Introducing Readers Theater: Pygmalion | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M2B:U2:L4

Introducing Readers Theater: Pygmalion

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can cite several pieces of text-based evidence to support an analysis of literary text. (RL.7.1)
  • I can analyze the interaction of literary elements of a story or drama. (RL.7.3)

Supporting Targets

  • I can cite evidence from the play Pygmalion to analyze its plot and characters.
  • I can analyze how plot, character, and setting interact in Pygmalion.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Eliza Character Tracker (from homework)
  • Checking for Understanding Entry Task: Eliza Character Tracker


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A.  Checking for Understanding Entry Task: Eliza Character Tracker/Unpacking Learning Targets (5 minutes)

2.  Work Time

     A.  Close Read: Pygmalion, Section 3 (20 minutes)

     B.  Introducing Readers Theater: Section 3 (10 minutes)

     C.  Eliza Character Tracker: Revisit (5 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

     A.  Readers Theater Reflection (2 minutes)

4.  Homework

     A.  Finish Reader's Notes: Pygmalion, Section 3.

  • In this lesson, students continue to read and analyze Pygmalion in manageable "chunks." Section 3 treats the first half of Act II, in which the Flower Girl (who we now know is Eliza Doolittle) comes to ask for speech lessons from the Note Taker (who we now know is Henry Higgins, phonetics expert). This section is long (10 pages), but the plot moves quickly and is relatively easy to follow.
  • Section 3 is key to understanding the play; it is where the relationship of Eliza to Higgins, and the plot of the rest of the play, is established. As a result, students will not only conduct a close read of this section, but also participate in a Readers Theater using an excerpt from Section 3. The actual Readers Theater activity is fairly short. However, since it is used several times throughout the unit, detailed explanation is provided here.
  • Readers Theater serves several purposes. It allows students to have multiple readings of the play; it supports comprehension by adding an auditory dimension to the reading; and finally, it allows students to interact with the play in the way the author originally intended: speaking the lines out loud.
  • In order for Readers Theater to be as supportive of the students' analysis of the play as possible, students will use the information gleaned from their text-dependent questions to determine their oral interpretation of the script. Directions for how to do this will be clearly explained in the Readers Theater directions.
  • Readers Theater is not a performance of a memorized script. Instead, as the title indicates, selected students will read from the play (or script) with expression. The most basic form of Readers Theater is conducted sitting down and simply reading the lines; however, it is possible to have students add physical movement, if it makes sense for the context in which you are teaching. Physical movement may also be a welcome change or release of energy for certain students.
  • Consider also finding some very small props or costume items that help the students internalize what role is being read. A simple way to do this would be to find hats for each character. Eliza, for example, could have a straw flowered hat, similar to the one she wears in the play. Henry Higgins could have a cap, and so on.
  • Readers Theater can be intimating for students who are unused to public speaking. Consider the following modifications:

-  Preparing students beforehand by asking identified students to participate, assigning roles, and handing out scripts ahead of the Readers Theater lessons. If there are students who may benefit from the experience but who will find it challenging, this might be the best course.

-  Making Readers Theater entirely voluntary by having a sign-up sheet for participation a few days before Readers Theater lessons.

-   Asking adult and student volunteers to "guest read" occasional Readers Theater excerpts. If you have a theater teacher, club, or group in your school, these might be ideal candidates for guest reading.

-   Having the entire class read the excerpt chorally.

-   Having multiple sets of students in the same class read the scene, rotating parts.

  • Consider also how to give each student in the class an opportunity to participate in Reader's Theater as an actor by the end of the unit.
  • Consider expanding the Readers Theater experience by having theater or public speaking experts come into class to conduct mini lessons on acting or public speaking, tying their instruction to the Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards. Though much emphasis is placed on reading and writing in the Common Core, it is essential for teachers and students to practice the skills of oral communication as part of their studies of the English language and in preparation for the needs of daily life.
  • This lesson is tightly timed. Use your discretion and professional judgment to adjust times if needed; for example, shortening the close read to give students more time to attend to the Eliza Tracker, or expanding the Reader's Theater time.
  • In advance:

-   Determine how you are going to assign parts for Readers Theater: Eliza, Higgins, Pickering (two lines), Mrs. Pearce (three lines).

