Tips and Strategies for Using Readers Theater with Students in Your Classroom or Library

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readers theater stage

In my last blog post I shared a collection of readers theater scripts adapted from published picture books.  Today I’m sharing resources to help you get started with readers theater, or to make your current experience even better.

readers theater script

Let’s start with things I’ve learned through trial and error:

  • Students perform better when they have some familiarity with the script.  Reading the picture book version of the story aloud first helps them understand the “big picture” and allows them to hear any unfamiliar words.  Bonus points if they can see the words on the pages as you read!  You can also use scripts from familiar tales.
  • Even young readers can participate with the right script.  They may require more preparation and more practice, but they enjoy the spotlight just as much as older students!
  • Highlight each character’s lines on a separate script to make it easy for readers to know when to speak, and be sure the pages of your script are numbered so you can easily redirect students who become lost.  You use less paper when you print scripts on the front and back of each page, but it can be easier for students to follow along if their lines are only printed on one side of the page.
  • Your performance will go more smoothly when you have better readers performing the more difficult parts.  This sounds obvious, but even the least adept readers will often beg for a starring role so try to be aware of who can handle voicing a main character and who can’t, and assign parts accordingly.  Classmates quickly become frustrated with poor readings, and their comments and complaints can be hurtful and discouraging.
  • Check with individual students after giving out the scripts to see if there are any words in their part they’re unfamiliar with.  Asking a general question of the whole group (“Anyone need help with any words in your part?”) will NOT result in kids asking for help, whereas one-on-one conferencing will allow you to assist as needed before the performance.
  • Encourage students to be LOUD, and to experiment with different voices and accents, by giving LOTS of praise to the kids who throw themselves into their role.  Keep it fun!
  • Don’t hesitate to give repeat performances throughout the year, or even during the same class period.  Students who don’t get a part the first time around will appreciate the opportunity to switch from audience member to performer.  And as they become more familiar with the script, they will be able to give a smoother reading.
  • And speaking of audience members, prepare the students who don’t have a speaking part to participate appropriately.  Lead a discussion about the characteristics of a good listener, be clear with your expectations for the audience, and provide a copy of the script for everyone to follow along.

readers theater sign

Here are links to some articles with more readers theater advice:

Now it’s your turn to share your favorite tips and resources for using readers theater.  Please leave a comment and let us in on your secrets!

All images in this post created by Lori June using Canva


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Polar Bear Books and Activities for Learning in the Library

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Polar Bear Fiction Books

We haven’t had any snow (yet) this year, but that won’t stop us from enjoying some polar bear fun in the library!  After all, February 27 is International Polar Bear Day and these animals need our help.  Polar bears happen to be one of my all-time favorite animals, thanks in part to the amazing polar bear exhibit we used to have at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC.  There was an underwater viewing window in their habitat where I would gaze completely enthralled at the playful bears, just longing to swim with them.  That exhibit closed long ago, so now I have to settle for tuning into a polar bear zoo cam.  (I’ve included links to a few at the end of this post.)

Polar bear live cam image

In the meantime, I can enjoy sharing polar bear books like these with my students:

The Bear Report  The Bear Report – written and Illustrated by Thyra Heder
Sophie seems a little bored by the polar bears she’s supposed to be reporting on, but when one (named Olafur) appears and takes her on a tour of his home she becomes a big fan. Includes an author’s note about her trip to Iceland.  And may I say, I really love these light-infused illustrations!

It’s obvious that this book makes a great introduction to a unit on researching and writing about animals, and the idea of Sophie taking a tour of a polar bear habitat provides a natural introduction to using videos as information sources in addition to using print resources.  Along with presenting facts (in narrative style) about polar bears, this book also touches on whales, seals, arctic foxes, and glacier mice as well, which makes it a good segue story into other polar animals.  And there’s also a mention of the northern lights, which would make a perfect prompt for a watercolor project.

You can also share a video school visit presentation by the author.

  You’re Snug With Me – written by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Poonam Mistry
A mother bear has given birth to two cubs, and as they snuggle cozily together she shares a lyrical description of what the world is like beyond their warm den.  Try to use a document camera or ebook version of this story when sharing with students, because the dazzlingly intricate illustrations deserve close-up examination.

