Readers Theatre: Improving Oral Proficiency in a Japanese University EFL Course

by Patrick Ng
University of Niigata Prefecture, Japan

Esther Boucher-Yip
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, United States of America

Improving oral proficiency in the EFL classroom is usually a major goal for most EFL instructors. One effective approach in teaching oral skills is the use of drama called Readers Theatre (RT). It is a presentational performance based on principles and techniques of oral interpretation which seeks to entertain, instruct and persuade (Adams, 2003). The ‘actors’ first read a story and then transform it into a script involving several characters. To portray a character, readers strive for voice flexibility, good articulation, proper pronunciation and projection. In this action research study, we explore the use of RT activities in improving oral skills in one EFL course in a Japanese classroom. Our objective is to examine students’ observations of their own language learning experiences through RT. We first provide a literature review on the pedagogical values of drama in developing oral competence. We then describe the implementation of the RT activity, followed by an explanation of the data collection and analysis. We also report Japanese EFL students’ observations of their own language learning experiences through RT. We then discuss the nature of the relationship between the use of drama techniques, particularly the use of RT, and oral proficiency in the Japanese EFL educational context. Our observations suggest that using RT in the language classroom is generally a rewarding learning experience for EFL students and teachers. We therefore recommend RT as an effective technique in helping students in the process of improving their oral proficiency.

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Introduction: A brief description of Readers Theatre
Readers Theatre (henceforth, RT) is as an oral presentation of drama, prose or poetry by two or more readers. It is a form of dramatic reading in which a play, narrative or a dramatic piece of work is performed for an audience. The ‘actors’ first read a story and then transform it into a script involving several characters. RT has been defined in various ways. Routman (1991) defined RT as a script performance activity while Sloyer (1982) viewed RT as a specific interpretative reading activity. Shanklin and Rhodes (1989) considered RT as a reading aloud activity. One popular definition in the literature is by Adams (2003), who defined RT as a presentational performance based on principles and techniques of oral interpretation with the intention of entertaining, instructing and persuading the audience.

Although RT has been defined in several different ways, researchers have agreed that it has five basic characteristics as described in detail by Ng (2003):

  1. There is selective and limited use of scenery and costumes.
  2. Voices, retrained gestures and facial expressions project the mood.
  3. A narrator usually describes the setting, action, character or mood.
  4. Each actor uses a physical script.
  5. Effort is made to develop a close relationship between the performer and audience.

Unlike conventional theatre or drama, RT is an uncomplicated classroom activity because it does not require full costumes, stage sets and memorization of scripts. To implement RT in the classroom, students first read a story, and then transform the story into a script through negotiations with other group members. The students then rehearse their scripts by reading aloud their lines, paying attention to the way they articulate the words in the script, varying their tone and projecting their voice. They finally perform for an audience by reading aloud from their hand-held scripts. RT is particularly important in developing reading and oral skills. Scripted dialogues provide EFL students with the opportunity to express their thoughts and ideas (Adams, 2003). In addition, scripted dialogues have often been used in the language classroom to enable students to acquire the vocabulary, idioms, grammar and syntax of English speech (Berlinger, 2000). As they involve all aspects of language use, scripts that are rehearsed in class can offer students an authentic communicative context to practice spoken English.

Although drama activities have been adopted for use in the ESL and EFL classrooms in various educational settings, few studies have been conducted to address their theoretical and pedagogical impact (Liu, 2000). There are even fewer studies that report EFL students’ observations of their own language learning experiences through RT. In this study, we wanted to find out how Japanese EFL students respond to the RT activity as a way to improve their oral English. In the next section, we provide a brief literature review on the pedagogical values of drama in developing oral competence. We then describe the implementation of the RT activity in our classroom followed by a discussion of the data we collected and analyzed. We then report and discuss our findings and finally offer our suggestions for using RT in the EFL context.

