Studies show benefits of classroom theater
Plays inherently come with built-in strategies to help students read better. The acting out of play dialogue compels readers to work more closely with the text to interpret it and project meaning into the experience. As a result, students show improvement in vocabulary, comprehension, and retention.
Critical Links, a study by the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Education, concluded that “the value of classroom theater in facilitating an understanding and interpretation of literature is deep and long lasting.” Further, the study reported that “research shows consistent positive associations between dramatic enactment and reading comprehension.”
Additional research has shown that repeated guided oral reading is the most effective method for improving fluency. According to the National Reading Panel, guided repeated oral reading procedures that included guidance from teachers and peers had a significant and positive impact on word recognition, fluency, and comprehension across a range of grade levels.
Many studies have shown that while it is essential to provide students with high-interest, leveled-reading texts, reading fluency among struggling and reluctant readers will not improve unless students are also instructed on how to read and comprehend these materials. Time to Act, a study by the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy, found that “reading aloud or guided reading can (help improve reading fluency) by exposing students to how written texts capture the rhythms of speech, and also by providing them with the opportunity to hear the proper pronunciation of new words.” The study found that educators who encouraged repeated readings through performance and reader’s theater saw marked improvement in reading fluency.