Mrs. Killian’s Theatre

Rationale:  As beginning readers begin to master phonemes and learn to decode words better, a new focus is born. Students around this stage need instruction in learning to read fluently! It is important to encourage readers to become faster, smoother and more expressive! If a child gains these aspects in their reading, they will feel better about reading. The child will want to read, even for fun! Practice makes perfect, or at least helps a whole lot. This lesson will encourage students to read with by pretending they are actors and actresses.

Materials: 21 copies of the play, The Pie Thief, paper, and pencils

1. “Hello and welcome to The Killian’s Theatre first day of auditions for becoming actresses and actors! I am excited about the turn out. To let you in on a little secret, the main thing I am looking for today are those who can read the scripts with expression! In plays and even in simply reading a story, expression is the key to keep the audience involved and interested. Let’s talk about reading with expression.”
2. “I want everybody to listen as I show you what Killian’s Theatre is NOT looking for:  (read a page of our play with no expression and a boring tone). Now if you just fell asleep, this once, I will not blame you! Now, I would like to read a page with
expression, so that all you beginners will have an idea of what to work toward (read with expression and enthusiasm!). Can anyone raise their hand and tell me some differences between the two? (Discuss the differences).”
3. “You might be thinking, ‘but Mrs. Killian, what if I don’t know all the words in the script’?”  Do not worry! I have been an actress for years, and I still run across words that I don’t know.  Everybody take out a pencil and paper to write the steps of what to do when you run across a word that you might get stuck on.  First, take a shot!  (Just try to read it).  Second, read to the end.  (Go ahead and see if you can read the word that would fit.)  Third, you can change your guess (if needed.)  And fourth, read the sentence again to get a better understanding of the meaning and how to use expression in it.  You can put that in a safe place to go back and read when ever you get stuck on a word.
4. “OK, the auditions will begin soon, so we must think about being expressive! If I was scared of spiders, and one was crawling on my desk, how would I say, ‘there’s a spider?’ That’s right I would say it loudly and probably quickly too. In different cases you need to use loud or soft voices and go slow or fast.”
5. “I now want all five rows to get into groups of four, as I pass out these scripts. Now, turn to page 3 and one at a time read Grandma Busybody’s line at the bottom of the page to your group. Remember that she is very hungry and somebody stole her pie! Think about how you would be saying these lines in that situation. Remember, Killian’s Theatre only looks for those who show expression!”
6. “Now then, it is time to cast the parts of the play. Each group is in charge of picking one person to play each role. The different roles are Grandma Busybody, Cousin Sally, Cousin Jack, and Sloppy Dog. Remember that each part is just as important as the rest. Be sure to really think about your character and the different ways you can use the tone of your voice and the speed of your voice to illustrate how that character really feels.” (Have the children begin to read the play.)
7. Assessment: “I will now continue the auditions as I walk around to hear everyone playing each character.  I will be especially listening to the expression in your voice!  Remember that you do not want your audience to fall asleep!”
8. “Next week each group will present their interpretations to the class. Your group may choose this play or any others ones from the library! I look forward to seeing how you can use expression to keep everyone interested in your play!”

Allen, R. V. (1976). Language experiences in communication. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Cowley, Joy, IL. Robyn Belton, The Pie Thief, Shortland Publications Limited (1982).

By:  Sara Ellen Killian

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