reader's theater scripts

7 Tips To Make Reader’s Theater Scripts Fun In First Grade

How much fun is reader’s theater? I loved giving my students a set of reader’s theater scripts. Their face would light up, and they’d be SO excited! I’m going to share 7 tips to make using reader’s theater scripts fun for your students and easy to maintain for you! Following these tips helped my students be able to practice and perform their plays once a week as a whole group or as part of our literacy centers.

I loved teaching with reader’s theater in my first-grade classroom. The students were SO excited to read with their friends and bring the stories to life. But sometimes it could be a little hard to manage. Either I was unorganized or my students were arguing over their roles, or who’s turn it was.

So with a little trial and error, I’ve come up with 7 easy tips to make reader’s theater fun for you and your students.

Discussing Reader’s Theater Roles

reader's theater scripts

The first tip is to discuss roles for reader’s theater with your students. I stress the importance all year that what is ONLY a “girl” thing or a “boy” thing isn’t a thing in my room. It’s okay for a boy to like or wear pink, and it’s okay for a girl to like or wear blue. In fact, blue is my favorite color. 

The same is going to go for any reader’s theater roles. Sometimes a boy is going to have a girl part, and sometimes a girl might have a boy part. I go into detail about how we will respect each other because we all know how it feels to be nervous, and we don’t want to treat anyone poorly. 

With this approach, I’ve NEVER had a problem with students not wanting to have a role of a boy or a girl. Even when I’ve had really tough behavior in my classroom, by frontloading this and being proactive, I’ve found it isn’t a big deal at all.

Assigning Reader’s Theater Roles

reader's theater scripts

Speaking of roles, at the beginning of the year, I always assign roles to my students. Always. Then, as we get really good at reader’s theater, I slowly let them choose their characters. 

There are many reasons why I do this. I want to minimize arguments over who wants to be which character. Later on, when I let them choose, we’ll talk about sharing, and choosing roles, but at the beginning, I’ve found it’s easier for me, it takes the pressure off of them, and it saves time during your reader’s theater practice when they’re not trying to decide which students are doing which characters. 

Another reason why I choose the characters for them at first is that they might not know or understand their reading levels. A student may not be ready or have the stamina to read a role that has many speaking parts, but they really like the character, so if they choose that role, it causes a problem and possible frustration when they can’t read the script. And again, later in the year, I’ll teach them how to choose a character that they can truly read for and they can select their roles for themselves.

Choosing Reader’s Theater Scripts

reader's theater scripts

We’ve talked about roles, now let’s talk about choosing reader’s theater scripts. Over my 22 years in the classroom, I collected a bunch of reader’s theater scripts. Some were really good, and some were not so great. 

What you’re looking for is a decent length, but not too long. I found that if each student had 4-5 speaking roles that was a decent length for a script. I also looked for scripts that weren’t too difficult or easy to read. Too easy of scripts, and your students are finished too quickly and get bored with the story. Too difficult and they get frustrated and give up. 

I ended up taking stories that they knew and loved and making them into reader’s theater scripts for them. If you stick around to the end of this video, I’ll show you what I used in my classroom. If you have a favorite read-aloud, you can do this, as long as you’re not explicitly copying from the text, or photocopying the illustrations. When in doubt, check the copyright of the book. 

Whichever story you’re going to use… and it might be fun if you write your own as a class too… you’ll write it in story form, with a narrator telling the story, and the characters speaking their parts. Once I got really good at this, it would take me about 5-10 minutes to write out a decent reader’s theater script. And then I’d have it for years to come!

Expectations For Reader’s Theater

reader's theater scripts

Now let’s talk about behavior. The behavior of your students during reader’s theater is just as important to teach as the words on the pages. We talked before about being respectful when someone is nervous… so here are some other expectations that I have while doing a reader’s theater lesson.