As someone who enjoys zentangle and mandala drawing myself, I was immediately inspired to pick up a pen and create some drawings of my own, so I searched out some line-drawing clip art of polar animals to give my students so they could try some patterns themselves.  If your kids don’t have time to draw their own patterns, Teaching Books has some coloring sheets available for download.  The author also provides some activities on her website.

Note there are two other gorgeous books in this series: You’re Safe with Me about a mama elephant, and You’re Strong with Me about a mother giraffe.

Hush Little Polar Bear  Hush Little Polar Bear – written and illustrated by Jeff Mack
Follow a little polar bear through his dreams to places anyone would love to visit: the beach, the farm, a waterfall, the jungle, and more until finally he drifts into the home of a sleeping girl who dreaming of polar bear travels herself.

The rhyme scheme of this book totally lends itself to singing the words (to the tune of Hush Little Baby), although it’s a bit long for a performance.  Naturally it makes a wonderful bedtime book to send home with your younger students, and it would make a sweet bedtime song.  You can find instrumental versions of the song on YouTube.

I like to use this book as the basis for an art exercise, where I read the words to the students but I don’t show them the pictures.  Students then either activate prior knowledge about the locations in the story or use their research skills to find out about them.  They then create their own illustrations to share with the class.

Three Snow Bears  The Three Snow Bears – written and illustrated by Jan Brett
A retelling of the Goldilocks story substituting polar bears for woodland bears, Brett incorporates elements of the Inuit lifestyle into this entertaining story.  As we enjoy the tale of Aloo-ki investigating the bears’ igloo and then getting caught by them, we also follow the story of the bears’ day out as well as the adventure her own huskies have when they float out to see on a loose patch of ice.

This is another book that students will want to get a good look at, as the drawings in the margins are rather small, so a document camera or a small-group setting would be best.

Brett always scrupulously researches clothing when she’s drawing characters from other cultures, and the designs she used in this book can be compared to the Indian patterns in You’re Snug With Me.  For this book she traveled to Iqualuit, capital of the Nunavut Territory in northern Canada, to meet and learn about the Inuit people. Read her newsletter to learn more about how she prepared to write this book.

This makes a great addition to a fairy tale comparison unit, but it’s also a fun stand-alone story.  You could also compare it to similar books by Brett, such as Trouble With Trolls (inspired by a trip to Norway), and The Mitten which has a Ukrainian influence.  Or you could contrast it with her Three Little Dassies which features bold African printed clothing, and the Persian folktale The Tale of the Tiger Slippers.

Tomorrow I’ll share some of my favorite nonfiction Polar Bear books.  In the meantime, please share your favorite polar bear books and resources in the comments, and here are the links to the Polar Bear Cams I promised you:









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The WWW is Back in a New Format!

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  Long-time readers of this blog will remember the WWW (Weekly Wednesday Website), an idea I came up with back in 2010 as a way to share a weekly internet resource with my teachers.  Each Wednesday I sent out an email featuring a relevant website, with an explanation of how to use it and suggestions for integrating it in the classroom.  A few years later I changed schools and I stopped sending out the WWW, but I’ve always thought it was one of my better ideas so I’m bring it back.

This time around I’m expanding the scope of the WWW from a single site sent in an email, to a weekly newsletter of resources for teachers to use themselves and/or share with their students.  Content will include websites for students to use independently, free tech tools for teachers, information about seasonal or timely events, tips and tricks to enhance virtual/hybrid learning, links to activities and lesson plan ideas, articles and blog posts about teaching, and self-care resources.  What better tool to curate such a collection than Wakelet?

  I’ve been a fan since Wakelet burst onto the scene a few years ago because of the way it integrates so successfully with Twitter.  I get daily professional development on Twitter courtesy of the people I follow there, and Wakelet provides an easy way to save and organize the tweets I want future access to.  My respect for the Wakelet support team has grown as I’ve watched how responsive they are to feedback from educators, and the number of new features they continue to add is astonishing — especially when you consider there are no fees of any kind for users!

