Pat Klos | September 2013
Drama Adds Up to Literacy with CBRT
Do you want to integrate drama into your classroom in a simple but highly effective way? Provide an opportunity for students to improve oral reading fluency and learn vocabulary? Provide authentic writing and speaking activities? Help your students retain important facts and information about your content topics? Then, you have to look into Curriculum Based Reader’s Theater (CBRT): an arts integration approach developed by Dr. Rosalind Flynn, an educational drama specialist. This week I was fortunate enough to offer and then participate in training sessions on CBRT presented by Dr. Flynn. The teachers and I were spellbound and are so excited about implementing this combined literacy and arts integration strategy — you absolutely have to check it out!
CBRT is different from traditional reader’s theatre. Student actors perform without costumes, props and there is no stage movement. CBRT is a rehearsed group presentation of a script. The emphasis is on voice and spoken words, facial expression and gestures, not on staged action. The students stand in front of their audience and read aloud from a script. (Here is a link to her video that will explain what it is and how it looks: http://vimeo.com/37254257.)
Instead of scripts that are based on stories or literature, students read and rehearse entertaining scripts that are written about any content topic or standard: The Order of Operations, The Parts of a Story, The Bill of Rights, or The Water Cycle, for example. The scripts are designed to review content while giving students an opportunity to practice reading. Students who read, re-read, repeat, and rehearse a CBRT script in preparation for performance tend to remember the information in the text. Dr. Flynn says: reading and rehearsing scripts based on curriculum content increases the likelihood that students will perform better on assessments. Her CBRT formula for success is (and I agree, one hundred percent!): reading + recitation + repetition + review = retention.
CBRT scripts are short in length and hence make it ideal as an arts integration strategy for busy classrooms. Scripts can be created to accommodate large groups (i.e., an entire class) and provide possibilities for all of the students to read and speak at some point. Teachers, or students, can write their own scripts, but Dr. Flynn offers many already written scripts on her website, for free! You can find the scripts at: http://rosalindflynn.com/RdrsThtr.html. Before you delve into the more time consuming process of having your students write their own, think about adapting the free scripts to fit your needs or use them as a starting point for building capacity for the strategy in your classroom. Above all, have fun with them—your students will!