  • No laughing AT someone unless their part is funny. We talk about giggling at first because we’re all nervous, so I have us all take a moment and “giggle it out” before we begin. Once we do that, I find that they don’t really giggle during reader’s theater practice or performance.
  • You might not like your role this time, but you might LOVE your role next time. Either way, it’s important to try your best.
  • You are NOT allowed to yell at someone if it’s their turn and they are lost. (more on this later) Do you know what I mean? Students are all reading their parts, but one student gets lost and doesn’t read their role when they’re supposed to. So the impatient students will yell, “go!” or “It’s your turn!” or “Rachael!” Instead, I teach my students that you know someone has lost their place when there’s silence all of a sudden. I also teach them that it is the job of the narrator to GENTLY remind a student that it’s their turn to go. And what does that look like? They can gently whisper, “Rachael”, or point to their place for them. With practice, this works pretty well. 

Practice And Rehearsal!

reader's theater scripts

It’s practice and rehearsal, reader’s theater goes really well! But like with anything, you have to teach your students HOW to practice. Here are the things you need to help your students with while they’re reading their reader’s theater scripts.

  • Reader’s theater scripts typically have the character’s name first, then the part. You don’t have to read the character’s name, you find that character, then you read the part afterward. When you’re making your scripts, I recommend highlighting the words they will read, but NOT the character name. This format for your scripts takes a few tries, but gets easier.
  • Following along is important! Even if it’s not your turn, you have to read along with your friends, that way, you know when it’s your turn.
  • We talked before about when someone loses their place. This is when we practice politely telling a student that it’s their turn to go. 
  • And use expression! This is their chance to make their characters really shine! So we practice this too! If our script is The Three Little Pigs, I’ll definitely model how the characters will sound. I’ll tell my kiddos that they don’t want the big bad wolf to sound like “little pigs little pigs let me come in”, instead, we’re going to want to make our voices sound like the characters. 

Organizing Your Scripts

reader's theater scripts

Doing reader’s theater in your first-grade classroom takes a lot of organization. Especially once you start collecting scripts. I kept mine in a filing cabinet, each script in its own folder. You can also put them in page protectors and use binders if you’re more comfortable with binders! 

I always add a bit of fun to reader’s theater and give my students either puppets or nametags. Puppets are easy, just take a picture of the character, or if you don’t have one, just write the character’s name… laminate them and glue them to a popsicle stick. Then (again with practice) they can use their puppet to speak for the character. I found that this helps my students that are a bit on the shy side. 

If I use nametags, I use a baggie, with holes punched on the side, and then I tie yarn on either side of the top. To reinforce it, I’ll add a piece of tape over the yard. Their character name goes on a notecard, and you slip it right into the baggie. These are super fun too. Then you collect the baggies and you have a helpful student pull out the cards for next time. 

It’s Showtime!

reader's theater scripts

We’re on our last tip, which is PERFORMING! This is the fun part! You can perform your reader’s theater in front of your class, another class, or another staff member. I loved letting each group decide who they wanted to go perform to… we chose the principal, the recess aides, the music teachers, etc! As long as you checked ahead of time to make sure the time was okay for everyone, I felt comfortable sending a small group of students out to the rest of my school to perform! If you’re going to do this, stick with performing in front of your own class first so they’re in front of peers they’re comfortable with.

Shop For The Best Scripts

I mentioned earlier that I wanted to show you the scripts that I made in my classroom. I’ve really given these a facelift and I added them to my TPT store, and my online shop, Literacystations.com.

There are 20 reader’s theater scripts, and you can get them either individually or as bundles. I have them in sets of 5, or the whole bundle of 20. And as always, if you purchase a bundle, it’s at a discounted price. 

The scripts are really great because there are two levels of each story for your students who need an easier version, or a more challenging role. I’ve also made these easy for your students to read, as there is a picture of the character, so they don’t have to remember not to say their character’s name before their part.

These come in black and white if you want to save ink, or highlighted for you, so each student knows which part is theirs and it’s easier to follow along.

And this is new… they’re also digital if you want to go paperless, or students would like to practice on their own! 

Also included in each of the scripts are puppets and nametags! You can see the whole set and how they will work here!

I hope this gave you some helpful tips to make reader’s theater a wonderful experience in your classroom! If this was something you found useful, make sure to click the like button so more teachers like yourself will see this video. And don’t forget to check out the reader’s theater scripts too!


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Rachael Hull

Rachael Hull

Teaching literacy and facilitating literacy stations has been a passion of Rachael's and she wants to help you gain confidence in your classroom!


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