Literature review: Drama and communicative competence
There are some areas where drama can be very useful in developing students’ communicative competence. The ability to speak a foreign language fluently involves several components that speakers need to acquire in order to communicate effectively. According to Janudom and Wasanasomsithi (2009), understanding the various linguistic forms and communication contexts are important in enhancing the learner’s speaking competence. This, in turn, determines both the content and manner of verbal expression. In addition, they argue that it is important for learners to be able to interpret and respond appropriately to nonverbal clues such as the speaker’s facial expressions and the speaker’s tone of voice. Therefore, Janudom and Wasanasomsithi argued that students can learn the different forms of social interactions, linguistic forms and communication contexts through simulated learning environments.

In their own study of drama and questioning techniques among EFL learners, Janudom and Wasanasomsithi used Vygotsky’s (1987) premise that language development depends on social interaction. They supported Vygotsky’s argument that knowledge entails self-regulation and that learners are able to construct knowledge which is meaningful to them when they interact in a social environment (Janudom & Wasanasomsithi, 2009). Thus, as described in the study by Janudom and Wasanasomsithi (2009, p. 24), drama can “provide language learners the opportunity to practice communicating in contexts where most components of communicative competence exist”.

Drama and oral proficiency development
One of the main concerns in the second-language or foreign-language learning classroom is to provide students with “real-life” language experience. A review of the literature shows that there are several benefits of using drama activities in strengthening oral proficiency. Felton, Little, Parsons, and Schaffner (1984) observed that drama allows students to use language for a wider range of purposes besides the conventional language lesson in the traditional classroom. They believed that in comparison to the informational talk in a typical lesson, there is a higher volume of interactional and expressive talk when students are engaged in drama activities. Through drama, students are more willing to share their feelings and views with other members within a secure environment. If the teacher and the learner are able to use drama to create roles and situations, there will be a greater variety of different contexts for talk (Needlands, 1992). Research has shown that students need more practice in speaking in different contexts to become powerful speakers (Kao & O’Neill, 1998). They also need to be able to analyze contexts so that they can be capable of identifying the key elements that will have a major bearing on what should be spoken and how it will be received by the listener. Other scholars also supported the use of drama for language development as they felt that involving students in the negotiation and construction of drama allows students to connect the language they are learning with the world around them (Maley & Duff, 1978). Experiential drama can also encourage students to use greater abstract thinking on various issues through language use in different contexts (Wilkinson, 1988).

RT as an effective drama technique
While the use of drama, in the traditional sense, promotes ‘talk’ in the classroom, Jordan and Harrell (2000) recognized RT as an effective drama activity for providing authentic speech practice, especially in teaching reading fluency (rate, accuracy, phrasing, pitch, stress and expressiveness) as well as facilitating comprehension for beginning readers. They suggested that “involving students with enjoyable and exciting active reading procedures provide the key to fluency and higher levels of comprehension gain, through a natural process of repeated readings and interactive transactions with language” (Jordon & Harrell, 2000, p. 74).

Although the literature supports the use of drama in the language learning classroom, sensitivity to the students’ response is often overlooked. Kao (1994) cautioned the use of drama specifically in the ESL/EFL classroom because not all students respond positively to the use of drama for oral language development. She argued that some students may have a bias against drama as a language learning activity and will feel that “drama lessons” are a waste of time. In addition, students with a low self-esteem or poor language proficiency levels could become discouraged by other domineering or highly skilled language users within their group and might remain passive in class. While Wagner (1998) reported that observational and empirical studies have shown that drama has been instrumental for language learning, she called for new studies to describe more fully the structure of drama teaching to determine which teacher strategies and interactions are critical to expanding the range and raising the level of oral language development. In this study, we designed several exercises (script reading, script writing and script performance) in the hopes of understanding the experiences our students may have with RT and to help them improve oral proficiency.

