How to Write a Readers Theater Script

Step One: Choose Your Story
Readers theater is a strategy to engage students with literature. You want a readers theater script that will encourage students to read, so choose a book that will appeal to your students that is at an appropriate reading level for them. You also want to be sure that copies will be available for your students to read.

Step Two: Choose Your Scene(s)
A readers theater script needs to tell a complete story. When selecting scenes, make sure you will be able to develop a script with a complete story arc.

Make sure your selection includes two or more characters so that your students have a chance to interact. A scene that already includes a lot of dialogue will make your job easier.

You also want to select a scene with drama. Look for a situation in which two or more characters are in conflict.

Step Three: Preparing to Write
Before you write anything down, consider the following:

What is the focus of the scene? If you have selected a scene with an obvious conflict and resolution, this should be easy to answer. This helps you decide where to begin and end your script.

How much can be taken directly from the text? A best-practice is to use as much of the original text as possible. But you need to balance the narrative. You can use narrative details in your script, but you want to limit straight narrative as much as possible.

Is the story told from first or third person? Stories written in first person often require special attention paid to narration. You may want to have one character to act out and speak while the narration is handled separately.

How much of the narration can be transformed? For example, if your story reads. “Bob waved at me,” you can add this as a stage direction for Bob’s character.

Are there characters in the narration that don’t have direct dialogue? Can you convey the same meaning by having them speak or act out the story?

Step Four: Write It Out
Formatting is important in a readers theater script. You can use script-writing software for formatting. There are some good free tools available. Or you can follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Provide the original book title, author and publisher at the top of the first page along with the page numbers of the scenes you used for your script.
  2. Give the script a descriptive title that reveals something about the scene(s).
  3. Introduce the characters. List their names, ages, relationship to other characters and any other details that will help students get into character.
  4. Set the scene with a description.
  5. Make the script easier to read by separating the character names from their dialogue in a structured manner.

Step Five: Act It Out
Before you have your students read your script, ask a few friends to run through it. Make sure your script provides clear direction and dialogue.

If you want more inspiration, check out the readers theater scripts available from Orca Book Publishers.