|This twist on readers theater invites students to prepare original news programs based on incidents in a recent reading. Along the way, students explore standard literary elements of character, conflict, resolution, and setting.
| From Theory to Practice
|Students can make great strides in their comprehension and use of literary techniques through involved classroom discussion. The challenge, however, is engaging students in discussions that move beyond simple restatement of facts and surface details.
Readers theater can help meet this challenge. By immersing students in plans for their own version of the events in a reading, readers theater activities give students the chance to think about the ways that plot, character, conflict, resolution, and setting combine to create a story.
This lesson plan takes that a step further by asking students to do more than simply dramatize their version of the story. Students bring more complex analysis and imagination to this activity by combining readers theater with their knowledge of the news media.
This lesson was adapted from an idea by Evelyn Darden Floyd, published in Teaching Literature in High School: The Novel, pp. 5–6 (NCTE 1995).
- explore the literary elements of character, conflict, resolution, and setting in a piece of fiction.
- analyze a piece of fiction for highlights and significant passages.
- compose original reactions to text, using readers theater.
- Internet access
- Literary Elements Map Student Interactive
- Television News shows appropriate for your class
- Copies of the Novel News Broadcast Rubric or an overhead of the rubric
- General classroom supplies (chart paper, markers, and so forth)
- Resources related to the events and characters in the novel to serve as a collection of props for the segments. Students can contribute to this collection of resources, bringing in appropriate items.
- (optional)Videotaping equipment
Instruction and Activities
- Before this lesson, students will read a book independently, in literature circles, or as a whole class.
- Check your school's guidelines for materials that students are allowed to
bring to school. Be sure to remind students of any resources that cannot be
brought to school to serve as props (e.g., knives, toy weapons) and to offer
suggestions for alternatives to use for any props that are controlled but
integral to the news segments.
- Choose appropriate videos of television news programs to share with your class
as examples. Be sure to preview the complete program to ensure that the content
is appropriate for your classroom and community.
- Video archives of news
stories are available from the NewsHour
with Jim Lehrer, MSNBC,
ABC News, CBS
News, ESPN, and Weather
Channel Web sites. Note
that all but the NewsHour site have advertisements associated with
them, typically for other shows on the network. Be sure to check the advertisements
to the news stories.
- Your local
television stations may also have online archives.
- Videotaped segments of television shows will also work for this assignment if you have a television and VCR in your classroom.
- Your library may have videotaped segments of news broadcasts and documentaries
of historical importance that can be used for this assignment as well.
- Familiarize yourself with the additional resources on writing television
news scripts in the Web Resources so that you can provide hints and
mini-lessons as students need more information.
- Introduce the activity: to prepare segments for a news program based on
incidents in the novel. Students will be responsible for props, costumes,
and the content of their segments.
- Have students brainstorm the things that go into a news program. Write the list on the chart paper so that you can return to the list in later sessions. You can use the Journalist's Questions to get discussion started:
- Who appears on the news program?
- What is covered on the news program?
- Where are the programs taped?
- When are the segments in the program shown (in what order)?
- Why are the particular segments shown? Why were they chosen?
- How do all the parts of the news program fit together?
- Once students have some basic information gathered, show one or more of the archived news programs. While they watch the shows, ask students to look for things they can add to their list.
- When the videos finish, give students a few minutes to jot down their notes on scrap paper.
- Return to your brainstorming list and add details that students gathered
from watching the program.
If you need to provide more scaffolding for the discussion, the Television
Newscasts lesson plan from the Media Awareness Network lists questions that
should provoke conversation.
- Conclude the session by mapping out jobs that will need to be done for every news segment. Invite students to identify the jobs that are included on their brainstormed list. There can be news anchors, investigative reporters, weather forecasters, and news analysts. In addition to the jobs seen on camera, students may add jobs such as the director, set designer, and camera operator.
- Review the assignment and the lists from the previous class. Share the Novel News Broadcast Rubric and discuss the expectations and evaluation of the project.
- Drawing from the list, create a chart of the possible segments the groups
can produce (e.g., investigative report, weather forecast, editorial commentary).