The stage: RT and research methodology
Actors and settings
Participants in this study were EFL students in their first year of study and enrolled in the Core English course in the University of Niigata Prefecture, a pioneer university located near the Sea of Japan. We implemented the RT activity in three classes with twenty students enrolled in a first-year Core English class. The average age of these EFL students was eighteen and their TOEFL scores ranged from 400-500. Although all students reported that they had been learning English since elementary school, we observed that many students were not confident in speaking English upon starting their tertiary education. We agreed with Seargeant’s (2009) view that there is a strong emphasis on the learning of English for college entrance examinations in the junior and senior high schools in Japan rather than acquiring the ability to communicate in English. In line with this view, many students in our classes displayed a lack of confidence in speaking English. This greatly motivates us to explore the possibility of using a novel approach to help them gain more confidence in communicating in English.

Implementation of RT
We implemented RT in several steps. We first selected a reading relevant to our students (Appendix  A). Following this, we conducted a pre-reading activity (questioning, explaining the vocabulary, etc.) to familiarize the students with the article. Next, we provided a scenario (Appendix B) for the script writing and instructed the students to form groups and write a script based on a given scenario (See sample script by the students in Appendix C). When the students had completed their scripts, we gave them sufficient time to rehearse their scripts. We then assessed the students’ performance through a Readers Theatre rubric (Appendix D) once they had performed in front of the class. We recorded their performance and played back the recording. As the students listened to their performance, we encouraged them to comment on their peers’ performance.

Data Collection
In an attempt to elicit the students’ responses, we asked the students to write a one-page reflective journal immediately after the RT performance.  The purpose of the journal entry was to gain insights about our students’ learning experiences with RT. To prevent any inbuilt attitudes on the use of drama in language learning, we instructed our students to comment freely on the activity. They were given the option of writing their comments either in Japanese or English. During the RT activity, we also jotted down notes and made detailed observations of the students’ learning behaviors to triangulate the data from the students’ journal entries.

Data Analysis
Based on the qualitative data from the students’ reflective journal entries and our notes on the students’ learning behaviours, we examined whether RT had helped our students improve in their oral English. The theoretical framework for the qualitative analysis was based on the suggestions by Miles and Huberman (1994), which involved editing, segmenting, summarizing the data, then organizing and assembling it. Open coding (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) was also used to label and code the phenomena found in each statement and axial coding was used to note similarities found in the first step and to relate data. We analyzed our students’ comments on the RT activity to examine how they responded to the activity. The data were then analyzed based on our interpretation and knowledge of the EFL teaching context in Japan.

Results from the journal entry
Feedback and comments from total of forty-five individuals were collected and analyzed. We then organized the feedback and comments into two categories:

  1. Students’ response to RT as a language learning experience, and
  2. Students’ response to RT as a way to improve their oral English.

Students’ response to RT as a language learning experience
A majority of our students wrote in their journals that they appreciated the RT activity as a way to learn English. The benefits of using RT to improve various aspects of English learning, for instance, listening, writing and speaking were noted (see Table 1).

Table 1: Positive effects of Readers Theatre on the learning of English

Listening Listening to the RT performance helps improve overall listening skills in English
Speaking (i) More opportunities to communicate with other learners in English

(ii) Able to improve English pronunciation through rehearsing the script several times

(iii) Able to improve overall spoken English skills as a result of the RT activity

(iv) Motivated to become good English speakers after watching the RT performance

(v) Examine own spoken English after listening to the script performance

WritingWriting the script helps to improve English written expressionOverall(i) Experience fun and enjoyment through RT
(ii) Learn many new casual English phrases and expressions


When we first introduced RT in our classes, we were unsure whether our students would embrace the activity as a language learning strategy because many of our students had no previous experience with drama as an approach to language learning. We were pleasantly surprised to observe their enthusiasm and willingness to participate in the RT activity and their comments in their journal entries showed that they enjoyed the use of drama and saw it as an innovative approach to learning English. For example, one student felt that although some parts of the RT activity were demanding, she had a lot of fun writing and performing the script. Overall, she felt the RT activity had been a positive experience for her:
I really enjoyed this activity because I have never done it. However, it was a bit hard for me to work on this activity. We have to make a scene, write the script, practice and so on. There were so many things to do. But because of this activity, we can learn how to speak English more fluently. It was also fun watching other groups perform. Although the scriptwriting task was difficult, this experience would help me improve my English speaking skills.

