"Take One"


Growing Independence and Fluency

Libba Brannon



In order for children to read without frustration they have to read fluently. Once beginning readers start to master decoding, they need to begin reading fluently.  Reading fluently means to read faster, smoother, and more expressively. Silent, voluntary reading is also brought about by fluency. To be able to read fluently, students need to "read and reread decodable words in connected text.  "When they begin to read fluently and with the correct expression, they will begin to comprehend much more.  The focus of this lesson is on teaching students to read and reread decodable text with expression.  This lesson will encourage students to read expressively by pretending they are actors and actresses in a play given to them by the teacher.


1. Paper strips with sentences written on them to use when reviewing punctuation and expression.

-Wow Sam! You really did great!

-Where did you find my diary?

-Charlie…Shane…Wait for me!

-Ewww! I've got icky, sticky gum in my hair!

2. Chalkboard and Chalk

3. Reader's Theater Script (1 for every student and a master for the teacher)

(Peddler Polly and the Story Stealer, by Aaron Shepard)

4. Paper Strips to be wrapped around the head and used as hats by the actors/actresses so you know their characters name. (They can make and decorate these in art!)

5. Stapler/Tape to fasten the paper strips together to make the hats

6. Signs for the play, written on poster board or sheets of white paper before class begins:

Goods Bought Here
and Sold There

Bring a story
(if you still know one) 

Entertainment Paraphernalia

  1. Any props/costumes/items from around classroom/school (check with art/drama teachers) that will make the play more real and will help the students get into their characters.  You could also plan this in advance and send home for things lying around the house.  Many parents could have things they would like to donate.
  2. Two assessment checklists with the following questions for each student (1/2 sheet of paper) – one for pre and one for post

-Does the student read smoothly?

-Does the student vary their tone of voice?

-Does the student change tempo in the reading when necessary?

-Does the student show emotion with facial movement?

-Does the student show understanding that punctuation is a guide for what kind of expression to use?

-Additional comments:


1.      Introduce lesson by explaining that reading can become just as natural and smooth to the students as their spoken language. All they need is to practice reading (by rereading and reading more) and other literary experiences (rereading with sub goals in mind: speed, smoothness, expression, silent reading, and voluntary reading). First we are going to review some of our strategies for decoding a word that we do not know in a sentence. Today, we are going to work on reading with expression! First let's review what we've learned about coming to words that we do not recognize right away. What are some of the strategies you use? Wait for responses. Yes!  We can use cover-ups, where we cover up some of the word so we can read it piece by piece. We can also use cross checking, where we do what?  Wait…right that is where we read the rest of the sentence and go back to see if the word makes sense. And lastly, what do we always do after we decode a word? Wait for responses; hopefully they will know this by now. That's right; we always go back and reread the sentence or phrase from the beginning. This will help you to get the expression of the line correct. Next, introduce the topic of the lesson by talking about the children's favorite television show. Ask questions like, What are some of your favorite shows?  Why do you like these shows? Is it because the shows are interesting? How do the actors and actresses talk in the shows? Do you think you would still like the show if the actors/actresses talked like this: "Hey Jim. There is a tiger behind you." Speak in a monotone and with no expression. Or, "Hey…Jim…There is …a tiger…behind … you." Speak slowly and with pauses in awkward places. How do you think this sentence should be read? Right, it should be read with a lot of expression. Actors and actresses change their voices in different situations. Sometimes they use loud or soft voices and sometimes they talk at a slow or fast pace. Sometimes they change the tone of their voice according to how the words are used; making their voices whiny, loud and thundering, or soft and whispery. This makes the show more interesting. You can also use expression as you read. This will make your reading more interesting, too. If actors and actresses talked in a boring voice for the entire movie you would not watch it – right? The same goes for books. They are not any fun to read or listen to if you do not put any expression into them. You need to make the books come to life so you can find the exciting parts about them.