-   Set up props, costumes, and/or a performance space for the Readers Theater if you choose.

-   Print larger copies of pages 27-29 for use during the Readers' Theater.

  • Review:

-   Text-Dependent Questions: Pygmalion, Section 3 (answers, for teacher reference)

-   Reader's Notes: Pygmalion, Section 3

  • Post: Learning targets.


agency, self-worth, impetuous, pathos, confidentially, bewildered, zephyr, resolutely, remonstrance


  • Pygmalion (play; one per student)
  • Checking for Understanding Entry Task: Eliza Character Tracker (one per student)
  • Eliza Character Tracker (from Lesson 3)
  • Checking for Understanding Entry Task: Eliza Character Tracker (answers, for teacher reference)
  • Text-Dependent Questions: Pygmalion, Section 3 (one per student and one to display)
  • Document camera
  • Close Reading Guide: Pygmalion, Section 3 (for teacher reference)
  • Large-print/enlarged copies of Pygmalion Readers Theater excerpt:  pages 27-29 (from Higgins: "Why, this is the girl I jotted down last night" to Eliza: "Liza Doolittle") (one per student)
  • Character Note Sheet (one per student)
  • Reader's Notes: Pygmalion, Section 3 (one per student)
  • Reader's Notes: Pygmalion, Section 3 (answers, for teacher reference)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Checking for Understanding Entry Task: Eliza Character Tracker/Unpacking Learning Targets (5 minutes)

  • Distribute Checking for Understanding Entry Task: Eliza Character Tracker to students as they enter. Remind them that the purpose of this is not to quiz them, but to show you how they are doing with taking notes and with understanding characters, plot, and setting in Pygmalion. They may use their text Pygmalion to assist them as well.
  • Remind students of the modeling in Lesson 3 about how to complete the entry task. Direct them to complete the entry task individually. As they do so, circulate to check the Eliza Character Tracker for completion.
  • Provide specific positive feedback to students for their growing mastery of the reading routines in this unit.
  • Depending on your plans for collecting this work, you can either collect the entry task as students finish and before they discuss the questions, or you can have students keep their papers and self-correct them as the class discusses the questions. In some lessons, the entry task will lead to class discussion. In this particular lesson, just briefly answer the questions so you will have time to focus on the close reading. Refer to the Checking for Understanding Entry Task: Eliza Character Tracker (answers, for teacher reference).
  • Direct students' attention to the learning targets and read aloud:

*   "I can cite evidence from the play Pygmalion to analyze its plot and characters."

*   "I can analyze how plot, character, and setting interact in Pygmalion."

  • Let students know that they will be participating in Readers Theater today and give them a brief description of what that entails. Ask them to turn to a partner and discuss how Readers Theater might help them achieve their learning targets today. Listen for statements such as: "Reading out loud helps us understand the play better, so we can analyze it" or "We can get a better sense of character when we're acting out the lines of the play."
  • Setting the right tone with the Checking for Understanding routine is important in this lesson. It should serve to help students self-evaluate and to help you plan instruction. Whichever method you choose for collecting the entry task, make sure that it allows you to gather data about how well students are doing with these questions independently, as that will allow you to target specific students for more support or tailor your whole-class instruction.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Close Read: Pygmalion, Section 3 (20 minutes)

  • Have students get together in pairs.
  • Distribute the Text-Dependent Questions: Pygmalion, Section 3 and display a copy under the document camera.
  • Use the Close Reading Guide: Pygmalion, Section 3 to guide students through a series of text-dependent questions related to Section 3.

B. Introducing Readers Theater: Section 3 (10 minutes)

  • Explain that students now will have an opportunity to act out a portion of the play for themselves. Support their engagement and excitement by emphasizing that creative use of the classroom space, voice, and gesture is highly encouraged in this activity.
  • Distribute the large-print/enlarged copies of Pygmalion Readers Theater excerpt: pages 27-29.  Explain that these are printed slightly larger than the script in the book version of the play so that the lines are easier to follow and write on, if needed.
  • Have students look at their Text-Dependent Questions: Pygmalion, Section 3. Say:

*   "From these answers, let's make a list of what adjectives might describe the two main characters, Eliza and Henry Higgins."

  • Put the Character Note Sheet under the document camera and use it to list the adjectives. Listen for answers such as: "impetuous," "confused," "nervous," and "defiant."
  • Now, according to your previous arrangements and preferences, have the students perform the Pygmalion Readers Theater excerpt. Direct the students who are playing Eliza and Higgins to do their best to convey the adjectives listed on the Character Note Sheet with their gestures, expression, and tone of voice. For students playing Mrs. Pearce and Colonel Pickering, direct them to pay attention to any stage directions they have to help them make decisions about how they will deliver their lines.
  • Reinforce the connection between comprehending the play and performing the play by reflecting on the performance after it is complete, with specific statements such as:

*   "Wow--when you raised your voice to Eliza I could really hear that Henry Higgins is impetuous."

*   "I could tell by the look on your face that you were trying very hard to show us how Eliza is very nervous."

  • Consider building in time for students to practice their Readers Theater lines before presenting them to the class.
  • Students with emergent literacy may need direct instruction on the adjectives used to describe the characters. This can be inserted at the point of need or pre-taught at a different time.

C. Eliza Character Tracker: Revisit (5 minutes)

  • Have students take out their Eliza Character Trackers. Place your own copy under the document camera.
  • Ask them to look over the Readers Theater excerpt only (limit their focus to this smaller part of Section 3 for their ease of management). Ask them to underline or circle any words that give evidence about Eliza's internal or external characteristics of identity. Have them "text-code" each piece of evidence with an "I" for internal characteristics of identity and an "E" for external characteristics of identity.
  • Ask students to share out their answers and record them in the proper places on their charts. Listen for the following, prompting and adding any item the students do not mention on their own:

-   Sense of agency (hunts Higgins down and asks for lessons so she can work in a flower shop)

-   Sense of self-worth (insists on her rights, defends herself when Higgins calls her names; only sits down when Pickering politely asks her to do so)

-   Attempts to dress more formally for the meeting (hat with ostrich feathers, "nearly clean apron")

-   Intimidated/frightened (runs away terrified when Higgins jokes about throwing her out the window)

  • As students do this, record their answers under the document camera on your own copy of the tracker.
  • Remind students that they are familiar with "agency" and "self-worth" from Unit 1. Review the definitions of these terms if needed.
  • Explain that a common error students make when analyzing a character is mistaking "in the moment" emotions or reactions for more permanent, stable characteristics. For example, a student might cite Eliza's "triumphant" reaction as an internal characteristic, as in, "She is a triumphant person." Be sure to emphasize, should this error occur, that sometimes a text will document emotions or reactions that are momentary and don't actually reflect a permanent identity characteristic. You might give an example to the students:

*   "When I woke up this morning, I spilled coffee all over the clean shirt I had on, and I was very angry. Does that mean I am an angry person? Not necessarily. It just means that in that moment, I was angry. An internal characteristic repeats itself over and over throughout the text. For example, we can make a fair guess that since Eliza continues to pity herself in these first three lines, and because she's had this reaction in other places in Act I, this is part of her personality."

  • If a student volunteers an answer that does not sound accurate, "bounce" it back to the class:

*   "What does everyone else think about that answer? What evidence is there for it from the text?"

  • This is the first time students are using the trackers without explicit teacher assistance in finding evidence to record. Bear in mind that additional instruction may be needed here to further clarify or reinforce what "internal" and "external" characteristics are.

Closing & Assessments


A. Readers Theater Reflection (2 minutes)

  • Have students turn to their partner and discuss:

*   "How does Readers Theater help you understand how plot, setting, and character interact (the second learning target for today)?"

  • Ask volunteers for answers. Listen for answers such as: "I can hear how characters respond to one another," "I can start to see how characters relate to one another and the setting physically," or "I can follow the plot through the characters' reactions."
  • Hand out Reader's Notes: Pygmalion, Section 3 for homework.


  • Finish Reader's Notes: Pygmalion, Section 3.

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