The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
Can Theater Inspire Reluctant Readers to Read?
Yes. Transitioning the skill of reading into a performance activity that emphasizes story telling does inspire reluctant readers.
Reading is taught as a separate subject only until the third grade. After that, foundational literacy skills are rarely taught. Students are expected to transition from learning to read, to reading to learn. Students who still struggle with decoding, fluency, and comprehension after the third grade slip further and further behind as content reading levels increase at each grade level.
The most detrimental thing a struggling reader can do is stop reading out of frustration, thereby falling even further behind in their reading skills. The high interest of the content in a Readers Theater production, and the necessity of rehearsing and therefore re-reading a script, has been shown to enliven and engage students in reading and increase motivation to read.
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
The post-workshop survey asked participants specific questions about how they measure their learning outcomes. Results from the first session were shared with us and are as follows:
What did you learn about reading during this class?
How to read better and how to express feelings more better.
I read better in Readers Theater better than in my “real” class Deborah
Reading is funer than it looks.
That it is good for your brain.
What did you learn about theater during this class?
It is really fun and exciting.
Why do you think Readers Theater is important?
To learn about reading better.
Because it helps you be a good reader and actor.
The two workshops we initiated served 23 students total and employed one teacher and one teaching assistant.
The focus of the workshop was theatrical discipline, reading comprehension, and fluency, however the curriculum was differentiated for each student’s specific needs based on the outcome of their initial assessments.
We believe the workshop series did meet goals and inspired struggling readers to discover reading as a form of story telling.
We were proud of the progress the students who participated in this program demonstrated. We had hoped to secure additional grant funding to offer this program to students outside of Taft Elementary, but midway through the process we recognized that Cassie Angley’s interest in developing her own program would be more beneficial than our maintaining an Independent Contractor agreement with her. Her program design and outcomes met expectations of this grant but we won’t be continuing this program offering.