Another student commented that the English lesson was more interesting when she watched other groups perform their script:
It was interesting! I couldn’t help laughing when I watched other group members performing their scripts. Everyone tried very hard to perform well. In our group, we did not perform well during the rehearsal but finally we could do it properly. I think thanks to it, we could enjoy ourselves practicing our English.

While many students provided similar feedback, there were a few who expressed anxiety and apprehension. One student described feeling nervous acting in front of an audience. She also felt it was difficult to collaborate with other group members during the script writing activity:

I was nervous about it because I have rarely done any acting in front of many people. In addition, I don’t like group writing activity because I feel the stress to work with other group members.

Another student wrote that although he felt nervous acting in front of an audience, he felt the activity was effective for him to improve his presentation skills:

I think the script reading activity is very effective. Although I was nervous, I thought this activity taught me many things. For example, I learnt the way of speaking in front of many people. This will be helpful for making oral presentations in other subjects. In fact, I am not satisfied with my own performance, so I will try to improve my English skills.

Students’ response to RT as a way to improve their oral English
It was also interesting to note that the students’ responses in their journal entries highlighted their understanding of the critical skills involved in improving oral proficiency:
(*Minor revisions were made to the students’ comments in order to retain the authenticity of the material.)

1. Fluency
One student wrote that the RT activity was an effective way to improve her spoken English:
I think this activity was one of the good ways to improve our spoken English because we could find many new phrases or expressions that are casual (conversational English). Also I felt I could improve on my fluency.

2. Pronunciation
Another student felt that the RT activity provided her the opportunity to practice her pronunciation:
I enjoyed this activity because I could write the script and also act. I think it’s good for us to improve our English skills like writing or speaking. We have to practice the pronunciation more, so this activity is good. If I have an opportunity to try this activity again, I want to speak more clearly. I had a very good time.

3.  Motivation
A student who spoke English in public for the first time became motivated to put in more effort in studying English after watching the performance of other groups. He felt other group members had presented their scripts very well and was inspired to become a fluent English speaker:

I spoke English in public for the first time. Everybody in the class, except me spoke English very well. Our group presented the script very well, but an error by me affected our presentation. On the other hand, the last group’s presentation was very nice because they cooperated with each other and spoke English fluently. I feltI need to study English more.

4. Confidence
Another student felt he was able to gain some confidence in speaking English through the RT activity:

I really enjoyed this activity. Because other groups’ scripts were very interesting! Also, I was surprised everyone can speak English well. I want to do activities such as this. I am often nervous when I perform in front of everyone. So I want to get used to performing in front of everyone.

5. Communication
One male student felt that the RT activity had encouraged him to use English to communicate with his friends:
This activity was very interesting for me because I could understand what my friend thinks about the environment. We became friendlier to each other after the lesson. I think English class should be like this. I want to use English to communicate with my friends from now.

Teachers’ response to RT as a language learning experience
Findings from the teachers’ reflective journal also revealed several positive impressions of using RT in the Japanese EFL classroom:

(i) RT seemed easy, fun and non-threatening to students; (ii) RT provided the students with a platform for interaction with each other; (iii) The students’ self-consciousness in speaking English was reduced because of the theatrical elements in RT; (iv) Constant learning reinforcement disguised in rehearsal activity helped improve the students’ pronunciation; (v) RT provided an immediate motivation to master oral English well since the students had limited time to put on a show;(vi) The students gained confidence in their spoken English when the final product was displayed before an appreciative classroom audience.

Classroom observation by the teachers
Once the activity was explained and the instructions were given, several students were noticeably passive and reluctant to participate in the group activity, particularly during the initial script negotiation stage. However, there was a marked change in attitude when more students became interested in discussing their views about the topic and it encouraged the students to speak up.  The students tried very hard to express how they felt each character should be portrayed. The students negotiated with group members on what lines to keep, where to edit and revise, and how lines should be said. With very little help from the teacher, the students were able to manipulate language in order to portray the different characters and situations realistically. We observed that at the negotiation of scripts stage, our students were more aware of using wider vocabulary and correct grammar. In addition, when the students became less self-conscious, their fluency in speaking improved. When our students performed in front of their classmates, they showed more confidence in their spoken English and their self-image as English speakers increased tremendously.

