Using the Lamb in Readers Theatre
What is Readers Theatre?
Readers Theatre (RT) is a performance of literature (a story, play, etc.) by reading expressively rather than acting. RT generally does not require memorization, props, stage settings or costumes. When elementary or middle-school students perform RT they enhance their reading skills, improve comprehension and fluency, and build confidence. Combining RT with a meaningful purpose (i.e. performance in front of an audience) gives students reason and motivation to read aloud. This is especially true for struggling, reluctant or shy readers.
Why The Lamb?
The Lamb is an excellent tool to use in RT because it is a powerful message written in simple language. The story engages young readers and presents the message of the Bible. Reading it aloud reinforces their understanding of the Gospel and gives them an effective method to communicate the Gospel.
The accompanying theatrical introduction and conclusion (PDF files), originally written by Elda Bartsch for her 8th-grade students in Alberta, Canada, may be used when presenting The Lamb in RT format.
The Lamb RT is suitable for students from elementary grades through middle school.
RT is best used with 5-10 students. Consider dividing a larger class into smaller groups.
Preparation and practice time varies with the students’ general level of reading. Allow sufficient daily practice so students become familiar with the RT format and the text itself. A suggested time frame is two to six months.
How to organize a Readers Theatre performance using The Lamb
- Play the Lamb CD through once so the students can hear the story, the words, the expressions and intonations of the readers. Hold up the pictures from the book as the CD is played.
- Set a rule for reading aloud: Students may not criticize or make fun of others’ reading. This helps students become less self-conscious and gain confidence in their own reading. When pointing out areas for improvement, focus on the passage instead of on the person.
- Set aside a period of time each day to read from The Lamb. Have the students read round-robin style, taking one sentence each until they finish one chapter. Then review the vocabulary, pronunciation, etc.
- With student input, generate a list of vocabulary words. Write them on the board and refer to them throughout the project. Review the words frequently and emphasize pronunciation and meaning.
- Read each chapter several times before going on. Repetition helps improve comprehension and fluency. When students understand what they are reading and can read it fluently, they gain confidence.
- After fluency is established, focus on projection, pace and expression. Students should be able to project their voices across a room, read at an audible and comfortable pace, and use proper expressions.
- After students have read through the book, prepare scripts for them. First, divide the text into different parts depending on the number of students. Lines should not be too long; a sentence or two each time is appropriate. Make sure each student is given an equal amount to read.
- Make copies of the Lamb text (text only can be downloaded here).
On each copy, highlight the lines for the different parts. Secure scripts
- Distribute scripts and explain how parts work (e.g. read the highlighted portion only; follow along and pay attention to when your lines are coming up).
- Do not assign parts yet; have students take turns assuming different parts on different days.
- Collect scripts after each practice session.
- Practice one chapter several times before going on to the next chapter. Continue focusing on projection, pace and expression.
- Assign permanent roles only when all students are familiar and comfortable with the script.
- Make copies of the introduction and conclusion accompanying these instructions and include with the Lamb script.
- Rehearse by performing informally on a “stage” in the classroom or elsewhere. Students may sit on chairs on the “stage” and stand when they read their parts.
- Have students practice projecting their voices to the other side of the room.
- Music is a useful medium for setting the mood and reinforcing the meaning of the story. Selections from The Lamb song can be played prior to or after the presentation. Soft instrumental music can be played during reading or between chapters.
- A few simple props or sets may be used if desired.
Setting up the performance:
- Look for a suitable venue and a young audience (ages 5 and up) who will be able to understand and benefit from the presentation.
- Explain to the audience what Readers Theatre is and what to expect.
- Because of its length, the performance may be broken down into several sections with intermissions in between, or spread over a few days.
- Have teachers be prepared to follow up with any children who may want to talk about their decision to believe.