Expression? Expression!

Growing Independence and Fluency

Kellie Lawrence

Rationale:  Fluent reading is a student's ability to read quickly, smoothly, and expressively. This ability is reached through the automaticity of recognizing words.  When students can read fluently, they can focus more of their thoughts on comprehension rather than decoding each word Reading with expression brings life into a text!  In this lesson students will learn the importance of reading with expression. Students will learn how to read fluently by examining how different sentence punctuation influences expression and how changing their voices can show different emotion and expression while reading.  


Teacher copy of Smudges Grumpy Day by Miriam Moss. 2001.

One copy for each students of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. 1996.

4 sentence strips that make up a paragraph (After school, my mom made me a snack. She cut up an apple put peanut butter on it. Do you like peanut butter? It is my favorite!)

Peer Evaluation Form for each student and teacher (example included)


Set of punctuation mark cards for each student.


Explain to students the importance and meaning of reading with expression.  "Today, we are going to learn how to read with expression! Expression is the way your voice naturally moves up and down when you talk and read.  It is important to use expression when we read because it makes a story really come alive! Sometimes when we hear someone read without expression it can be very boring, but when we hear someone read with expression we can't stop listening!"

Explain to the students that as great readers we want our audience to be engaged and entertained as we read and we want to enjoy our own reading as well.  "One way that we can get our audience interested is by reading with expression to make the story come alive. We are going to look at some sentences and I am going to read them to you. Remember, if we do not know a word that we come to, we can use our cover-up critters to help us decode." Read sentences to students without using expression: After school, my mom made me a snack. She cut up an apple and put peanut butter on it. Do you like peanut butter? It is my favorite! "How did my reading sound to you?  It was very boring for me to read! Was it boring to listen to? It was probably boring because I didn't read with any expression in my voice! Now I will read the same sentences again but this time using expression.  One secret to reading with expression is making the pitch of your voice change from high to low, depending on the emotion that you are trying to express. For example, if I am mad my voice might get really low. Or if I am excited my voice might get really high! (Change voice pitch to show example)" Reread the sentences using expression. "Was there any difference in the way the sentences sounded the second time that I read them? What were some of the different emotions that you heard in these sentences?"

Model for students how to read using emotions while reading Smudges Grumpy Day by Miriam Moss. Use many different examples of expression while reading to display to students the correct way to read with expression.  "Now students, I am going to read Smudges Grumpy Day by Miriam Moss. While I read, I want you to think about each emotion that you hear. If you hear a happy or excited emotion I want you to give me a thumbs up. If you hear a sad or mad expression I want you to give me a thumbs down."

The class will now engage in a punctuation activity. Each student will be given a stack of punctuation cards that are printed with "!", "?",".". I will read the sentences listed below and students will hold up the card of the correct punctuation that goes with the emotion of the sentence. "Now I have given you a stack of cards with an exclamation mark, question mark, and period. I am going to read some sentences to you using emotion and I want you to decide which punctuation that we will use at the end of the sentence. Remember, if the sentence is exciting or angry, we use the exclamation mark. If the sentence is confusing or questioning we use the question mark. If the sentence is simply making a statement with no definite emotion, we use a period. Knowing these different punctuation signs is important because they help us to know what expression to use while we are reading and this helps us to be more fluent readers."

Sentences to read:

Where is my dog?

I am so mad!

The sky is blue.

We are going to Disney World!

Who is eating pizza?

My dog's name is Blue.

Students will be put into pairs and given a copy of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes and a peer evaluation sheet. While one student reads, the other will fill out the evaluation sheet based on their partner's reading expression. I thoroughly explain the evaluation sheet and each question so that students know exactly what to do. "We are now going to read a book called Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. I have given you each a book and an evaluation sheet.  Each partner will take turns reading the book to the other. The partner who is not reading will listen carefully to the expression of the reader.  If your partner is reading smoothly, you will put a check by #1 if you're your partner changes the tone of their voice and it is sometimes high and sometimes low, then you will put a check by #2. If your partner reads faster and slower at different parts of the book, put a check by #3. And if your partner shows emotion in their face and movements while reading, put a check by #4. Now let's get on to that book! (BOOK TALK) In this book Lilly loves school! She loves everything about school. She loves her pencils, the chalkboard, her desk, and even lunch from the cafeteria. But the thing that Lilly loves most is her cool, stylish, kind teacher Mr. Slinger. Lilly wants to be a teacher just like Mr. Slinger one day. One weekend, Lilly goes shopping with her Grammy. On Monday she can hardly wait to show off her new hip sunglasses, three shiny quarters, and musical purple plastic purse. But what happens Monday at school turns out to be a terrible disaster and Lilly decides that she does NOT want to be a teacher like Mr. Slinger anymore." 


After partner reading, the teacher will call students to his/her desk individually to read a passage from Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. The teacher will complete the same evaluation form that was used for partner reading to assess how well students read with expression. 
Passage for students to read (Page 27): "Right before the last bell rang, Mr. Slinger served Lilly's snacks, to everyone's delight. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" asked Mr. Slinger. "A TEACHER!" everyone responded. Lilly's response was the loudest. "Excellent choice," said Mr. Slinger."

Individually, students will compare the mood of the stories from Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse and Smudge's Grumpy Day. Students will use specific examples from each book.

What are the similarities and differences in the moods in Smudge's Grumpy Day and Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse?

What were some examples from each book that gave you clues about the mood?


If You're Happy and You Know it.. Show Us with Expression! By Amy Crump

Act It Out With Your Voice! By Bridget Clabby

Henkes, Kevin. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. New York: Greenwillow, 1996. Print.

Moss, Miriam, and Lynne Chapman. Smudge's Grumpy Day. London: Gullane Children's, 2001. Print.



Peer Evaluation Form:

_______1. Does your partner read smoothly?

_______2. Does your partner change the tone of their voice from high to low?

_______3. Does your partner change the speed in the reading from fast to slow when needed?

_______4. Does your show emotion with facial or body movement?


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