kids dramatically reading

Reading Dramatic Parts – Lesson Plan

After viewing the story of “The Cat and the Rat,” students will retell the story as a dramatic reading. Students will create characters through vocal expression.

  • Length: 2 30-minute lessons
  • Grades: 1-3


  • Students use skills of listening and observation to interpret a story.
  • Students vary vocal expression to create their own characters in storytelling.
  • Students work cooperatively to perform a dramatic reading.

Resource Used:

Cat and Rat
Found On: Storytelling Sampler

Vocabulary, Materials, and Handouts

elements of performance: acting, character, listening, storytelling, vocal expression



  • Script: Cat and Rat

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Instructional Strategies and Activities

About the Story

The version of “Cat and Rat” in the video excerpt was collected by Leonard Roberts from storyteller Dave Couch in Leslie County, Kentucky in 1952. Roberts published the story in Song Branch Settlers. Roadside Theater recorded the story on its record Mountain Tales (June Appal Recordings JA0036). It is performed on the video by storytellers Tom Bledsoe and Rich Kirby.

Pre-Video Activities

  1. Ask students to close their eyes as you read. Change your voice to read the following once as good news and again as bad:

          “We are having macaroni and cheese for dinner.”

    Ask students how your voice changed and how it influenced how they felt about what you said.

  2. Relate the vocabulary concepts to your reading. Ask students to listen carefully to see how different voices create characters in the story on the video. Watch the video.

Cumulative Stories

“Cat and Rat” is an example of a cumulative tale—one that gets longer with each verse or episode. This kind of tale has been popular in both stories and songs for ages. Optional activities might be to read other cumulative tales, such as “The House That Jack Built” or “There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea,” or to sing cumulative songs such as “The 12 Days of Christmas.” For a variation on the cumulative tale, check out “Soap,” also in Program 6 of KET’s Telling Tales series. That story involves repetition and sequencing.

Post-Video Activities

  1. Discuss the video:
    • What did the rat want?
    • Why was it so hard to get his tail back?
    • How did voices in this story help you imagine different characters?
  2. Distribute the script. Assign parts so each child has a part. (You will probably need to do the reading twice.) Ask each student to underline his or her part in the script and consider the voice for the character.
  3. If possible, watch the video again. Tell students that they don’t need to mimic the storytellers to create distinctive characters. Tell them to think about ways the storytellers used their voices to create the story.
  4. About the Storytellers

    Rich Kirby inherited his love for old-time music and tales from his grandparents, who were born and raised in Eastern Kentucky in the 19th century. Tom Bledsoe grew up in a farm family on the banks of the Clinch River in Scott County, Virginia, where he was surrounded by traditional music and stories sung and told by family members and neighbors. Both Rich and Tom play a variety of traditional instruments and have performed professionally, together and with others, since the 1970s. Both have also been associated with Appalshop in Whitesburg, KY, where Tom once performed with Roadside Theater and where Rich still works.

  5. Read the script aloud to the students. In a second reading, pause before reading each character and ask students to think what a barn, shop, eagle, etc. would sound like. If you have non-readers in your class, your students may represent their script visually by drawing a picture. You will need to cue them. You could do this by being the narrator and saying, “The rat said …” Your pause and look toward the students would signify their cue.
  6. Read the script with students reading their parts. Practice. Give liberal praise for variations in voice and constructive feedback.

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Extensions for Diverse Learners

  • Add facial and body language to your initial readings, before students watch the video. Have students observe and discuss the various facial expressions and body language you use in your reading, then observe how the storytellers in the video use these elements. As students prepare their scripts, have them add facial and body language to their readings.

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Performance Assessment

Performance Event:
The story “Cat and Rat” is retold as a dramatic reading with parts for all the students. The emphasis is on creating characters with vocal expression.

Each student reads his/her part, giving vocal expression by changing the tone of the voice in some way that represents the character. Students do not need to mimic the storytellers; they can create their own distinct character voices for each part.

Performance Scoring Guide

4 3 2 1 0
Student creates a distinctive voice that represents the character. Student listens attentively to the story and to fellow students. Student participates fully in dramatic reading and works cooperatively. Student creates a distinctive voice that somewhat represents the character. Student reads part at the appropriate time. Student listens to the story and to fellow students. Student participates in dramatic reading and works cooperatively. Student reads part with limited expression. Student listens attentively to the story and to fellow students. Student participates in dramatic reading and works cooperatively. Student listens attentively to the story and to fellow students. Student does not participate.

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Support - Connections - Resources - Author

Mary Henson

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K-12The Arts