Culturally Sustaining and Collaborative Literacy Practices

Culturally Sustaining and Collaborative Literacy Practices

Are you looking for an instructional strategy that prioritizes oral reading and provides opportunities for culturally sustaining and collaborative literacy learning? Look no further than reader’s theater!

What Is Reader’s Theater?

Reader’s theater is a multisensory strategy designed to help students develop fluency and comprehension by reading scripts based on grade-level texts. Often used for language arts, reader’s theater can also be applied in science, social studies, and second-language classes.

Culturally Sustaining Literacy Practices

Teachers and students often work together when converting a story to a script. By collaborating on scriptwriting that focuses on student-generated ideas, students can create text that reflects their own cultural identities and interests. For example, students and teachers can work together to adapt a script for readers’ theater based on the book Bintou’s Braids by Sylviane A. Diouf, which provides a vehicle for connection between hair and the identity formation of girls of color.

Reader’s theater scripts can also reflect students’ heritage and identity by featuring fables and other oral storytelling traditions that are familiar to students and their families. The focus of this creative literacy activity is to build students’ fluency and vocabulary, which in turn helps support students’ reading comprehension. The repeated readings method of readers’ theater presents students with an authentic context for multiple engagements with texts, which has been effective with students of all ages and for multilingual learners.

Peer-to-Peer Collaboration

Readers’ theater allows struggling readers to develop their skills in a non-threatening and collaborative way. Reading groups typically categorize students by perceived ability. To allow for heterogeneous grouping, teachers can assign readers’ theater script roles to meet each student’s particular needs. The collaborative nature of readers’ theater supports positive social interactions among peers of all abilities and backgrounds.

Making Reading Fun

While struggling readers may find it challenging to read a book independently and silently, readers’ theater offers a fun opportunity for oral reading practice. Finding enjoyment in a readers’ theater activity may lead students to pursue more literacy-based experiences and pastimes. 

Looking for more ways to encourage student collaboration and successful project-based learning? Check out these posts:

Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development: