Academic journal article Science Scope

Search for the Golden Moon Bear: Using Reader's Theater to Teach Science

Academic journal article Science Scope

Search for the Golden Moon Bear: Using Reader's Theater to Teach Science

Article excerpt


Sarah: Oh, my gosh! Look, there's a lion with the bears!

Jake: But it's chewing on bok choy. Lions don't like vegetables!

Sarah: We must get some DNA from these bears to compare samples and see if we have a new species. We need a hair sample!

This dialogue is an excerpt from a reader's theater script performed by a group of my seventh-grade life science students for their classmates. Reader's theater is a technique that is commonly used in language arts classrooms, but may not be as familiar to science teachers. I learned about reader's theater from my school's instructional coach, Cheryl Nahmias, when I asked her about another possible method for teaching Search for the Golden Moon Bear: Science and Adventure in the Asian Tropics by Sy Montgomery. I chose this particular book for my class because it reinforces the idea of using genetics to identify species, and it provided a great culminating activity for our unit on genetics. I also wanted to find a book that not only presents the pursuit of an answer to a scientific question but also includes an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones. Furthermore, this title is perfectly suited to our social studies curriculum, which includes the study of Southeast Asian geography, the setting for Search for the Golden Moon Bear. Finally, the book has the potential to pique students' interest in evolutionary biology, science writing, and wildlife biology as potential careers in science.

When Cheryl previewed the book, she was immediately struck by the narrative format and suggested that we might do a twist on reader's theater. Reader's theater is an activity in which students, while reading directly from scripts, are able to tell a story in its most entertaining form. Typically, teachers create or purchase premade scripts of stories, and students focus on reading those scripts in a fluent and expressive manner. This is a common technique for engaging students in reading and helping them become more fluent. We decided to have students turn the book into a reader's theater script themselves. Taking them through the process of creating the scripts before they performed them was a way to capitalize on some other important strategies to increase comprehension: summarization, determination of main ideas, and visualization.

FIGURE 1 Day-by-day activities and steps

Day/activity          Steps

Day 1                 * Introduce book and project to students.
to project and        * Share directions/rubric (Figures 2 and 3).
Chapter 1
                      * Put up word wall-scientific vocabulary from
                      the book that students are expected to learn and
                      use in their own scripts: evolutionary biologist/
                      carnivorous/classify/species/DNA/Khmer Rouge/

                      * Read Chapter 1 aloud while students take notes
                      using a graphic organizer.

                      * Go over student responses on the graphic
                      organizer using an overhead. Make sure all
                      students are clear on the types of information
                      that they need to be notating when they read
                      their own chapters. Share teacher model of
                      graphic organizer.

Day 2                 * Solicit student volunteers to perform
Reader's theater of   teacher-made script of Chapter 1.
Chapter 1 script
                      * Review rubric with all students so they know
                      the criteria on which they will be assessing
                      the performance.

                      * Have students perform the script while
                      audience members use the rubric to assess.

                      * Discuss rubric scores and have students give
                      rationale for why they gave a certain score. … 
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