Adapting P4C materials for Readers’ Theatre
THERE ARE MANY GOOD STORIES that are suitable for P4C and for adaptation into Readers’ Theatre format, including stories on this website.
Here, I show how Matthew Lipman’s novels could benefit from a Readers’ Theatre treatment.
Philosophical novels and RT
Matthew Lipman wrote philosophical ‘novels’ for children. The novels are structured around lively dialogues between children in an American school. Part of Lipman’s purpose is to provide both a stimulus and a model for the philosophical questions and dialogues for a real-life group of readers, coming together in a ‘community of inquiry.’
There are many advantages in using the dialogue form for such a task. Lipman was inspired by writers like Denis Diderot, a master of the dialogue, who expressed philosophical ideas in a lively and engaging way. In his own work, Lipman, like Diderot, tries to entertain and engage readers but also to dramatise ‘models of thoughtful dialogue with which children might identify and from which they could learn’.
It seems to me that Readers’ Theatre could assist with this dramatisation and lend variety to the reading of Lipman’s novels. Certain key chapters containing lively discussions, such as the one above, could be presented, after some rehearsal, in Readers’ Theatre style by a group of children.
The children would also be responsible (with help from the teacher) for adapting the chosen chapters to Readers’ Theatre format (see ‘Introducing Readers’ Theatre‘). The rest of the novel could be read as normal. Lipman advises reading around the class so children can hear themselves making the same moves in a dialogue as the characters. He also values expressive reading aloud as an important tool for the exploration of meaning.
Readers’ Theatre can help with both these ambitions as well as making the fictional dialogues of ideas seem more dramatic and significant.
Children reading a Lipman novel could also try Interpretive Summary to keep the events of the novel in mind and revisit the main themes.
I have attached a sample chapter from ‘Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery’, Matthew Lipman’s first philosophical novel, in Readers’ Theatre format.
‘Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery’ and other novels by Matthew Lipman are published by the IAPC (Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children) and come with substantial manuals for supporting philosophical inquiry with children.