School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 2

Reading/ELA | Informational | Literary | Writing | Language | Listening | Speaking

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text

Indicator 5. Use elements of drama to facilitate understanding

Objective a. Identify the structure of a play, including characters, costumes, dialogue, and scenery


Begin to experience drama through the exploration of reader’s theater. Reader’s theater will give students the concept that in drama the story is told through the dialogue and limited action of the characters. The Reader’s Theater scripts are meant to be read and not performed. Use the simple scripts to establish some basic structural features of a play. Explain that in drama the cast is the list of characters who will speak in the play. The cast may include one or more narrators. The role of the narrator(s) is to speak directly to the audience and fill them in on the parts of the story that may not be revealed through the dialogue of the characters. Show students an enlarged copy of a Reader’s Theater script and locate the list of characters that appears at the beginning. Explain that often in scripts the setting (time and place of the action) is directly stated along with the list of the characters at the beginning. Sometimes Reader’s Theater scripts do not identify the setting in this way. Reader’s Theater scripts located on the website do list the setting in this way. Next draw attention to the body of the script and note how the characters’ names are located at the beginning of the line with a colon separating the character name from the words to be spoken. Demonstrate how a character would not say their name but instead begin speaking the words after the colon. Preselect 2-3 students to practice ahead of time and model for the students how the spoken lines are said exactly like a conversation with one character speaking directly to the other characters. Another important structure that sets drama apart from prose is the inclusion of stage directions. Explain to students that stage directions are usually included in parentheses. These lines are not spoken aloud by the performers, but instead give helpful hints to them about how to say their lines or what actions they might perform while saying their lines. Again, practice ahead with 2-3 students and have them demonstrate in fishbowl fashion the reading of a section of script that includes stage directions. The last structural element found in some Reader’s theater scripts that connect them to drama may be the inclusion of props. Explain to students that props are items that the performers may need to help make the dialogue flow. For example, if a basket plays an important part in the story, it may be helpful if an actual basket was used by the characters when they perform. In the Reader’s Theater scripts props are kept to a minimum but in a staged play they become increasingly more important. Reader’s Theater scripts can be written by teachers and students or are readily available on-line. Two websites that make free Reader’s Theater scripts available include: and Use Reader’s Theater scripts to develop fluency as well as to learn the structural elements of drama in your small groups. Students will find this practice motivating and engaging.


Once students have become familiar with the basic structural elements of drama as presented in Reader’s Theater format, introduce students to scripts that are intended to be staged. Explain to students that this type of drama requires the actors to pretend to be the character through what they say as well as what they do. In this type of drama, the actors memorize their lines. The stage is set up to look like that place where the play takes place. We call these backgrounds the scenery. Free scripts for staged plays at the primary level may be difficult to locate. Most classroom reading anthologies contain an example of a play. Planning and staging a play can be a motivating and rewarding process for students but it is very time consuming. At some point in the school year you may want to work in a short class production. The goal would be to involve students in all parts of the process- scenery, props and costumes, actors, staging, etc. Regardless of the role that students play in the process, all students will need to know and understand how each of the elements of the script work together to tell the story.