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Curriculum Details for
Benchmark Reader's Theater Scripts and Fluency Skills Set


Program
Description
Practitioner Expert
Review
Content Expert
Review
Benchmark Reader's Theater Scripts and Fluency Skills Set
Publication Date: 2005
Grade Level: 1–8 and above
Content Focus: Literacy/Language Arts
Costs: $325 - $4,695
The costs shown were accurate at the time of the review. Please check the publisher's web site for current prices.
Developer Contact Information
Benchmark Education Company
629 Fifth Avenue
Pelham, NY, 10803
877-236-2465
www.benchmarkeducation.com/readers-theat
er/readers-theater.html

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Program Description

Design Summary

Reader’s Theater can be used both during the school day and after school. The Reader’s Theater Scripts and the Fluency Skills Set are designed to be used together, although they can be used separately as well. The goals of the program are to build oral fluency and expression, develop silent reading and tracking skills, improve listening skills, grow confidence and self-esteem, and learn academic vocabulary and content.  The program uses fiction and content-related scripts, providing a fun way for students to engage with reading and improve their skills.  Students also absorb and retain content knowledge, as they accurately portray the characters in the scripts. Content in the scripts links to many other content areas, including science, math, social studies, and a range of literary genres: tall tales, folktales, myths and legends, fairy tales, and fables.

The scripts are multi-leveled, allowing students with varying reading levels to work collaboratively while reading parts from the same script.  Curriculum is available in many formats, including individual scripts and complete programs.  Each script comes with a detailed Teacher’s Guide.  Each complete program also includes a Teacher’s Handbook or Overview with classroom management tips, assessment rubrics, and other lesson-planning aids.  Both forms contain sections pertaining to English Language Learners.

Costs and Staff Training

Reader’s Theater can be purchased in many different forms. Individual titles cost approximately $25 for a set of six scripts (for titles with six or fewer characters) and  $45 for a set of 12 scripts (for titles with seven or more characters). Theme sets of 12 titles range from $325 - $399. Complete Programs for various themes can range between $1,425 and $2,395 and the Master Collection of 168 titles is $4,695.  Fluency Skills Sets, which includes reader’s theater titles along with fluency kits that offer multiple copies of 32 leveled reading passages, are specifically designed for afterschool use. They cost between $895 and $3,095, depending on grade level.
 
Training is not required.  Professional development is available, and can be purchased along with the Complete Programs or Master Collection for an additional cost of $3,000.

Staff Qualifications

Formal teaching experience is not required to implement Reader’s Theater. Content expert review suggests that less experienced instructors working with struggling readers might benefit from additional training and support to identify students’ specific skill needs. Practitioner expert review suggests that anyone can use the scripts effectively with students.

Standards Alignment

  • National: None specified
  • State: None specified

Research Base

The program is based on research that found oral reading, with partners, to have a positive impact on students’ reading skills and fluency.

Evaluation Details

Readers’ Theater was evaluated by Dr. Timothy Rasinski, who found the program to have a positive impact on students’ reading skills.  There have been other outside evaluations as well. The results of all such evaluations can be found at: www.benchmarkeducation.com.

Overall Strengths/Overall Challenges

Strengths
  • Presents students with a different avenue for learning how to read. Theater format effective in afterschool setting.
  • Engages readers who may be difficult to reach.
  • Builds fluency
  • Easy to implement.
  • Provides both opportunities for students to read to each other and to get feedback from an adult.
Challenges
  • Oral reading is the only type of reading and fluency practice offered with this curriculum.

Practitioner Expert Review

Practitioner Expert Background

This practitioner has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Master’s degree in education.  She has been teaching fourth grade and using Reader’s Theater in the classroom for the past ten years. She has also used Reader’s Theater in a ten-week afterschool program for four years.  In this program, she worked with 3rd-5th graders from mixed income backgrounds.

Logistics

Training
  • Didn’t attend a formal training.
  • Manuals and rubrics included in the curriculum can be helpful for instructors.
Set-up/preparation
  • Preparation time consists of choosing scripts and starting to read them.
  • Students sometimes make simple props to go along with the script, this can take from 5 – 15 minutes.
  • Five to eight students per script tends to be an ideal number.

