Reader’s Theater and Executive Function Strategies

When it comes to reading, working in groups can be problematic, especially for students with dyslexia, ADHD, or other learning differences. Reader’s theater is a fun way to let all students collaboratively engage with texts as they strengthen executive function strategies.

Reader’s Theater & Executive Function

Reader’s theater is a multisensory instructional strategy designed to help students develop fluency and comprehension by reading scripts based on grade-level texts. Reader’s theater is not only limited to language arts—it can be a useful instructional strategy for science, social studies, and second language classes.

Executive function is often overlooked when it comes to reading instruction. The informal performances of reader’s theater allow students to work collaboratively, craft a character or tone, and use their executive function strategies.

Let’s break down how reader’s theater can provide opportunities to teach strategies that will help students overcome executive functioning challenges. 

Working memory

Reader’s theater asks students to use their strategies for working memory. Students will need to maintain their spot in their script and keep track of their peers’ lines as they progress through their performance. Reader’s theater offers a natural opportunity for repeated reading, and students can practice their lines multiple times as a group. This provides students with many chances to employ their strategies for remembering when it is their turn to read.  

Cognitive flexibility

Once students are assigned their character or role, they must craft certain voices or gestures to match their lines. While performing, students will have to shift between their own perspective and their character’s perspective. Playing a different character provides a concrete opportunity to understand how to shift in real or imagined scenarios. They will also have to shift between listening to their peers’ lines and reading out their own.  

Self-monitoring and self-checking

As students embody the characters they are portraying, they must use their self-monitoring strategies to ensure that their gestures and voices match the text. They might ask themselves: How is the character feeling here? How might I communicate this character’s emotions? Are there words I don’t know? Encourage students to prompt each other to ask themselves these questions; this will help keep everyone on track.

Reader’s theater is a fun way for all students to participate in activities that promote literacy, reading comprehension, and executive function strategies. For more resources about theater-related activities, check out this post about theater games that help build flexible thinking.  

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, SMARTS Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

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