publication date: Jan 26, 2021
author/source: Carol Montgomery
WARNING: A teacher just wrote me. They had videotaped one of our scripts with the children wearing masks. The students did great. Unfortunately, the masks muffled their voices so the audio wasn't clear on the video. (I don't know if these were character masks or health masks, but let's assume they were character masks.)
I've watched videos from other teachers recording Readers Theater scripts without masks and even then sometimes you can't hear or understand students. So, what's a teacher to do? Below are several ideas to help ensure YOUR success making Readers Theater videos.
7 Ideas to Improve Your Readers Theater Video Performance
1. Record your audio ahead of time if you want to use masks and videotape a performance. Then, have the students "act out" the parts as the recording plays. (This can work great for Readers Theater puppet shows, too.)
2. Have separate (or shared) microphones for each speaker and make sure that they practice with a mic (microphone) while wearing a mask if they'll be wearing a mask in the performance. There are a variety of microphones and apps for videotaping with smartphones; however, some microphones will need adapters. Ask your local young computer expert and he or she may have a suggestion or do the research for you! NOTE: Students MAY be able to share microphones, but the microphone should be on a stand since the students will probably have scripts in their hands.
3. Use masks that do not hide their faces–especially their mouths. (Hats, headbands, or signs around the neck may also work for identifying characters.) Masks work well for action performances, but when the focus is on speech you'll achieve more success with mouths NOT being covered.
4. Use Zoom to record your performance so each child is miked separately (e.g., with headsets or computer microphones). Here's an example of some international teachers of English practicing one of our scripts–"The Earth Day Hen and Friends" on a Zoom call from our friend, Tracy, of Matrix Readers Theater. Zoom appears to be a simple way for small groups to practice or perform, but the microphone capability and position always impacts the quality of the sound.
5. Think of the microphone as an ice cream cone. You don't want it hiding the mouth, but you want it to be close enough to pick up the sweet sounds of the singer or speaker.
6. Train your students to project loud enough for Grandma in the back of the room to hear. "What did you say, Honey?" Make sure students articulate and don't read too fast because Grandma needs to understand the words, too.
***BONUS 8. Create a Readers Theater Radio Show with sound effects and audio only. Due to privacy issues Radio Readers Theater (e.g., Readers Theater podcasts), Readers Theater paper slides, and Readers Theater puppet shows all protect the identities of your readers. Of course, many adults enjoy watching children performing, so do what works best for you, your students, and their families.
No matter HOW you choose to share or not share your students' performances with parents, students will always be more motivated if they know there's a performance coming. If you don't want to record a video how about performing live for another class or an outdoor audience? Some teachers have actually shared Readers Theater performances via Skype. Why not mix up your options and see what works best with YOUR students?