We believe that our students enjoyed RT and participated actively because of the theatrical elements that encourage the interaction of mind and emotions within an individual student and also collaboration with other cast members, much like that described by Adams (2003). RT provides opportunities for students to discuss the script in English and also allows them to develop natural rhythmic and intonation patterns through the use of the voice elements. This is crucial in expressing the realistic characters they had developed in the script.

Our students also enjoyed RT because it was a fun and creative approach in improving their spoken English. The students reported that they were keen to use English as they worked on the scripts based on a problem scenario and a controversial issue. We also observed that the RT activity generated a great deal of spoken English on environmental issues in class because the students could relate to the problem stated in the Kyoto Protocol article.  They realized that the same environmental problems and situations could also happen in their hometown or country. As the students worked on their scripts, they made multiple negotiations to decide what lines to keep, where to edit and revise, and how lines should have been said to show the main arguments. When writing the scripts, the students engaged in different language use functions such as asking and answering questions, solving problems, expressing their opinions, arguing and persuading, similar to those reported by Kao (1994). They also learnt to experiment with vocabulary, register and speech patterns as they took on different roles (Wager, 1998).

As highlighted in a similar experience by Wilkinson (1988), through the process of script negotiation, the students were also challenged to use language in new and creative ways. Our students reported that the RT activity provided them with the opportunity to use words and expressions that were appropriate and relevant to their daily contexts. The rehearsals before the actual performance also provided them with constant learning reinforcement of vocabulary and sentence constructions. This allowed them to transfer their procedural knowledge of English into automated knowledge. As the students collaborated to produce a script, they also took ownership of their own learning and were intrinsically involved in writing a dialogue to ensure that a script was produced on time. RT provides richness and energy in the classroom because students are experientially involved in performing a piece of literature (Ng, 2003). As a result, they became engaged and invested in the lesson because they were not merely performing an academic assignment but also involved in problem-solving tasks that could surface in real life. It was also energizing for us to watch our students read, interpret and perform the problem scenario, knowing that they were holistically involved in the process of learning.

However, there can be limitations to using RT in the Japanese EFL classroom. Japanese EFL students may feel uncomfortable with the expressive nature of RT. Some degree of initial inhibition was observed among several students during the RT activity because they felt embarrassed in acting out their scripts. In addition, some students may resist the RT activity if they have no familiarity with theatre as a genre. Several students were observed to be rather passive during the script negotiation initially.  However, despite these limitations, we believe that RT provides an immediate motivation for our students to improve their spoken English skills because they must master their parts well in order to perform realistically for an audience. We feel such immediacy in foreign language study is particularly important for most Japanese EFL students where their homogenous linguistic environment provides very little opportunities for them to use English in a real communicative context.

Our experience with using RT in our courses reinforces our support for this approach in teaching oral skills. We believe that for a majority of EFL students in Japan who have little opportunity to interact with native English speakers, RT would provide an opportunity to assume various roles, learn the social conventions of interacting in English and sharpen their communication strategies such as eliciting opinions, feedback, and questioning. However, in order to carry out RT successfully in the classroom, we recommend that the teacher should have sufficient experience in conducting group activities. The success of the RT activity initially depends on the teacher’s clear instructions. The teacher also needs to ensure that every student is involved by getting students to create sufficient characters relating to the topic. The teacher may include the role of a narrator to create the atmosphere for the play. A narrator can also present the topic or theme for the script. The teacher should also allow students sufficient time to rehearse and revise their script, and students should be free to approach the teacher when they encounter problems in pronunciation, tone or stress.

