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September 13, 2008

Tips for Using Reader’s Theater in Kindergarten

Readers TheaterReaders Theater


A couple of years ago, I was challenged by a conference planner at SDE to do a presentation on using Reader’s Theater in Kindergarten. The only problem was that I had NO idea how to approach this task in a meaningful and appropriate way. After a lot of experimentation, I came up with a method that worked for me. Below you will find the details of how I did it.

1. Choose a book the children love to read over and over again. The repetitive ones that the kids can “chime in” with and recite with you are best. My class loved to do this with the book Mrs. Wishy-Washy by Joy Cowly.2. Write the words on sentence strips and practice reading them whole group.3. Gather whatever props are needed, and tell the kids that you are going to act out the story while they read the words.

4. Choose children to play the parts, and let them hold the sentences in their hands as they say the words. The rest of the class gets to be the narrators, and they read along with the words on the sentence strips on a pocket chart as the teacher points.

5. Management of this activity is crucial! Until I had a good system down, they drove me nuts! It worked best for me to give the “actors” a spot to wait in (like a chair) when it is not their turn to speak. (This is very important!!!) It imposed a bit of structure on an extremely exciting activity! This helped keep the kids calmer than they were otherwise.

6. Plan on repeating this activity several times over so that everyone gets a turn. It took us a few days to rotate the whole class through the acting parts.

Big Books are a great way to introduce a story to the whole group for Reader’s Theater or anything else- but they can be hard to hang onto. You might be able to avoid writing up the whole thing on sentence strips and putting the strips on a pocket chart if you have a good way to hold the book so that everyone can see.

Heidi with Three Little Piggies

The “Big Book Tree” is a nice and easy way to hold a big book when you read. The Big Book Tree looks like a big broom stick with no broom attached, and it was about 20 dollars. It has some “eyelets” that are attached near the top and the middle of the stick, and there is a giant rubber band that runs through the eyelets. The book cover slips through the rubber band, and the weight of the book rests on the bottom eyelet. If you rest the stick between your legs, you can lean it and easily hold the whole book and turn the pages with no problem. This product is sold by Starting Blocks Plus. To order, you have to email them at: (Two years ago when I got mine, they did not have a web site, but would fill requests for their product via email and snail mail. This may have changed these days!)

Big Book Tree

The Wright Group publishes a wealth of great simple stories that could be acted out, but my favorite is Mrs. Wishy Washy. If anyone knows of another great story for kindergarteners to act out, please let me know!

My class has successfully acted out the following stories:

Mrs. Wishy Washy by Joy Cowly

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams and Megan Lloyd

Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins

The Mitten by Jan Brett

The Mitten Primary Play by Heidi Butkus

The Gingerbread Man Primary Play by Heidi Butkus

Also, Kristen at the Teeny Tiny Teacher sells a bunch of great scrips for Readers Theater for early readers that are really fun!  So I highly recommend that you check those out, too!  Have fun!

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