Readers’ Theatre | Teatro de lectores

by Thomas DeVere Wolsey

This post is available in Spanish/español.

Adapted from

Lapp, D., Fisher, D., & Wolsey, T. D. (2009).  Literacy growth for every child: Differentiated small-group instruction K-6. New York, NY: Guilford Publishers.

A readers’ theatre is an informal performance as students in small groups read a script aloud.  The script may be prepared in advance by the teacher or the students may create their own scripts from narrative texts they have read. Rehearsal permits students to practice in advance for an audience of their classmates. In the process, they reread the text many times and increase their reading fluency.  In this post, a rationale and online resources are shared.

Readers' Theatre Teatro de lectores

Screencapture source:

Language and reading strengths are developed through reader’s theatre as small groups of students re-read texts at their independent reading level and transform them into a readers’ theater script that they can perform at a later time for their classmates.  Rereading, which is important for comprehension, also provides the security for students to speak publicly during the performance. All students including those who are very proficient, those who are struggling toward proficiency, and second language learners will have positive growth as they engage in readers theatre performances. In these collaborative groups, all children increase their reading and speaking fluency as they share texts with their peers. These performances can be shared within your class and also with other classes. A benefit for the class being visited is that once listeners are exposed to new books they often clamor to read them.

The emphasis in readers’ theatre is on supporting each child’s growth in reading fluency and oral language. This happens naturally if students, with the aid of the teacher, select their roles and have adequate rereading and practice time. The teacher’s goal should be that all students work within their comfort and proficiency levels and have successful experiences. The entire group can also discuss how to perform it themselves with the use of puppets, felt board characters, or graphic animation programs.

The advantages of Readers’ Theatre include*:

  • Promotes fluency, including expression or prosody
  • Affords students the opportunity to choose, rehearse, and present short play-like scripts to classmates and others without the stress of memorizing lines or using elaborate costumes and props
  • Provides opportunities for repeated reading as students practice before the performance
  • Maximizes students’ engagement as every student in the group has a part
  • Appears less daunting than other texts since a student reads one part rather than the entire text alone
  • Accommodates a wide range of reading abilities with roles or parts of varying difficulty


  • Select texts. Narrative texts with much dialog work best.
  • Prepare scripts (sources include commercially prepared scripts, Web sites, and scripts written by teacher or students); highlight specific parts on students’ scripts
  • Model by reading text aloud
  • Assign students to groups
  • Provide feedback and monitor as small groups practice


  • Read script silently or with a partner
  • Reread in group with students taking turns reading different roles
  • Negotiate and assign roles or parts
  • Read and reread individually, focusing on assigned part or role (can practice outside of school and at home)
  • Practice rereading script with others in group
  • Make labels, cards, or puppets that students hold to identify their character
  • Decide where students will be positioned during performance
  • Perform with script in hand

Readers’ Theatre is not a big production, and students are not required to memorize lines, use a microphone, or wear costumes.

*Adapted from materials provided by the University of Texas at Austin.

Resources and examples:

Teatro de lectores

University of Texas at Austin Resources in Spanish and English

Readers’ Theatre Tasks en-es (download PDF)

El coyote y el conejo

Examples on YouTube:


3 Responses

  1. […] in English/inglés and adapted […]

  2. I have enjoyed looking through your blog! I wholeheartedly agree that readers’ theater is an important part of a literacy teacher’s repertoire of skills. It meets many reading standards as well as speaking and listening standards. I have found that reading and rereading the script are very useful in increasing student fluency and it also helps students to read with expression. One of my favorite parts of readers’ theater is that inevitably, one shy student who does not speak out in class very often, surprises his or her classmates by delivering lines clearly and loud enough for all to hear. I have observed that readers’ theater is very helpful for ELL students. Standing with a group of their peers, they often feel more comfortable reading in front of their class–especially because they have had the time to reread their parts several times. I like that you clarify in your post that readers’ theater is not a big production. The students do not make costumes and they need to keep their script in hand; hence the name readers’ theater. I have often seen well intentioned teachers think that their students need to memorize their parts instead of reading them; I’m glad you make this distinction!

    • Hi Suni, thank you for your comments about readers’ theater. As you point out, it is very helpful for English language learners for many reasons especially lowering the affective filter so they are more comfortable with the task.

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