Monday, December 10, 2012

Having Fun with Common Core: Crafting a Readers Theater Script

Sometimes it’s hard to find just the right RT for your class. What’s the solution? Create one of your own. It’s easier than you might think, especially if you get started with a great children’s book.

Here are some suggestions. Many RT scripts have just five to ten parts, but scripts based on nonfiction picture books about animal behaviors or how a variety of animals survive in a particular habitat can easily include a role for every student in the class. If you’re working with a small group, some of the animals mentioned in the book can be omitted, or students can perform multiple roles. If you have a large group, struggling readers can share a role.

In addition to animal character roles, your script should include several narrators. They will introduce the animals and, when necessary, provide transitions between scenes. The best RT scripts also include a few choruses—lines spoken by many or all of the actors. They help students stay focused and foster cooperation and camaraderie.

While narrator speeches are usually best suited for your most accomplished readers, animal roles should vary in difficulty to accommodate children at various levels of emergent literacy. For struggling or reluctant readers, create parts that consist of an animal sound and just a few simple words. For average readers, write lines that are one or two sentences long and occasionally include a challenging word. That’s the perfect way to address CCSS for ELA in the Reading Informational Text #4.

As you create a script, don’t be afraid to modify or rearrange the author’s text to meet your needs. Add animal sounds to make the readings more fun. Cut information that seems too advanced. Focus on animals that live in your area or that you think will resonate most with your student population. Your ultimate goal is to create lively, engaging scripts that your students can’t resist reading over and over.

To see the adaptation process first hand, let’s look at how I adapted my book, When Rain Falls (illus. by Constance R. Bergum; Peachtree, 2008) into a script that is always a huge success during school visits.

Picture Book Text
If you look at the published book, you will see that in creating the script, I ignored the text on pages 3, 4, and 5. It didn’t work for RT.

Pages 6-7
When rain falls in a forest…

… scurrying squirrels suddenly stop. They pull their long, bushy tails over their heads like umbrellas.

Pages 8-9
A hawk puffs out its feathers to keep water out and warmth in.

Chickadees stay warm and dry inside their tree hole homes.

Pages 10-11
A doe and fawn take cover under a leafy tree canopy.

A red fox family nestles in a warm, cozy den.

Readers Theater Script
Notice how I converted the picture book text into roles for a chorus, a narrator who is a more advanced reader or an adult, and six different animal characters. I simplified the text in some places, added fun sound effects, and incorporated a bit of humor. Each narrator speech introduces the animal that is about to speak, so struggling readers as well as audience members can follow the performance more easily.
Chorus 1:      When rain falls in a forest . . .

Narrator:         A scurrying squirrel suddenly stops.

Squirrel:           Tsst! Tsst! Tsst! I pull my tail over my head. It makes a great umbrella.

Narrator:         Higher up, there’s a hawk.

Hawk:             I puff out my feathers to stay warm and dry. Ker-ree, ker-ree.

Narrator:         What does a chickadee do?

Chickadee:    Dee-dee, dee-dee. I hide inside my tree hole home.

Narrator:         A deer takes cover under a leafy tree canopy.

Deer:              All the leaves and branches block the rain.
Narrator:         Foxes nestle together inside a warm, cozy den.

Fox 1:              I could use a nap.

Fox 2:             Me too. [Big yawn.]

Interested in giving it a try? I’ll be back with more specific suggestions in January.