Writing for the 21st Century
(from Center for Learning The Stranger/The Plague Curriculum Unit)
Directions: Read the following description of readerís theater, an approach that can be used to enliven your study of literature.
If you enjoy different approaches to the absorption dispersal of information, or would like to use a new method of accessing and assessing material, then readerís theater is for you! Your first approach to it may seem time consuming, but it becomes both easier and more creative the more you practice it.
Two methods are possible for producing readerís theater, both in content selection and in production.
Use only material in the sources you have chosen. Your script consists of the words the authors have chosen; you simply devise ways to present them. To present a narrative passage, you use only the words in that passage; for dialogue, use only what is on the page; for an informative piece, use only the nonfiction passage. Basically this reorganizes the material for us.
Use the written material, whether fiction or nonfiction, as the base for your presentation. This serves as the foundation. You may then look up additional information and interweave it, or you may create original, imaginative material to enhance it.
You may decide to work alone and be the sole producer/speaker. Conversely, you may team up with a partner or small group of students. Obviously, the production is likely to be far more effective if you rehearse once or twice, but with relatively good readers it is possible to work directly form a script with little rehearsal.
Letís consider some examples, using Camus as the basis. You have been given the name of a philosopher or a philosophy, and you need to present material to the class. Two of you may be working together to research the topic. One might read biographical information, but put some life into the presentation by using readerís theater rather than a flat report. (This might mean creating a mock interview, writing a skit, or writing a rap with Camus quotes.) †The other student would then present basic philosophical beliefs. This could be done by narrating, creating a visual diagram, or acting like a news broadcaster.) If a third student were involved, that person could then read several quotations from a philosopher. (These could be interjected throughout the piece, explained, and even performedÖ) This was an example of the straightforward approach of the first method.
For the second method, a number of students could work together on the presentation. You would include background information on the historical period, appraisals that others have made of the philosopher/philosophy, even contradictory beliefs of other philosophers of the same era. You could also weave all of the material together in creative ways. (Graphics, PowerPoint, music, etc.)
So whatís the purpose of readerís theater? Primarily it is an alternative approach to learning, to thinking, to enjoying what you are studying. In using it, you will develop yet another facet of your learning skills.