Teaching Tip – Transform Reader’s Theatre

I’ve tried doing Reader’s Theatre with my class several times and it has always been a disaster. Some students don’t follow along with the script well enough so we have awkward pauses, breaks, or cues. Some students are so worried about saying their lines properly that they focus only on their own part and don’t really get a good experience of the whole work.

I wasn’t ready to throw out Reader’s Theatre but I knew that it didn’t work as well as it probably could. So I transformed Reader’s Theatre into Radio Theatre.

This is what I did.

First, I introduced my class to Old Time Radio. You can find some great shows online that you can easily share with the students. There are countless podcasts that will bring you comedy shows as well as dramas. I have shared Superman, Burns and Allen, Abbot and Costello, and even Amos and Andy.

After my students were familiar with the format of Radio Theatre, I let them know that we would be producing our own show.

I already had the class divided into four small reading groups and I regularly meet with each group twice a week. So in our groups, we sat down together and I guided them into collectively picking a topic, coming up with their own characters and writing a script. This took step took us two weeks.

Some of the ideas I got were great. The first script was about visiting an elder in the hospital. The second story involved the three characters shrinking to four inches in height and battling a mouse in the house. The third story was about an ice-fishing accident and rescue, and the final story was about a hockey tournament.

Once the scripts were written, we practiced them for two weeks until we were all confident that we knew the material and could present it well. I was proud of them and all the hard work that had put into the project and when it came to The Big Night, it really paid off. Things didn’t go as smoothly as they did in the rehearsals in the classroom. I think they were a little too excited to be on the radio. We all had a really good time and they did a great job. I was so proud of them.

Since that first live performance, Radio Theatre has become an annual event in my classroom. I now use recording software to record our radio plays. This allows me to give each student a copy of the show on CD and lets us get the show aired on the radio without the entire class having to go on a field trip. 
Guiding your students into creating a script that they have ownership over makes the experience a personal one. It motivates them in a way that a reading through a regular Reader’s Theatre script simply can not do.

My students are always excited about the script we create together. The performances don’t seem artificial anymore, and the experience as a teacher or a listener isn’t painful either.

So try it out!

Here are some OTR Websites that can help you get started.

http://www.archive.org/details/oldtimeradio

http://www.radiolovers.com/

http://oldtimeradiofans.com/

And don’t forget to check back here every Tuesday for great tips you can use in the classroom. There are now over 50 tips on the Teaching Tips page and they are easily organized by appearance and by theme. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about. 

10 Comments on Teaching Tip – Transform Reader’s Theatre

  1. Hi Chase .. you do seem to give the kids lots of opportunity to learn, and input -which will be of use later in life.

    It's funny I did a radio talk once .. and it was really awful – I couldn't get to grips with talking to myself .. so to speak – at least I know what to expect next time!

    I'm sure your kids learnt lots and will remember you in the days and years to come ..

    Good for you – have a good week – Hilary

  2. Hi Hilary,

    I did a few more radio interviews this past weekend and now that I have over a dozen under my belt, I find that I am getting more natural and comfortable doing them.

    I know that it is scary at first to speak in front of others or to go on television or the radio. I'm hoping that by exposing my students to such opportunities that they will have the courage to do all sorts of things in their future that some people might hesitate to do.

    Was your talk radio segment recent? Are you going to try it again?

  3. Hi Chase it was a few years ago .. an opportunity, but I flunked it – ne-er mind!

    Yes – I'd like to take my blog or that concept across to radio .. I can see some areas of opportunity & at least I'll be more aware of what to expect ..

    and as it was local radio & on only for a short time .. it was a sort of charity radio space .. I didn't get a chance to practise ..

    Now – I mention it .. I could give it a go again this year – it's on my list of things to explore — once I have some time to move forward .. perhaps later in the summer ..

    we'll see – but glad you've done some more .. the kids should really appreciate you for this – maybe they'll only realise later on?
    Have a good week – Hilary

  4. Hi Hilary,

    You really should try it again. There are probably some college radio stations that would love to take on your idea for a show or at least a few segments on a show they might already have. So try it out.

    You could also do a podcast for your blog to help you build some confidence before tackling radio again.

    I wish you all the best with it. I am having so much fun with radio right now. I almost wish I could do it as a job and not just as a volunteer for community campus radio.

  5. Hi Chase .. yes I definitely will – just need to be free as such to do – ie wait & ensure my Ma is settled .. so I feel I can keep my commitments – not easy for the last 3 + years.

    I'd thought of hospital radio too .. so I think there's lots of opportunities and openings around ..

    I thought I'd do podcasts based on the blog ..

    I know what I want to do .. it's just putting the plan together & getting on with it – as well as all the things with my mother and my uncle when he was alive – there just simply wasn't the time & they valued the life I gave them .. Mum now too.

    At least I have a plan in place for the future and something to keep me moving forward – essential with looking after elderly – I won't be bereft .. & that's terribly important – I'm lucky I reckon.

    So when I've done one I'll let you know .. ! & you can give me feedback .. in a few months or so ..

    Well for the kids' sake I'm pleased you're teaching them .. but for your sake I can see an opportunity – who knows .. what'll come along???

    Cheers for now – Hilary

  6. Well Hilary. All the best with that and I'll be looking forward to hear what you come up with in the future.

  7. I love Reader's Theatre, but what I love about it is being able to modify it. I have done radio plays, but somehow I don't think they were of the standard you describe here, Chase. The kids are so lucky to have your expertise as a dj here.

    I also encourage my kids to move in Reader's Theatre which is not in the "rules". I guess I start with RT and end up with a performance. But it's getting kids reading and communicating I care about.

  8. Hi Book Chook,

    Thanks for that nice compliment.

    I think you have an amazing blog with some great ideas. I want to point my readers your way as well because you really have some amazing resources and ideas on your blog as well. I really need to try and comment more over there.

    Thanks for stopping by with a comment!

  9. Chase, it's the same for me, I wish I had more time to read and make thoughtful comments when often the most I can hope for is a quick skim. And I am not teaching face to face! In the end, research and thoughtful blog posts need to come first.

    I published a new issue of Literacy Lava which some of the parents at your school might find useful – tips for getting kids involved in reading, writing and communicating. http://www.susanstephenson.com.au/Literacy_Lava.html

  10. Hi Book Chook,

    Keep doing what you're doing. It's an amazing site and I appreciate your posts and mag very much, even if I don't comment on it enough.

    Thanks for the comment!

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