"Studies Find Students Learn More By 'Acting Out' Text"--Review

publication date: Mar 13, 2012
author/source: Carol Montgomery

Readers Theater All Year Bug"A new series of studies suggests young students may comprehend more if they take a more active approach to reading," according to Education Week, a trusted source for K-12 education news for 20 years.  Here's a short review of this online article from July 12, 2011, by Sarah D. Sparks.  (Note:  This article is available only to the Education Week community or to others who pay for it.  I paid for the article to share it with you.)

According to Sparks, "A series of experiments by researchers at Arizona State University in Tempe and the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that students can understand and infer more by physically acting out text--either in real life or virtually--than by reading alone."  Readers Theater is one way to 'act out' text that they ignore.

Although Readers Theater doesn't use a lot of physical action, you can incorporate gestures and facial expressions easily.  Some teachers actually block the action, too.  No matter what you do, Readers Theater is NOT silent reading.

For your purposes, it appears that helping students make connections between the words on a page and real actions or concepts increases comprehension and memory.  Apparently a study in the journal Neuron discovered that "reading action words like 'kick' or 'lick' activated motor area of the brain associated with moving the foot or tongue."  Even
math concepts may improve when students act out the text of math problems.

Some researchers say that students therefore, "embody" what they read in order to understand it.  "Embodied, or grounded, cognition posits that meaning in language comes when words or phrases are mentally mapped onto memories of real experiences and perceptions."  Real experiences and perceptions.  Isn't Readers Theater a real experience?

So, those studies seem to suggest we should integrate learning into real life experiences.  We should try to plan activities that will cover information and topics in a cross-curricular manner allowing students to 'act out' important concepts.  This will engage not only kinesthetic learners, but all learners.

Basically, the students who acted out sentences (with real toys or pictures of toys on the computer) "had better comprehension than the control students and were also better able to make inferences about the text."

As a real life experience that can engage every learning style Readers Theater helps you reach your class goals for each of your students.  It helps make fun memories even in the subjects of history, health, and science.  Readers Theater allows students to "act out" the text in a safe, enjoyable way that will help them remember and comprehend, building leaders and creators along the way. 

Readers Theater All Year™ LLC builds leaders and creators for positive influence through an inexpensive, easy, flexible system.  Readers Theater All Year™ LLC curriculum services provides a caring community for using and creating Readers Theater scripts for families, classrooms, homeschools, camps, and drama clubs.

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