- Divide students into small groups. Each group will produce a news segment
related to a novel they've all read.
who have read the same book.
- Ask students to choose a kind of segment for their group to produce and
the section (or sections) of the book that they'll draw on for their segment.
Also encourage students to identify the jobs that they'll be doing.
- For the sections of the novel they've identified, ask students to create
a list of characters involved, the conflict, its resolution (if there is one), and the setting.
- Using this short list, have students use the Literary Elements Map Student Interactive to gather facts and details about the sections
of the novel related to their segment. They can complete the Literary Elements Map as
many times as necessary (e.g., for multiple characters) to gather the research for their news segment. Remind
students that they need to print out the Literary Elements Maps to save their information.
- Ask students to come to the next session ready to begin writing their segments.
They should bring any materials they need to class—the novel they're
writing about, Literary Elements Map printouts, and notes, as well as props and other material they may need
for their segment.
- Review the project and answer any questions; then, give students the entire
class period to write and practice their segments.
- Use Roy Peter Clark's "If I Were a Carpenter: The Tools of the Writer" to help students get started. Emphasize
that the "rules" are simply guidelines, not absolutes.
- While students work, circulate among groups, providing assistance as needed.
Rely on resources listed below in the Web Resources section to give students
more detail on writing their stories.
- Ask students to come to the next session prepared to complete a "dress
rehearsal" by the end of the class. Again, they should bring any materials
they need to class—the novel they're writing about, Literary Elements Map printouts,
notes, and props and material for their segment. For
the rehearsal, students should have all props and significant materials, but
they need not "dress" for the part.
- Review the project and answer any questions. Segment time for students:
they should use half the class to finish any writing and practice sessions.
The other half of the class should be used for their "dress rehearsal."
- While students work, circulate among groups, providing assistance as needed.
- Play the role of timekeeper as students work, letting them know when they
need to shift from preparation to the dress rehearsal. Be sure to allow enough
time at the end of class for students to discuss the results of their rehearsal
and make any revisions to their scripts and plans.
- Ask students to come to the next class session prepared to perform their
news segment for the rest of the class. They'll need all props, costumes,
and any additional materials.
- Allow students a few minutes at the beginning of the class to make last-minute preparations, get into costumes, and assemble their props.
- (Optional) If you are going to videotape the segments, set up your video
equipment and ensure that you're ready to film the events.
- If students are to write letters to the network as part of their assessment
of this lesson, explain the writing task and suggest that they may take notes
during the performances.
- Have each group perform their news segment, keeping strict watch of time
to ensure that all groups have adequate time to share their work.
- Between segments, invite students to discuss what they've seen. This activity
should be enjoyable for students; place the emphasis on positive feedback
- What is RT?
- Children's author Aaron Shepard provides background and tips on readers theater. Be sure to check Readers on Stage for tips on staging, scripting, and reading.
- Picking Up the Pieces and Putting Them Back Together: Writing Breaking News
- This New York Times lesson plan explores how to compile facts into a news story, discussing use of facts, prediction, and organization tactics.
- Techniques for Class Discussion
- This page offers ten strategies for fostering classroom discussion.
- Dozen Deadly Sins
- This page, written by a University of Tennessee professor, offers tips for broadcast writing, including words to avoid.
- Television Newscasts
- This detailed lesson plan explores everything that comprises a television
newscast, from the elements of the news set to the visuals that accompany the
news stories. If your students need to review any aspect of television news
shows as they write their own news programs, this Media Awareness Network lesson
plan provides the discussion questions that you need.
|The Novel News Broadcast Rubric provides feedback categories on both the use of details and information from the novel and the staging and group work.
The best feedback on this lesson, however, will come from students themselves. The reaction to news segments and accompanying discussion should provide students with information on their segment's successfulness.
As part of the evaluation, each student can write a letter to the network expressing positive and/or negative reactions to the segments performed by other groups.
Even better, students can be asked to write personal reflective pieces on the segment that they have helped produce. Encourage students to reflect on the kind of segment they choose, the sections of the novel they used, their scriptwriting, and their use of staging and props.
2 - Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
3 - Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
6 - Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
11 - Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
12 - Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).