publication date: Aug 9, 2010
author/source: Carol Montgomery
Review: Readers Theatre in the Middle School and Junior High Classroom
If you happen to teach a classroom of middle school or junior high school students and need ideas on how to incorporate Readers Theater into your classroom, you may find Readers Theatre in the Middle School and Junior High Classroom, by Lois Walker helpful. Lois Walker has the credentials in theater, being "a former head of the Theatre Department at Notre Dame University" in Canada. She has authored several resource books for teachers and even created four "award winning, internationally syndicated television series featuring creative activities for parents, teachers,and children" that are seen on Canadian cable television. Thus, Lois Walker is another fan of Readers Theater.
Applied Classroom Strategies
Readers Theatre in the Middle School and Junior High Classroom differs from many other books on Readers Theater because it focuses on applied strategies that can be used with older students--beyond elementary. I did find most of the strategies overlapped strategies useful for younger students, but the author clearly presents many strategies step-by-step for the teacher. Walker covers topics like "Circle Reading," "Instant Reading," and "Cooperative Reading" with clarity and specific steps for success. She also provides additional ideas for successful Readers Theater that newbies should find helpful.
ESL, Special Ed, and Speech Therapy
The very short section on "Four Specialized In-class Applications for Readers Theatre Scripts" may interest English as a Second Language (ESL) and Special Ed teachers because Walker quickly explains Readers Theater in those settings. (Note: This section is only three pages long, so it's not a comprehensive chapter on how to use Readers Theater in an ESL or Special Ed classrooms.) It's interesting she includes speech therapy students and "special student mainstreaming" as other applications for Readers Theater.
Performance Tips and Language Development Springboards
Besides practical ideas on casting, staging, and performing Readers Theater, Readers Theatre in the Middle School and Junior High Classroom includes 47 springboards to language development. From storytelling to writing and creative drama, Lois Walker explains specific language springboards using Readers Theater. The springboard section has several suggestions that would be helpful to teachers, but a teacher would have to review each idea and decide if it resonates with his or her specific situation. There are no testimonies or stories from classroom teachers implementing the ideas, yet the springboards appear useful--especially if you are looking for expanding the Readers Theater scripts with some written activities for older students.
Two Versions of Two Scripts
The end of the book has two Readers Theater scripts for classroom use. But, Lois Walker, the theater expert, has one script for students and a separate script for teachers. Why two versions of the same script? Well, the teacher's script has staging ideas, entrance options, and vocabulary information included. The student's script still includes some character directions, but is easier to follow. Like a true drama teacher, Lois Walker numbers the lines on these scripts so the director (i.e., the teacher) may easily direct attention to a specific line or passage. I found this made the page look a little busy, especially since the numerals were black--not grey. Also, the scripts have NO BREAKS of space between readers; one line appears right below the previous line no matter who is speaking. Thus, each page of the two scripts is full of print without paragraph breaks or character breaks. The best way to overcome any confusion in a classroom setting would be to mark, underline, or color-code the lines of specific characters.
Readers Theatre in the Middle School and Junior High Classroom contains 72 pages with about 32 pages in the last section devoted to Lois Walker's two scripts, sources of quotes, information about the author, and blank pages. If you need help figuring out how to use Readers Theater with middle school or junior high school students the first forty pages of the book should help you. I can't guarantee you'll like her scripts (i.e., "The Crazy Critters" and "The Fish Tank"), but she does give you permission to duplicate them if you do.
Lois Walker has made some amazing contributions to education. For middle school teachers or junior high teachers new to Readers Theater, Readers Theatre in the Middle School and Junior High Classroom may be just the ticket for a train ride to success with Readers Theater!