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Reader's Theater, King Lear, and the Language of Gesture

Teachers' Rating:
  3 ratings

Pierre d'Ailly. Concordantia Astronomie. Augsburg, 1490.

April 2009
Marti Nelson, Taylor High School, Katy, Texas.

Plays/Scenes Covered
King Lear 3.4 (but this lesson could be adapted to any play)
What's On for Today and Why

Reader's Theater is a performance technique that can allow students to delve into a text in a different way from reading, staging, or viewing a scene. Its preplanned and choreographed movements, often stylized, can work on a symbolic as well as a literal level. Speakers aren't necessarily assigned to one character, which offers opportunities for cutting and reordering the script and rethinking or even ignoring what the characters are assigned to say.


In groups, students will work with small sections of 3.4 King Lear and perform these passages as Reader's Theater. In the process of closely examining the text and finding ways to perform it, students will not only develop an understanding of their section of text, but also grasp the essentials of the entire scene.


Students should have finished reading 3.4 of the play. This lesson will take two regular class periods or one block period.

What You Need

Folger edition of King Lear
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts

Lines 1-25 before revision
Lines 1-25 after revision
Reader's Theater guidelines
What To Do

1. Distribute Handouts 1, 2, and 3 to the class.


2. Introduce Reader's Theater techniques using the guidelines in Handout 1.


3. Discuss how to cut and reorder lines for Reader's Theater. Have students compare the original version (Handout 2) with an overhead of the revised version (Handout 3).


4. Assign parts to five students and read through the model script (Handout 3).


5. Using the guidelines for adding movement, ask the class to choreograph the scene by suggesting movements that the five students execute.


6. Perform the model scene a few times for fluency. Huge applause is appropriate.


7. Divide the class into groups of at least five and give each group a section of the rest of 3.4, about 25–30 lines per group.


8. Give students 30 to 40 minutes to plan and prepare. Give them about half the time for paraphrasing, cutting, and assigning parts, but then get them up on their feet as quickly as possible. Planning movement works much better by doing rather than talking.


9. Have students perform the scene in order. Base assessment of each group on how well they followed Reader's Theater guidelines. If you prefer, create a grading rubric based on these guidelines.

How Did It Go?
Were all group members participating and involved in the planning process? Did students apply the guidelines in planning and performing their section? Did performances reveal meaning through judicious cutting and movement? Did performances reflect student understanding of the text?

If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.

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  Common Core State Standards

There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.
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