Teachers may find students reluctant to participate and perform in front of their classmates.  However, with much encouragement and after several rehearsals in script reading, students will gradually learn to overcome their fear of speaking.  Teachers may also need to provide students more time and guidance to complete their scripts. As with many techniques in teaching oral proficiency, familiarity and experience in using RT will help EFL teachers be successful in the classroom. RT can be an effective teaching technique to motivate not only beginners but also intermediate and advance EFL students in developing oral English proficiency.

Adams, W. (2003). Institute book of Readers Theatre: A practical guide for school, theatre and community. Chapel Hill, NC: Professional Press.

Berlinger, M. (2000). Encouraging English expression through script-based improvisations. The Internet TESL Journal Website. Retrieved July 2005, from

Felton, M., Little, G., Parsons, B., & Schaffner, M. (1984). Drama, language, and learning. NADIE Papers, I. Australia: National Association for Drama in Education.

Janudom, R., & Wasanasomsithi, P. (2009). Drama and questioning techniques: Powerful tools for the enhancement of students’ speaking abilities and positive attitudes towards EFL learning. ESP World, 8(5), 23-28.

Jordan, S., & Harrell, K. (2000). Readers Theatre: A creative tool for strengthening skills of emergent readers. Kindergarten Education: Theory, Research and Practice, 5, 73-80.

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Kao, S., & O’Neill, C. (1998). Words into worlds: Learning a second language through process drama. Stanford: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Liu, J. (2000). The power of Readers Theater: From reading to writing. ELT Journal, 54(4), 354-361.

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Miles, M., & Huberman, M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis (2nd ed.). London: United Kingdom.

Needlands, J. (1992). Learning through imagined experience. London: Hodder and Stoughton Educational.

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Wilkinson, J. A. (1988). On the integration of drama in language arts. Youth Theatre Journal, 3(1), 10-14.

Wagner, B. J. (1998). Educational drama and language arts: What research shows. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

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Appendix A: Japan and the Kyoto Protocol (in-class reading)

The Kyoto Protocol is now a part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is intended to cut global emissions of greenhouse gases. When Japan played host to the signing of the Kyoto Accord in 1997, the symbolism seemed apt since Japanese people saw themselves as global environmental leaders.

Eight years later, however, Japan is finding it difficult to comply with the greenhouse-gas limits of the Kyoto Protocol. As the treaty took effect in 2005, the hosts found themselves in the same internal battles that have affected other countries on the Kyoto issue: disputes over taxes, spending, government rules and corporate behaviour. As the homeland of the Kyoto Accord, Japan was expected to become a model for other countries, environmentalists say. Instead, its greenhouse-gas emissions have increased greatly in recent years.

Rather than placing tough limits on its domestic industries, Japan is planning to meet its Kyoto obligations with more practical steps, including the purchase of emission credits from China or Russia. Under the Kyoto Accord, Japan pledged that by 2012, it would reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions to 6 percent below its 1990 level. However, the latest government reports show Japan’s emissions were already 8 percent above the 1990 level in 2003, and forecasts suggest that the country will not come close to achieving its 2012 goals.

In response, the government has been forced to revise its official plan. The latest effort — expected to be approved by Japan’s cabinet in May 2005 — seeks to meet its Kyoto pledge with a combination of emission cuts, new forests and the purchase of emission credits.

“We’re very disappointed by the plan,” said YurikaAyukawa, climate-change officer at the Japan office of World Wildlife Fund. “At least 1.6 percent of the reduction, and maybe more, will be bought from credits from the carbon market. This means that the government already admits its failure to meet the Kyoto target with domestic reductions. They don’t want to introduce any new policies to bring Japan’s emissions to a downward trend. This is a failure of domestic climate policy and we’re very regretful about it.”

Another Japanese environmentalist, Mie Asaoko, was in the conference room in Kyoto in 1997 when the Accord was signed, and she remembers the excitement in the room. “I thought it was a historic moment,” she said. “But we’ve made less progress than I expected. If we can’t meet our 2012 target, it will be a disgrace. It will be a failure for Japan and for the Kyoto Accord, and it will affect the whole world. Japan should be an international leader.”