This is just one of the many ways to use Wakelet, and I’ll be sharing more ideas in the future. For now, my newsletter is Public and I’ve set it to Copy, so feel free to use it and re-mix it and share it yourself if you like.  You can click this link to view, save, and copy it.


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Welcome Fall! Picture Books to Celebrate Autumn

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Welcome Fall!

Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year, and I enjoy fall picture books just as much as I enjoy fall weather.  Here are some of my favorites to welcome the season. (Yes, we are still having temperatures in the 90s here but we’re going to welcome fall anyway!)

 Fall Leaves: Colorful and Crunchy by Martha Rustad
This one has been around for several years but it’s still a fun celebration of the beautiful foliage that is synonymous with autumn. Because it’s written on two levels (simple narrative main text, plus more information shared in side notes) it works for preschool/kindergarten and elementary learners. This book is part of a series which includes five other books about the season: Fall’s Here!

. Because of an Acorn by Lola Schaefer
A simple cause-and-effect book that depicts and entire ecosystem then circles back to the acorn as it falls from the oak tree. It’s a book intended for young students, but children of all ages will appreciate the detailed artwork and the progression of ideas as they flow through the cycle of nature.

 Counting on Fall by Lizanna Flatt
Another book for younger readers, this is a nice addition to a STEAM collection because of the math connection to the scientific world of nature, with some creative collage art to round things out. It explores numbers, patterns, shapes, estimation, etc – all within the context of animal behavior and traditional symbols of autumn. This book is also part of a series: Math in Nature.

 Look What I Did With a Leaf by Morteza Sohi
Part craft book and part field guide, this is a book just begging to be used in a makerspace! The illustrations do a nice job of showing the reader how to follow the written instructions, and the projects are easily do-able by even young artists. As someone who has used leaf-picture activities with my students and my own children, I was very pleased with this book.

  Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
And of course if you’re going to make leaf pictures, you MUST share this inventive book first! The books I’ve mentioned so far have all been nonfiction, but we’re moving into pure fantasy now as we marvel at the collages Ehlert creates from paper leaves showing us animals, vegetables, and leaf people. The regular version of the book is fine, but if you’re using it as a read aloud you may want to invest in the big book edition so your audience won’t miss the small charming details, such as the mice in the pumpkin patch.

 Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
If you want to go beyond leaves to the life cycle of a tree (a sugar maple, to be specific) this is another winning title from Lois Ehlert. The vibrant illustrations are sure to draw the reader in, and the factual details are communicated in a lovely narrative told from a child’s point of view.

What are your favorite books to share the joy of fall? Please leave a comment!


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Alliteration Anyone? Picture Books to Teach Figurative Language

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Learning Librarian’s the name, figurative language is my game!  I had a request for books from a teacher who wanted to provide examples of alliteration to her students.  Here’s what I recommended:

Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre
This is seasonally appropriate as I’m typing this, and it’s gorgeous in terms of both words and photos.  Sayre is a perennial favorite with me, and this book did not disappoint.

Get the backstory and the page notes for each spread in the book from the author.


Wonderfall by Michael Hall
Another seasonal choice, but different in tone from Full of Fall.  The brightly colored illustrations celebrate the joy of cooler weather, colorful leaves, and

Enjoy the book trailer:


Some Smug Slug written by Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustrated by Henry Cole
In this story, the slug slowly starts up the steep surface of the slope, all the while ignoring the please of the other animals to stop.  Sadly, she doesn’t heed the warning, and is in for a shock at the top!  The phrase “oldie but goodie” applies to all of PDE’s alliteration books, which also include Dinorella, Clara Caterpillar, and Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke.

Listen to Pamela Duncan Edwards talk about her alliteration books:


Rosie Raccoon’s Rock and Roll Raft written by Barbara deRubertis and illustrated by R. W. Alley
Rosie is determined to win the Rocky River Raft Race, by building the best raft (STEM connection!) and piloting it down the river and through the rapids to the finish line.  In addition to the alliteration (“Rosie rocked around the rocks and rolled through the rest of the rapids.”) the story features a heavy dose of onomatopoeia (“Rattle! Bang! Rumble! Crash! Rosie was raising a ruckus in her backyard.”).  There are some raccoon facts and follow-up activities at the end of the book.  This is one in a whole series of books from A-Z that celebrate alliteration.