Review with the students: punctuation and other writing symbols/prompts/ cues (examples: exclamation point!, quotation marks "", questions mark?, commas,, pauses… , periods., and so on). The teacher should write one symbol on the board at a time and allow students to give name for the symbol and its meaning. As the students tell you the needed information, together, the teacher and the students can make up a sentence on the board that uses the punctuation or writing symbol that is being discussed. Review these concepts (especially any that will be in the play you are going to perform) by saying, When you read, think of yourself as an actor or actress and it is your job to make the words on the page take action. You need to look at the punctuation to see how to act. We are going to look at a couple of sentences and practice using expression while we read. Hold up poster with sentences Okay, let's look at the first sentence (read without expression): "Wow Sam! You really did great!" How do you think I should read this sentence if I am going to use expression? Right! I should be excited. What tells you that I should act excited when I read this? Exactly... because it has exclamation points. Now let's all read the sentence together with expression (read aloud and together). Here's another sentence (read without expression): "Where did you find my diary?" How should we read that sentence if we are using expression? Right... we should sound confused or questioning because there is a question mark. Let's all read it together with expression (read aloud and together). Look at the third sentence, read slowly and at an even pace, "Charlie…Shane…wait for me!" there are three dots in the sentence, what does expression does that tell us to do? Right…we should pause or wait when we see those marks and the exclamation point at the end tells us that we should be talking loudly and excitedly. Let's all read it together with expression (read aloud and together). Now, let's look at the last sentence, "Ewww! I've got icky, sticky gum in my hair!" What does the punctuation in this sentence tell me…how should I read this sentence with expression? Exactly…the "Ewww" part should be read slightly louder and with disgust and the icky, sticky gum part should be read with slight pauses, not big enough to take a full breath, but just so that they don't all run together.

3.      Explain, Now, you are all going to be actors and actresses today. While you are passing out copies of the play, ask the students what is one quality that makes a good actress? Whatever they say, try to tie it in to the fact that they read with whatever expression to fit the mood that their character is in. If the character is supposed to be sad, the actor's/actresses' face looks sad, and they may read very quietly in a whining voice. Then explain what you are going to be doing as a group, We are going to make the words we read jump to life. Has anyone ever heard of reader's theater? Well that's what we are doing today. It's like a play but you get to keep your script, or copy of the play, while you read so you don't have to memorize all the words. Everyone will have a part and we are going to make a small part of the costume and practice and perform. **The story is called Peddler Polly and the Story Stealer by Aaron Shepard and it is a fable about how the storytellers of Taletown are mysteriously losing their stories, while a stranger sells "story boxes" in the town square. Be sure to go over what kind of story fables are and the characteristics about them…as review, or as introduction if you have never gone over them.

**This is the book talk for the connected text (script) we will use for this lesson.

     4.  Everyone will be a part of this play and everyone's part will be important. I'm going to come around and pass out the hats     we made earlier in art.  I told you to write a certain name on it – that is your characters name!  There are Narrators 1–4, Peddler     Polly, Penny, Spellbinder, Crowd 1–3, Bertha Bigwig, Milton Marbles, and Jack (If you need more parts, double up the crowd and         narrator parts, so that there are two students speaking the part). Describe the parts to the class; does anyone know what a narrator is?     Right…he/she gives all the background information for the story that we can not see, maybe something that happens off the         set or before the play starts. Continue on explaining the parts as you are passing them out, who the characters are and so on. If the             class is extra large, then you could break them into two groups so that you will have two groups for the same play.  After they have their             characters, pass out the script and read through the first few lines with them. Okay, we are going to read like this, "That was the                 sign on Peddler Polly's cart as her horse pulled her up Main Street. Peddler Polly looked around and smiled.   I'm sure                     glad to be back in Taletown", etc.
    5.The teacher can facilitate the first read through with the class and then send it home to be practiced for homework. Before we actually         perform, we are just going to practice reading the script a couple of times and using expression when we read. Everyone             needs to pay attention so you'll know when it is your turn to read. Also you need to make sure you use expression... sound         excited if there is an exclamation point, and so on. We will practice three times just reading, then we'll stand up and act it out a     couple of times. If we use tons of expression, we can perform for another class. (That would be so much fun) Begin to read through     it, be sure to discuss the expression and allow the student's time to talk and make changes when it is needed.

    6. Perform play as a group; you can perform it outside on a nice day or for another class if available. You can always invite other school             workers (librarian, principle, office staff, counselors, etc) to come and watch, or parents.  Use the assessment checklist to assess the             students throughout their practice and their final performance.

     7. Assessment: Have the checklist mentioned above with every student's name on it.  As the class reads through the play the first few             times use the check sheet to guide your pre-assessment. Also, be sure to check off when students are not paying attention, when they are     laughing at others, and when they are not helping/contributing to the class project/discussion. Then, as the final play is being performed,         have another check sheet for each student's post-assessment.


1.      Reader's Theater Script Webpage: www.aaronshep.com/rt

        Peddler Polly and the Story Stealer, by Aaron Sheperd

2.      The Reading Genie Website:  http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/guides/mahoneygf.html

    3…2…1…Action by Amanda Mahoney

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