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TNLI: Action Research: Curriculum Implementation:
Using Readers Theater to Show Off Good Reading


Research Summary
by Janet Caluris

I. Research Question/ Definition of Problem
How can I effectively utilize readers theater to improve the fluency and reading comprehension skills of my students?

  • What does readers theater look like in my classroom?
  • What is the impact of readers theater on my students’ levels of fluency?
  • What is the impact of readers theater on my students’ levels of comprehension?
  • What changes in students’ level of interest in reading and reading behaviors are noted following the use of readers theater?

II. Rationale
The National Reading Panel in 2000 identified fluency as a key ingredient to successful reading instruction because of its effect on students’ reading efficiency and comprehension. Identifying the impact of readers theater on my students’ fluency levels and comprehension is important because third grade is considered a benchmark grade in my district, and promotional criteria is based on reading at or above a designated reading percentile as measured by our annual standardized testing. Evaluating the impact of readers theater and noting the patterns I discover in my students’ performance will help me effectively implement an instructional program to meet students’ individual needs.

III. Data Collection Process/ Tools
The methods I used to collect data included surveys, observations, and student fluency assessments. These were accumulated over a three month period: January to March.

Fluency assessments from an informal reading inventory (level three) were administered at the start, and at the fourth week, eighth week and conclusion of the study to assess and monitor overall improvement of reading fluency skills including word recognition accuracy, reading rate, reading expression and comprehension.

Two surveys were administered—one at the start and one at the conclusion of the study—to assess changes in the reading habits and interests of the students.

Student performances of readers theater scripts were taped and analyzed weekly to monitor improvements in fluency. A rubric was utilized for the students to self-assess their own progress during the study.

IV. Data Analysis & Findings
The results of my project affirmed that utilizing readers theater does lead to improved levels of fluency and reading comprehension. However, while all my students benefited, my results did not show equal gains for all students.

I broke the data down into the four major groups - academically talented, general education, bilingual and special needs - represented in my classroom and learned that the academically talented group showed no gain because they were already fluent readers with great comprehension. I saw roughly the same percentage of gains in word recognition for the remaining groups. Overall comprehension was greater for the general education and special needs students than the bilingual students, I am theorizing that this change was due to the fact that despite their fluency with the language, children for these two groups still needed to develop their understanding of the vocabulary to improve comprehension. For the bilingual students, this is clearly not enough of an intervention.

Readers theater improved my students’ reading rate, word recognition accuracy and use of expression while reading as well as their attitudes toward reading. They benefited both from the multiple interactions with the text and with their peers, resulting in improved fluency and comprehension levels. Incorporating fluency instruction is integral to the creation of an effective comprehension program because if fluency is not developed, the act of decoding drains some of the students’ available resources from constructing meaning of the text resulting in lower comprehension. My assumption is that as their self-concept as readers got better they demonstrated greater fluency and comprehension. Periodic assessment was critical to my discovery of how to make readers theater a successful experience for my students. The students who experienced a change in attitude towards reading likewise showed the greatest gains in fluency, but it is not clear if the attitude changed as a result of improved performance or vice versa since the attitude survey was only administered at the start and end of the study. In the future, I might use some informal interviews to help me figure out what aspects of the intervention are supporting good reading.

V. Policy Implications/ Recommendations

  • Teachers of struggling students could utilize readers theater to provide their children with an enjoyable opportunity to engage in rereading texts to improve fluency and comprehension levels.
  • Fluency instruction, key to effective comprehension programs, can be incorporated through the teacher creation of readers theater scripts across the curriculum.
  • Administrators need to encourage teachers to incorporate motivational reading activities, such as readers theater, into their reading programs to improve student attitude and performance.
  • Fluency assessments should be administered at quarterly intervals to help teachers analyze students current performance levels and utilize that data to drive their future instruction.

VI. Next Steps
I will present my findings to my colleagues and encourage them to incorporate fluency assessments and readers theater in their curriculum.

Janet Caluris

Research Focus:
Reading Comprehension

TNLI Affiliate:

Peterson Elementary
5510 N. Christiana Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute, please e-mail Kimberly Johnson for more information.



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