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ELA G5:M1:U3

Culminating Project: Readers Theater: Esperanza Rising, From Novel to Script

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The Foundational Reading and Language Standards Resources Package for Grades 3–5

Use this guide to build additional literacy blocks alongside the module lessons.


In this third unit, students will continue to apply what they have learned about human rights by creating scripts for a Readers Theater performance. This unit emphasizes the Reading Literature and Writing Narratives strands of the NYSP12 ELA CCLS. Students analyze and select passages of Esperanza Rising connected to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the purpose of developing and performing their own Readers Theater scripts.

In the first half of the unit, students will learn about Readers Theater by reading informational texts and also examining a variety of Readers Theater scripts. They will reread sections of the novel and study and perform a Readers Theater script written by the novel’s author.

For the mid-unit assessment, students will evaluate the strengths and limitations of novels and theater scripts in terms of how well each genre engages its audience.

In the second half of this unit, students collaborate to write their own Readers Theater script. They will work in small groups to select passages (from multiple chapters) of Esperanza Rising that reflect characters’ experiences with human rights challenges. After learning writing techniques such as dialogue, each student will write a section of a script based on the passage the group selected. This script section will serve as the on-demand end of unit assessment; students also will write a justification to explain how the passage their group selected relates to a specific article from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Then students will work in their small group to combine their script sections, with a focus on clear transitions. Students will then revise and practice their scripts for a final performance task, in which they perform their Readers Theater scripts for peers. (As an optional extension, students also could perform for their school and community.)


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

What are human rights?
What is the purpose of a Readers Theater?
We learn lessons about human rights from the experiences of real people and fictional characters.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards and to be taught during the literacy block of the school day. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies and Science content that many teachers may be teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.


Texts to buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please refer to Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
Esperanza Rising
by Pam Muñoz Ryan
One Per Student
ISBN: 978-0439120425, 043912042x

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
Readers Theater Grade 5
by Michael Ryall
Fluency Practice Read-Aloud Plays
by Kathleen M. Hollenbeck
“Readers Theater Script: American Heroes”
by Unknown
“The History of the United Nations" Excerpt
by Human Rights Resource Center
Readers On Stage
by Aaron Shepard
Shepard Publications, 2004
ISBN: 978-0-938497-21-9


ELA G5:M1:U3:L4

ELA G5:M1:U3:L9

Optional Activities

Invite playwrights, actors/actresses, stage/theater personnel to come talk with the class about their work, or to critique students’ script or rehearsal. 

Attend a theater performance, focusing on how the actors deliver their lines.

Perform the Readers Theater scripts for a public audience, perhaps at an assisted living center.


  • Students may organize a public performance of their Readers Theater scripts. 
  • For all students independently proficient with technology, consider allowing students to create the following, for use during the final performance: a PowerPoint, Impress, or Prezi document incorporating script passages and imagery; or a sound-effects track for background or transitions between scenes. 
  • Students interested or independently proficient in the arts may consider enlarging script passages and creating accompanying illustrations; creating a “playbill” for their performance; creating a radio or print advertisement about their play; writing a short song or poem to conclude the play; designing or determining costumes (as part of props); or choreographing/“staging” actors for the performance.

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