters and meanings of each scene. They build fluency and reading confidence. They also build deep comprehension of the text. They will focus on how playwrights develop characters through dialogue and staging. Students write reflections and analysis at the end of each day.

Day 5 (and more) – Each group performs their scenes for the class.


Students write a response to the play explaining how the playwright developed the characters.

What did the students do?

Read: students read and reread the text

Write: students wrote reflections, analysis, and reader response

Listen: students will listen to each other read as well as speak during discussion

Speak: students will read aloud the play as well as participate in the group discussion

Think: students will analyze and evaluate during their group discussion.

The following TEKS are included in the lesson:

  • 7.5A Establish purpose for reading assigned and self-selected texts.

  • 7.5B Generate questions about text before, during, and after reading to deepen understanding and gain information.

  • 7.5C Make, correct, or confirm predictions using text features, characteristics of genre, and structures.

  • 7.5E Make connections to personal experiences, ideas in other texts, and society.

  • 7.5F Make inferences and use evidence to support understanding.

  • 7.5G Evaluate details read to determine key ideas.

  • 7.6B Write responses that demonstrate understanding of texts, including comparing sources within and across genres.

  • 7.6C Use text evidence to support an appropriate response.

  • 7.6D Paraphrase and summarize texts in ways that maintain meaning and logical order.

  • 7.6E Interact with sources in meaningful ways such as notetaking, annotating, freewriting, or illustrating.

  • 7.6G Discuss and write about the explicit or implicit meanings of text.

  • 7.6H Respond orally or in writing with appropriate register, vocabulary, tone, and voice.

  • 7.8C Analyze how playwrights develop characters through dialogue and staging.

Readers theater makes for a more engaging reading of a play than a dry read, where students are reading a text they have never seen before. Students get to wrestle with the text and practice reading and building fluency. And students learn from each other during collaborative conversations. This student-led dialogic technique can elevate your teaching of drama.

For more information on readers’ theater, I suggest reading Teaching Literacy in a Visible Learning Classroom by Fisher, Frey, Hattie, and Thayre (2017).

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