Readers Theater Scripts & Ideas

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will discuss how to create potential scripts and ideas that could be used for readers' theater. We will also include why the script or idea is appropriate and how a teacher could use it for students of any age.

Reader's Theater

Reader's theater is a strategy for literacy instruction that creates performance pieces from stories that students can act out for the class. This helps students engage their imagination and connect to the characters, a strategy that may be more effective than just reading the words. Reader's theater especially appeals to students who are kinesthetic learners, those whose learning style emphasizes getting actively involved through movement and hands-on learning. Unlike performing in plays in the theater, reader's theater allows for reading the parts in front of the class rather than reciting memorized lines from the stage.

Pick a Story

Any genre of story can be appropriate for reader's theater, as long as there is dialogue or potential for dialogue between characters. Using age-appropriate literature is helpful, especially if the selections come from the required grade-level reading list. Generally, even those folk tales and fables taught to emerging readers can be subject to deeper analysis of themes and symbolism for older students. Advanced readers have access to almost unlimited options for stories to perform, encouraging students to participate in this selection process. Most of the classics that make for great reader's theater are short stories, while using excerpts of a novel may be preferred in the interest of time.


Fables are short, simple stories that have animal characters and a central lesson or message. These stories are popular for all ages, even pre-readers, and make perfect metaphors for many of life's conundrums. The most famous fables were written by the Greek slave Aesop, and include The Tortoise and the Hare, The Lion and the Mouse and Belling the Cat.

The Tortoise and the Hare is as much fun to perform with adolescents as it is with prereaders

Folk Tales

Folk tales or faerie tales are stories that have been around forever and come from all over the world. These stories are usually rich in symbolism and often involve a quest or journey with various trials and magical helpers. Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs are good examples of folk tales that can be easily adapted to reader's theater.

Folk tales like Cinderella have the benefit of wide familiarity and lots of interesting characters
image of a pumpkin coach


Advanced readers working on chapter books, plays and novels have access to several works of classic literature. These classics have become so well-loved that they are considered the required minimum of literary exposure for students. Popular classics perfect for reader's theater are Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Edgar Allen Poe's Tell-Tale Heart and Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron.

Classics like Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll have some really interesting dialogue that makes great performances
Alice in Wonderland

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