Lerner Books offers a printable activity guide for the book (and for the others in the series).


Betty’s Burgled Bakery by Travis Nichols
Graphic novel aficionados will enjoy this detective story told in comic book format, and teachers will appreciate the notes at the end explaining alliteration and providing additional facts about hungry animals.  Nichols cleverly features one letter of the alphabet on each page, from A (“All right Antoine, always anticipate an alarm!” to Z (“We zipped this zany, zigzagging zinger with zeal!”).  Even the dedication is alliterative — now that’s dedication!  (groan!)

Enjoy this book launch celebration video created by the author:


If You Were Alliteration written by Trisha Speed Shaskan and illustrated by Sara Gray
And finally, this non-fiction title explaining alliteration and how it’s used is an enjoyable read aloud choice.  The examples given include simple sentences, metaphor and simile, tongue-twisters, and poems.  At the end of the book there’s also a writing prompt, a glossary, an index, and a bibliography,  This is part of a series on figurative language, parts of speech, and math concepts.

This book is included in the Fact Hound website, which offers recommended titles and websites for Capstone books.

Enjoy a preview of the book:

What are your favorite alliteration books?  Please share in the comments!



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Autumn Leaves: Kindergarten Story Time

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 I love autumn, and I enjoy sharing all the elements of the season with my students. In this lesson I shared the fabulous book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert, which never gets old for me even though I’ve been reading it aloud for ten years! We followed the book with a discussion of all the items she was able to make with leaves, and then we brainstormed ideas of other pictures that could be created.

I then gave each student a sheet of plain construction paper, and an assortment of real leaves and acorns from my yard. Ordinarily I would take the students on a nature walk around the school grounds to collect materials for this project, but Hurricane Michael closed our school and then left a wet mess behind. As we talked about what body parts people and animals have, the students experimented with different sizes and shapes of leaves to design their own leaf pictures. And while they were making art, I was taking photos!

We ended our time together by returning to the rug and singing Autumn Leaves are Falling Down by The Kiboomers on YouTube. I chose this song because it mentions the colors of the leaves that fall from the trees, which is one of the facts I wanted the students to know.

I reinforced that concept with our line up activity: When I called a child’s name, s/he had to name a real leaf color (green, yellow, orange, brown) before lining up.

Do you share the beauty of autumn leaves with your students? Please leave a comment and share your ideas!


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There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves: Kindergarten Story Time

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Our most recent story sessions have focused on trees and orchards, so our next logical step was to talk about leaves and the seasonal changes they are starting to go through.

 I began with a callback to a read-aloud I used earlier this year: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms TabackWe re-read that book and used the old lady interactive puppet to re-enact the story, then segued into a different “old lady” book: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves by Lucille Colandro. To make sure the students were actively listening, I instructed them to say “ah-choo” every time they heard the word “sneeze.”

 Not only did we see leaves on every page of the book, but at the end of the story (spoiler alert!) the old lady sneezes out a scarecrow, which provides another seasonal icon to work with! We had an interesting discussion about the purpose of a scarecrow. A few children knew it was for scaring birds away, while others insisted it was a Halloween decoration. We finally agreed that both uses were important.

After the story it was time to move around, so we learned the Scarecrow Dance using the video for the Scarecrow Song by the Learning Station on YouTube. I almost used the video/song Dance Like a Scarecrow but in the end I preferred the way the “Scarecrow Song” kept repeating and got a little faster each time. That gave the kids a chance to practice the dance, and they really like it when things speed up the longer you do them.

 Then we worked on small motor skills with a simple scarecrow coloring page. Some students surprised me with how well they were already coloring, but others were mere scribblers. All were proud of what they created though, as evidenced by their enthusiasm for “show and tell” time when we came back to the carpet to share the pictures.

Do you have some good scarecrow resources that you use in your story time sessions?  Please leave a comment or tweet me @LibraryLoriJune


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