Research School Network: Readers Theatre: A Powerful Tool for Developing Reading Fluency and Metacognition Polly Crowther looks at the strategies expert readers rely on to be successful


Readers Theatre: A Powerful Tool for Developing Reading Fluency and Metacognition

Polly Crowther looks at the strategies expert readers rely on to be successful

Polly Crother has worked in all phases of education and is currently a Year 6 teacher in Kent. Polly is an Evidence Lead in Education with the East London Research School.

Most teachers are expert readers. Certainly, we are experts in comparison to the novices embarking on the adventure of learning to read at primary school. Whilst this means we bring an abundance of knowledge and skills to our reading lessons, it can make metacognitive instruction tricky: what metacognitive strategies do you use when you read? When you have been an expert for so long, it can be hard to unpick the strategies on which we rely.

It is worth the time to do so, however. Metacognition is one of the highest impact strategies in the EEF toolkit, with a possible seven months’ additional progress when implemented effectively. The EEF’s Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning Guidance Report also explains that the impact can be difficult to realise, as they require the explicit instruction of metacognitive strategies rooted in subject domain-specific tasks; these tasks should have a suitable level of challenge to ensure the strategy is both necessary and useful. In reading, metacognitive strategies can support pupils’ fluency and comprehension, as outlined in the EEF’s Improving Literacy in Key Stage 1and 2 Guidance Reports. Direct instruction in metacognitive approaches to reading can be powerful tools as we support children to move from novice to competent, independent readers. When pupils are aware of their own reading processes, they can make strategic decisions about how to approach different texts.

Reader’s Theatre is a reading fluency model outlined in the Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2 Guidance Report:

A readers guide to theatre

It provides a fantastic opportunity to develop metacognitive practice. Readers Theatre involves students reading aloud from texts – often poems, scripts or sections of texts that lend themselves to performance. Reading aloud allows children to recognise when there is a word that they stumble over and to identify how to decode it more effectively, perhaps seeking advice, breaking it down into phonemes or exploring its relationship to words they do know. Reading aloud also encourages children to identify how punctuation is read, and providing the chance to work in pairs is an excellent way to encourage metacognitive talk and peer feedback. Did your partner read the punctuation? Did they use emphasis on the most important words?

There are some ways that Reader’s Theatre can be adapted to support the development of metacognitive approaches to reading fluency:

Set the challenge at the goldilocks’ spot – too easy, and the children do not need the strategy to read the text, too hard and they will not have enough prior knowledge to access it. A text just above the level they can read independently is ideal.

Explicitly model the strategies you use to ensure fluency, including thinking aloud’. Make purposeful errors in pronunciation and model how you identified this was an error and corrected it.

Encourage children to use expression and tone: this will help the children to hear how the words affect the reading and the important relationship between fluency and comprehension.

Maximise the reflection using an I do, we do, you do’ approach, modelling the processes of reflection and working on shared reflections until you are sure the children are able to apply this complex skill independently.

Model, and provide plenty of opportunities for peer feedback. After reading, encourage children to share views on fluency and prosody. Ensure they are as specific as possible.

Encourage children to make links between this text and others they have read. This will both deepen the children’s understanding of the text and help them to understand what types of texts these metacognitive strategies might apply to in the future.

Readers Theatre is a powerful tool for developing reading fluency and metacognition. By providing students with opportunities to read aloud, use expression, and reflect on their reading processes, we can help students to become more confident and engaged readers.

EEF, Improving Literacy in Key Stage 1
EEF, Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2
EEF, Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning
EEF Blog: Shining a spotlight on reading fluency
Reading Rockets, Reader’s Theatre
CLPE, Reader’s Theatre

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