Drama at Reader’s Theater Builds Literacy Skills at Read to Achieve Summer Camp

RTA Drama 450

by Jeanna White

“Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand”

This old Native American proverb expresses the impact that active play can have on a child’s ability to learn and exemplifies why Davie County’s arts-based Read to Achieve Camp has been so successful.

Enhancing reading skill and creating confidence are important goals of the intensive four-week camp. Davie County Schools uses a unique approach to its summer Read to Achieve Camp. In addition to traditional reading exercises, the school system incorporates visual arts, music, movement, and theater to create a holistic experience for each student.

“Dramatic activity is a natural part of most children’s lives before they start school in the form of make-believe play, enabling them to explore meaningful fictional situations that have parallels to the real world,” said Brenda Mosko, who taught drama during Davie’s Read to Achieve Camp. “This can be integrated into school through the use of structured play and drama which encourages children to learn actively and interactively throughout their education and across the curriculum.”

“Children like to move and to interact with others,” she said. “In drama we ask them to do exactly this. Rather than sitting still and listening they are encouraged to move, speak and respond to one another. Students who are challenged by reading and writing (including those with English as a second language) often respond more positively to the imaginative and multisensory learning offered by drama. This in turn helps them develop such skills as creativity, inquiry, communication, empathy, self-confidence, cooperation, leadership and negotiation. Most importantly, drama activities are fun – making learning both enjoyable and memorable.”

“Drama is ideal for cross-curricular learning and is a valuable tool for use in many subject areas. In particular, drama develops literacy skills – supporting speaking and listening, extending vocabulary and encouraging students to understand and express different points of view. Dramatic activity also motivates children to write for a range of purposes.”

“Drama encourages children to think and act creatively, thus developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can be applied in all areas of learning. Through drama, children are encouraged to take responsible roles and make choices – to participate in and guide their own learning,” Mosko said.

Using a “Reader’s Theatre” format, Mosko combined students’ desire to perform with their need for oral reading practice.

“In Reader’s Theater, students “perform” by reading scripts created from grade-level books or stories. The objective is to enhance reading skill and confidence through practice with a purpose,” she added.

During one session, students enacted a “live” weather report, complete with TV anchors wearing red blazers and weather reporters clad in raincoats. All class members played a role and wore a costume. All seemed eager for their turn to read.

“Reader’s Theatre not only offers an entertaining and engaging means for improving fluency and enhancing comprehension; but also helps readers learn to read aloud with expression as well as build reading confidence,” she said.

“Reader’s Theater motivates reluctant readers and provides fluent readers with the opportunity to explore genre and characterization. In Reader’s Theater, there is no risk, because there’s no memorization required. There’s enough opportunity for practice, so struggling readers are not put on the spot,” Mosko said.

“Although costumes are not a requirement for Reader’s Theatre, students tend to get more into character and enhance their role playing through the use of simple costumes.  Reader’s Theatre helps a child use their imagination to create a character. By nurturing a child’s imagination, we are also enhancing their creativity, a skill that will help them throughout life.”

For complete details on the Davie County Read to Achieve Summer Camp, please visit http://www.mebanefoundation.com/news/read-to-achieve-camp-it-truly-is-amazing/