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Learning Out Loud: Readers Theater for Struggling Readers

2017 Imagine Learning Limerick Contest, winners, winning limericks

If you have a struggling reader in your classroom, you already know how that student feels about reading anything out loud.

And yet, reading out loud is one of the best ways to improve students’ oral fluency.

For instance, within Imagine Language & Literacy, struggling readers gain confidence as they read and repeat text from leveled books and regularly participate in activities like Fluent Reader. What’s more, when teachers listen back to the recordings, they can easily track student progress toward oral fluency.

But Readers Theater can be another way to engage struggling readers and help them read aloud–with expression.

Why a Readers Theater?

If all the world’s a stage, then every classroom can be transformed into a theater–in this case, a Readers Theater, which:

  1. Reinforces good reading practices. Instead of just listening to stories, students who engage in Readers Theater literally take an active role in reading–even if they’re not the ones reading aloud. Students must follow along as their classmates read so that they don’t miss their lines; in the process, they learn new words and strategies for tackling new words.
  2. Provides motivation. According to Cara Bafile at Education World, reader’s theater “blends students’ desire to perform with their need for oral reading.” (You’re going to want to click that link for lots of great reader’s theater tips.)
  3. Focuses on the words. Performing can be a scary experience, especially for students who may be feeling a little self-conscious about their reading capabilities. With no props, costume changes, or stage blocking, reader’s theater strips down performances to what matters most–the words. Students are able to focus on reading and reading with expression.
  4. Capitalizes on the chorus. Many children’s theater scripts contain repetitive phrases to be chanted together. Strategically assign these lines to be read by several students, mixing proficient and struggling readers. Together, they’ll add a fun dynamic to the performance, replacing the anxiety of reading solo with confidence.

Readers Theater Scripts

2017 Imagine Learning Limerick Contest, winners, winning limericks

So, what makes a good script for Readers Theater–and how can you encourage students’ participatio

When it comes to scripts, remember this basic rule of thumb: always choose fun stories and characters. When students are having a good time imagining a dramatic situation or portraying an interesting character, they will feel less self-conscious about reading aloud.

If your students already use Imagine Language & Literacy, don’t forget to access the offline resources and printables within the Teacher Resources tab (after logging in as an educator).

Even if you don’t currently use the program, why not get started with one of these great options?

Remember, if you teach English language learners–including those whose first language is Spanish–you may find other fun options within Imagine Español. And–of course–you can even write your own Readers Theater scripts!


The point is, don’t be afraid to start. You’ll also find many Readers Theater scripts via simple online searches. Soon, your class will have a great time ‘learning out loud’!

Do you use Readers Theater as a classroom reading activity? Share your tips with us in the comments below.