Student Engagement

  • The scripts are funny, cool, and students find them very enjoyable and engaging.
  • Students generally choose Reader’s Theater first over other activity options.
  • Students enjoy and feel successful performing.
  • Students tend to build confidence and enjoy working with other students to make the plays happen. They often help each other with reading pronunciation, punctuation, etc.
  • Parents have been extremely supportive of the Reader’s Theater.  Families often read scripts at home, find it enjoyable, and feel success.

Content

Adaptability to instructor needs
  • Flexible. Parts are sketched out, but students can bring their own voices, mannerisms, and ideas to make the roles their own. 
  • Coded parts allow an instructor to give students appropriate reading levels. Makes it easy to pair students of different reading levels.
  • Can be aligned to different content area needs.
  • Assessments are easy to use and provide useful information, including student self-assessments.
General skills taught
  • Helps students practice and gain confidence with public speaking skills in a comfortable, safe environment.
Addressing diverse student needs
  • Content has felt accessible to all students.
  • Easily adaptable to different reading ability levels.

Strengths and Challenges

Strengths
  • Presents students with a different avenue for learning how to read.
  • Engages readers who may be difficult to reach.
  • Builds fluency
Challenges
  • This practitioner didn’t find any challenges with Reader’s Theater.

Content Expert Review

Content Expert Reviewer

Katharine Adams
Katharine Adams is currently a doctoral student in Applied Child Development at Tufts University. She has taught at the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts for over a decade. She has worked on the development and design of literacy curricula including RAVE-O and the Benchmark Word Detectives Program. She has also developed and implemented an afterschool and summer program for at-risk readers. In addition, Katharine has taught in elementary schools and holds a Masters in teaching with an emphasis in special needs.

Content

  • Reader’s Theater Scripts cover oral reading fluency and reading comprehension.
  • Fluency Skills Set offers more in depth coverage of these topics.
  • Scripts seem to be effective at engaging students with the stories.

Skills

Academic Skills
  • Oral reading fluency
  • Reading comprehension
Study Skills
  • How to work independently
Non-Academic Skills
  • Team work, cooperation, and communication skills
  • Peer teaching and learning

Alignment to Standards

While Fluency Skills Set does not have specific standards, the curriculum does reflect current trends in scientifically based fluency instruction.

Assessment

  • Fluency Skills Set includes both self-check and informal teacher assessments. 
  • Formal assessments, similar to a regular reading test, help determine if a student is on track, but does not articulate specific problem areas.

Structure

  • Fairly structured, the content is entirely defined.
  • Easy to implement.
  • Largely teacher-directed.
  • In addition to a regular Teachers Guide, there is also a Teachers Guide designed specifically for using Reader’s Theater with English Language Learners.  This guide explicitly breaks down skills involved.

Addressing Diverse Student Needs

Adaptability
  • Teachers can be creative with how students use the scripts.  Depending on the needs and interests of students, teachers could come up with many different ways to perform the plays.
  • The curriculum includes ideas for creative extension activities.
  • Multileveled scripts allow students who are at different reading levels to participate.
Developmental level
  • The curriculum is available for a range of reading levels, and is fairly appropriate to the given ages.  Students need to already have some ability to read. 
Learning Styles Addressed
  • Movement/spatial learning: Students get up and move around while reading lines.
  • Interpersonal learning: Both scripts and fluency sets require students to work together, read to each other, and perform together.
  • Artistic learning: Acting and performing a play.
Multiculturalism
  • Teacher’s guide for English Language Learners (ELL).
  • Scripts incorporate diverse stories and characters, such as with the Myths and Legends Set.

Strengths and Challenges

Strongest Features
  • Easy to implement, feasible for an afterschool program to be able to store and keep track of materials.
  • Engaging for students.
  • Provides both opportunities for students to read to each other and to get feedback from an adult.
  • Theater format effective in afterschool setting.
Challenges and Drawbacks
  • Oral reading is the only type of reading and fluency practice offered with this curriculum.

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