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Students play historic roles in Lakewood Ranch

McNeal Elementary teacher uses readers' theater to teach students about historic figures.

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Students at Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary School in Lakewood Ranch have been engaged in a new way to learn about history.

The students have been conducting readers’ theaters in which they are assigned characters in a play, so they can better learn about historic figures.

Second grade teacher Martha Ferra said she particularly enjoyed February because the students could concentrate on prominent black Americans like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in honor of Black History Month, along with U.S. presidents for Presidents Day.

“[Students] need to have knowledge of who these people are and what they did,” Ferra said. “They were great leaders.”

Ferra said she thought it was important to learn from past presidents and not just those in the modern times.

To help her students be engaged in lessons and learn about those important figures, she has them rehearse their parts before making a presentation in front of the class.

“Readers’ theater is a great way to help students with reading and help them come out of their shell,” said Ferra, who has been doing readers’ theaters in her classes for 24 years.

One of her favorite classes came Feb. 20, just three days after Presidents Day. Her students portrayed such presidents as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt. The students don’t dress for the part but just read to the class in their role.

“It was very fun to actually play a president I didn’t know about,” said Okhan Ozturk, a second grader who played William Howard Taft in his group’s readers’ theater.


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