Remember back when you were in your Reading Methods class and the teacher introduced Reader's Theatre and you thought, "YES, I'm going to use these every week!"
Then, you got through student teaching (maybe some substitute teaching jobs) and FINALLY. . . you got your own classroom! Only, it wasn't quite like your fantasy. . . for one thing, there were a lot of kids. Some of the kids didn't even know the alphabet (much less the sounds or any sight words and it wasn't even a Kindergarten class). There were a few special education kids that didn't seem to be able to sit still and a whole bunch of English Language Learners that looked bored and/or lost.
Suddenly, you didn't seem to spend as much time as you had thought you would on presenting fun, engaging lessons. . . instead, you spent a lot of time wrestling alligators. . .mean alligators that spit, kicked, hit and used bad words in creative ways that you'd never even heard before (and you're the adult in the room!).
Well here's a little secret. . .unless you get the kids engaged, you will NEVER stop having problems with the ugly behaviors - no matter what population you teach. Plus, today our kids come to school with a high expectation of being entertained. I'm not arguing whether this is "right" or "wrong," I'm just stating my personal experience over the years.
So, since you're never going to get that "perfect" time to start the engaging lessons. . .you have to just jump into the alligator pool. Now, this is where Reader's Theatre can be a lifesaver. Here's your plan of attack: One kid is screaming (give him/her a part that calls for a screaming kid, dragon, lion, etc.) Put a crown on his/her head (better yet have him/her color and cut (with safety scissors thank you) out the crown and leave a colored script in his/her general vicinity - trust me on this. . . all kids have curiosity - they won't be able to not look - even if they are not able to read YET). Got another kid who is totally withdrawn - give them a crown with their favored animal (or story character) on it and sit by this kid and quietly read the "fun" parts of the Reader's Theatre until they show interest (then put the script in their little hands and move on). Yes, it take a great deal of work (energy) at the beginning but it pays off!
Benefits you'll get from using Reader's Theatres:
1) Non-readers who will suddenly try very hard to read and practice/repeat (as this skill is needed for Reader's Theatre). A well written Reader's Theatre will engage these students like no other type of reading program.
2) You have a multi-modality lesson that can be performed at the snap of your fingers. Have a observation coming? Perfect - perform a previously practiced Reader's Theatre! Have to video a lesson to show for your Master's? Perfect - film it and go (don't forget to blur the faces if your school/parents don't allow you to photograph the kids - masks also work for anonymity). Have a parent that wants to see what you are doing to reach their child? Perfect - parents will watch their kids perform over and over (which is actually helping the student with fluency).
3) Need one of those last minute command performance appearances at the "Holiday," "Spring," "Whatever-You-Fill-In-The-Blank" (that you NEVER can find the costumes, props, etc. for at the last minute)? Use a Reader's Theatre (all the stuff you need should be included). I HATE looking for stuff at the last minute - using a Reader's Theatre will help you to always be prepared for the unexpected!
Let me know if you've ever tried using Reader's Theatre and if it's been as beneficial for your class as it has been for mine! Oh, and check out "Arctic White" by Danna Smith Reader's Theatre above for great Winter Arctic People and Animals (ELA & Science) lessons. Remember you can get this for less than $2.50 if you buy it in my growing Reader's Theatre Bundle!