My Lips are Zipped!

Growing Independence and Fluency Design

Maria Jackson

Rationale:  Children need to learn how to read silently to themselves because a very important part of reading fluency is the ability to read without saying the words out loud.  As teachers, we need to explain to our class that reading out loud so that everyone can hear is a good idea when you are reading to a group, but that most of the time in life we will need to read silently to ourselves.  In these times, it will only be important that we understand what we are reading, everyone else does not need to hear.  This lesson will teach children how to read “in loud” instead of out loud.  It will give them the ability to read in any situation, and it will hopefully increase their interest in reading as they pick their own books.


Classroom library or school library with a variety of books in clearly marked levels
Dry erase board and markers
“Stuck on a word?” bookmark for each child
“Stuck on a word” strategies written on board
Big book copy of Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Assessment checklist
Student journals and pencils or pens


1.  Begin the lesson by explaining to the children what reading quietly is, and why we do it.  “Have you ever been in a place where your parents wouldn’t let you play or talk and you had to just sit quietly?  Maybe you were in a doctor’s office or a waiting room somewhere.  Did you ever think about reading a book to yourself instead of just sitting there being bored?  Well, today we are going to learn how fun it is when you read a book silently to yourself! By practicing reading this way, you will all become better readers! When you read a book to yourself, silently, you are able to focus more on what you are reading, and you are not bothering anyone else!  It is a lot of fun! Let’s learn about silent reading!”

2.  Pass out the “Stuck on a word?” bookmarks to the class (webpage for bookmark is at the bottom of the page), so that they may use it if they have trouble.  Model how the strategy works. "Sometimes when I am reading a book, I stop after I read a sentence and think to myself, I don't think that made sense! I am going to show you an example.” Read the sentence you have written on the board. “My pink hot is on top of my head.” Ask the class if the sentence makes sense? Model on the board the strategy cover-up. "My pink (/a/, /h/ /a/, /h/ /a/ /t/) hat is on top of my head "Does this make more sense? I think so! Refer to the board with the "Stuck on a word?" strategies. Explain all of the ways you can use to figure out why a sentence is not making sense.

3.  Get out the big book Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.  Explain to the class that we will now be learning how to read silently, but we are going to do it in a few steps.  Open the first page of the book and read it to the class in a pretty loud voice.  “Do you think this would disturb anybody if I was sitting in a quiet room?”  (Wait for an answer)  “That’s right! This would not be ok for me to do. Model quiet reading. Read the same page of the book in a quiet voice.  Model whisper reading.  Read the same page of the book in a whisper.  “Now I am going to read only my moving my lips with the words and no sound will come out.”  Read the same page moving your lips to the words.  “Now I am going to read silently or in loud as I like to call it.  When we read in loud, we are hearing all the words in our head and thinking about them, but no one can hear us.”  Read through the page with your lips closed, modeling silent reading.  Explain to the children that you can either move your lips with the words or read in loud to be a silent reader.  Tell them it is up to them.  Go through the steps of reading the next page of the big book with the whole class.  “Alright, boys and girls, now I want you to try.  First let’s read aloud, then whisper, then lips only, and finally silently.”  Go through the page this way. (Use this time to assess which students are reading silently without using their whisper voice, regular voice, and even note the students who are not having to move their mouth as they read.)
  Great job! 

3.  “Alright, I think you all are ready to try reading silently to yourself.  Let’s all pick out a book from the classroom library.  Remember to stick to a book that is in your reading level by paying attention to the reading level color that is on the spine of the book.  After you pick out your book, you can sit quietly in the reading corner or at your desk.” (Give students time to pick out books that interest them.  Assist them if they need it and monitor that they are picking out books at their level.)

4.  “Now I would like for everyone to practice silent reading to themselves. Remember we can't read out loud, we have to read in loud!  Our lips are zipped! We will read for 15 minutes. When you hear the buzzer sound, you may put your book up and return to your seat."

5.  For assessment, observe the students while they are reading silently to themselves. Have a checklist with each students name, checking whether they are reading:

__aloud (voicing)
__lips only

If you finish assessing this early, then pick up your own book, so that they can see how you can read silently as well.

6.  Assessment continued: Once the students have finished reading, have them return to their seats and get out their journals. Ask them to write about what they have just read, and what they thought about the book. Once they have finished that, have them write one or two things they liked or disliked about silent reading. The teacher may collect the journals to complete the assessment on whether or not the students comprehended what they read, and whether or not they were able to successfully read silently.


Slobodkina, Esphyr. Caps for Sale. USA, William R. Scott Inc. 1968.

“Shh! I am Trying to READ” by Meaghan Lambert

“How to Help Beginners with Oral Reading” Dr. Bruce Murray  (Stuck on a Word Bookmark)


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