RT 8: Robert Harrell on Reader’s Theatre

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7 thoughts on “RT 8: Robert Harrell on Reader’s Theatre”

  1. …as students get more comfortable with what is going on and acquire more language, stop the action and interview the actors – what do you really think? do you like or dislike this? what will you do next? what do you want to do next…?

    Jody does this in stories – interviewing actors – as they sit on a chair in front of the room. Those two – RT and the chair way of interviewing of actors that she does – are the only examples of this kind of working with themes in CI as they unfold that I know.

    Of course, with Jason it is done with novels and with Jody she does the interviews right there in the middle of the story. I remember she said – this was some years ago – that this is a major highlight for kids, to be able to sit in the chair that day and answer questions.

    I will go look for the old posts on that. Jody, if you have anything in your files to explain how the chair things works, please send it. I remember we even got into a discussion about which kinds of chairs work best and all. I will go look in the archives but I think this conversation actually happened on the listserve. Can’t remember.

    Elementary teachers will want to take note of this chair technique in particular, in my opinion, as smaller kids may seem to gravitate towards it best, before they are made to be self-conscious and fearful about sitting in a chair in front of their peers by their middle school experience, the gateway to one of the hells.

    Now, look what has bappened here. Well, nothing has bappened, but something has happened – there is confusion about what is what in TPRS. We have a thousand people, perhaps – I don’t know the number of people who do real CI except that it is probably much less than 1% of teachers, more like 0.1% if that – and those 1000 have been talking about ideas for CI on the list for ten years now.

    And look what happens. Jody’s chair idea, perfect for young kids, gets shuffled out of a discussion we had years ago only to resurface here but now will scroll out with the comments, unless we make it a blog post (Jody, please?).

    And, as the posts pile up here (2,696 of them as of today since 2007) and the comments scroll backwards in time (10,391 so far) and the list blobs around trying to find a real discussion but doesn’t because it has no core, we end up each day with more and more ideas and less and less tight organization of our work, which is really a dangerous thing for our teaching and for the method. I say all this because the chair thing should be routine by all elementary CI teachers and yet is not.

    We don’t know what works and doesn’t and we forget great stuff. There is no organization of our discussion. Perhaps this is the real reason for my work here, and why I want to keep our group limited to like minded people.

    Just bitching there. I’m not happy with the lack of cohesion in this work we do. I’m not happy with a real clear framework for young teachers like Chris to grow up in.

    No answers here – it is the nature of the beast we are trying to tame. I guess we need a big textbook corporation to come in and tell us what TPRS/CI is. Right? O.K. I’ll shut up and go look for the chair stuff but I really think that that conversation was on the list.

      1. I keep having this same problem: there are great ideas; I use them for a while, then lose them. One reason is that we really do need to change the way we approach each part of our lessons. It simply doesn’t work to do everything the same way each time; we know that from brain theory. And in my case, at least, just the fact that I change from PQA to story to reading to academic reading isn’t enough. The way I do each one needs to be rotated. So I bring out Jody’s Chair when I feel it is needed, or when I have a shy kid, or when I have a too-boisterous kid, or when someone is having a birthday or is extra-needy that day. It helps make the kids special and it helps contain or protect them.

        I too love Jason’s way of using RT, but it doesn’t work for every piece of reading, only the ones with the most acting appeal. As Robert pointed out, Jason’s definition of RT is not the classic one, which is a problem that gave me trouble at first. And I can’t channel Jason for RT because I haven’t seen him enough first, and because we have very different personalities, second. I love what’s emerging here as a tentative template, because it helps me see how I can use the Fritze RT a little more clearly:
        1. Backward-plan to assure reading is CI (use Carol’s and Bryce’s methods).
        2. Pick sections carefully for highest acting potential. Make them very short at first to practice.
        3. Let actors “try out” for the role, or let them do the section with different coaching, just as they might when in a real play.
        4. Slowly get to asking the students, as they play the role, what their feelings are and what they think.
        5. Ask the class questions as a way of getting their input on how the roles should be played.

        Jason led my group through a lot of theater games that I meant to use during classes, partly because they made the acting better and partly because I could see that while making the class more of a community, they worked as brain breaks. I don’t know whether he did that with your group, but it’s part of the whole that makes him able to be so successful.

        Just one more of those pieces that I have forgotten about.

        What I meant to say as I started this is that it’s really hard to keep track of all these little pieces that are so valuable, but that we shouldn’t be upset with ourselves for forgetting. That’s what this blog is for, right? The main steps to explain to new teachers are: introduce structures, use them slowly in comprehensible and compelling ways, read. Everything else is gravy for me.

  2. Such a good point. I am of the opinion that the gravy emerges unplanned in lessons when I stick to the three steps overall. Unplanned means that these mastery level things – this gravy – have made their way into our unconscious teaching minds. The only way to learn them is to observe the masters like Jason. I “got” this stuff from Denver over four days in a FF with Karen 8 years ago. He didn’t ‘splain a thing, he just taught for four days.

    1. and truthfully, we are all trying to keep track of this stuff, and teach…many of us full time. And have families. And have part-time jobs. And coach. And be advisors. And take care of our health, homes, cars, animals, classrooms, communities and churches.

      Those with the time are usually booked up traveling and sharing their knowledge.

      Beautifully, many folks are blogging, and have links to other blogs on their sites. But it does take time to read/write those as well.

      We need a command central and a “Best Of” site lol….and that is often where large scale conferences come in. What we really need is a team of dedicated reporters from the conferences who will summarize as much as possible of what happens there.

      just writing and thinking….
      with love,

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