(Adapted from The Annual Index 2005. The National Energy Technology Lab Carbon Sequestration Newsletter, September 2004-August 2005.Retrieved October 15,  2010, from


Appendix B: Scenario for script writing

Kyoto is well known for its historical sites and cultural centers in Japan. However, the city council wants to ‘modernise’ the city but needs to develop a new environmentally friendly power station. There are several groups in Kyoto (city council, developers, residents, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, historical society and farmers) which may agree or disagree with the plan to build a power station. Suppose you belong to one of the groups. How would you voice your arguments to support or oppose the plan?


Appendix C: Sample script by Japanese EFL students
(*Minor editing by teacher to retain authenticity)

Script- Building a Power stationEntrepreneurs: I want to construct a power station. Do you have any objections?

Residents: I don’t agree with it. Because Kyoto is a historical society. If power station was built, the Kyoto’s environment would become bad.
Developers: I agree to built a Power station because I think if we built a power station, it is convenient for people’s style because it is useful.
Environmentalist: I disagree with developing power station. Because making power station need to destroy the forest or natural environment. I think destroying nature is “mottainai” (wasteful).
Entrepreneur: Of course, we need to use some natural resources. But, when we built a power plant, we will give a lot of money and energy for Kyoto. If Kyoto have a lot of money, they can repair their historical buildings and they can invite more and more tourists.
Residents: Will you destroy the environment?
Developers: I don’t think so. we built a power station. It doesn’t means to destroy the environment because every country need development. Though Kyoto is an old town, the old culture can be retained and the people’s life can be improved.

Environmentalist: If we build the thermal power station, it makes air pollution in Kyoto. it is not good for the resident and Kyoto environment.
Residents: I agree this opinion, Some power plants would change the historical landscape of Kyoto and destroy the beautiful view of Kyoto.


Appendix D: Rubric for Reader’s Theater

AREA 1 2 3 4
Knowledge Did not interpret the story appropriately Interpreted the story appropriately Interpreted the story imaginatively and appropriately Interpreted the story creatively and with depth
Presentation Did not seem to be aware of what they should be doing at all Did not appear confident about what they are doing Appeared to be fairly prepared Group was well prepared
Voice Hard to understand Not so well articulated Well articulated. Easy to understand Entire skit was clear, concise, and well articulated
Projection Used no expression or inappropriate expression Used some expression in their voices Used expression in their voices, loud and soft Great expression in their voices, loud and soft
Overall Performance No enthusiasm Some enthusiasm Very enthusiastic Great Enthusiasm

This work was supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (21530815), Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan.

About the Authors

Dr Patrick Ng obtained his MA in English Studies from the National University of Singapore and his Doctorate in Education (Applied Linguistics and TESOL) from Leicester University, UK. He previously taught English language and communication skills in Singapore. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the International Studies and Regional Development at the University of Niigata Prefecture, Japan. His research interests are mainly in the areas of language planning,  Readers Theatre and Communicative Language Teaching.

Dr Esther Boucher-Yip is an Instructor in the School of Arts and Sciences at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston, USA. She earned an MA in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge, UK, and a Doctorate in Education (Applied Linguistics and TESOL) from the University of Leicester, UK. She has previously taught English in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and China. Her research interests include second language writing, oral proficiency, Readers Theatre and language policy.

7 thoughts on “Readers Theatre: Improving Oral Proficiency in a Japanese University EFL Course

  1. Dr. Ng and Dr. Boucher-Yip, thanks for writing about RT. Yes, RT is one of the ways less attempted in Japanese college EFL classrooms.

    • Thanks Professor Asano for your kind comments! Readers Theatre is widely used in Singapore. If you need additional information, do feel free to contact me. Cheers!


  2. Thank you for … your article.

    It is true that to improve Japanese students’ speaking ability is difficult. I am sure the methodology based on Readers Theater would be effective. I think that it would engage the students very practically.

  3. really very useful topic specially for those teachers who are interested for students interaction to be made in the class.without their activeness it is not possible that a teacher get success in teaching the language.this is really very good strategy.

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