Tips for Teachers

Use familiar stories
Beginning with stories that students are already familiar with will help them focus on expression when speaking. After they have done some familiar stories, moving into new content will be much easier.

Start small, grow with your students
Have all the groups start with the same script. Listening to each other read the same lines provides a good model and they can then apply what they have learned to reading the lines themselves.

Get feedback through exit cards or reflective journals It is very important to elicit feedback from the students. If you want to keep them motivated, they must know that they are a part of the process. Also, they have great ideas that keep it from getting stale!

Use this feedback to make changes
Tell your class when you’re using their ideas. Listen and take action. Motivation will increase if they know you are listening and take their ideas seriously.

Have an authentic audience
Involve the whole school. Others will learn from your class, and your class will be much more motivated if the audience is outside the classroom. Most importantly, ask them whom they want to perform for, This is what makes it authentic!

Celebrate accomplishments
Be sure and talk about the good things you’re seeing. Recognize improvement and effort. Students need to hear positive reinforcement for their efforts, it is a powerful motivator

Give students choice in choosing their parts
By letting the students choose their own parts, motivation will be higher. Acknowledge that they won’t always get the part that they want, but that in the future they probably will. It may be hard to let emerging readers choose hard parts, but the motivation they feel will help drive them to be successful!

Types of scripts
Using different genres in your scripts provides students exposure to different types of reading. We used fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, poems, and songs.

Keep groups small
Anywhere from three to five students in a group works well. When scripts had more people, it was harder for them to follow along. When writing scripts, no more then four people should be in a group. The story becomes too complicated with many students contributing.

Teach students how to critique each other's performances
It is important for the teacher to model how to critique. In the beginning, model different types of reading, some with expression, some without. Draw their attention to expression, fluency, and clarity. When students are explicitly taught how to give kind, helpful and specific feedback, it benefits everyone and students can transfer that feedback to their own performances. Ron Berger’s book, An Ethic of Excellence (2003), is a great place to start.

Provide time after performances to receive feedback from the audience
It was powerful for my students to receive feedback from the audience, and ultimately, it built their confidence. To encourage kind, helpful and specific feedback, I would model for the audience a couple of comments, such as, “I liked the way the wolf sounded like a real wolf, or “Pig one used a lot of energy, but it would have been a bit better if he spoke slower.” These examples seemed to lead the audience in the right direction.