Itís All About Expression

Growing Independence and Fluency

Shona Butcher

Rationale: When students become more fluent readers it is important for them to learn to read with expression.Reading with expression is a skill that should be used when reading silently or reading aloud.By teaching children to read with expression it makes the reading process more enjoyable for them.The goal of this lesson design is to provide the children with practice of reading expressively.

Materials: Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, lots of books to be read with expression and on reading level, chalk, chalkboard, prepared sentences for teacher on sentence strips (each sentence strip will express a different mood.Do I have to clean my room now?You bought this gift for me!Go to your room right this second!), audio tapes for each pair, four tape recorders, pencil, and paper.


  1. Explain to the class that reading is much more fun if it is done expressively. Can anyone tell me what expression is? ThatĎs right, it is when we show our emotions based upon the situation we are in. Can anyone tell me an expression that we might feel when reading a book or story? (Angry, sad, happy, surprised, suspense) Thatís right all of you had great examples of an expression that we might feel when reading a story or a book. (List the expressions that your students tell you on the board.) Today I am going to teach you how to become more expressive readers. Have you ever had someone read you a story and they changed their voice throughout the book? That is what you call reading with expression. When a person reads and changes their voice to fit the mood of the story, it becomes a lot more interesting for the reader and the listener. 
  2. Some of the ways that you can change the expression of a story is by reading faster or slower which could mean suspense or surprise, change the tone of your voice which could mean happy or sad, or the pitch of your voice to high or low which could mean scary. Now class I am going to read some sentences that are on these sentence strips and I want you to tell me what emotion you see and hear while I am reading. Go to your room right now and think about what you have done! Angry, thatís right I had a very deep tone in my voice. Next sentence is that gift for me! Surprised or happy thatĎs right you can tell by how high and soft my voice was when I read the sentence. Last sentence is "I am not going to go outside in the dark by my self. Scared, thatís right you could tell by the way I began to talk a lot faster towards the end of the sentence. (Prepared sentences on sentence strips will be used for each change of voice that has been described and how to model the different changes in voice for the class.)
  3. Now I will read aloud to the class the entire book Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. First I will read the book to the class with no expression. Then I will reread a few pages of the book using expression and ask the class which way they liked the story better. Which version of the story kept you interested and excited about my reading and why? The time when I read the story with no expression or the time when I read the story with expression? Yes, the second time was much more fun for me too. It was more fun and interesting because I read the story with expression and showed you the mood of the characters and the story. I read the story and changed my voice, which kept you interested in what as going to happen. Can anyone tell some of the expressions that they heard or saw while I was reading the story? (List on the board the expressions that the class has given you). 
  4. Then split the class into pairs. The students will choose a book of their interest to read to their partner. I will give the class some examples of books that they might want to read by giving them book talks. Some of the examples that I will give will be, Yo! Yes?, Three Little Pigs, and No David!. All of the books that the class with be able to choose from will be on their reading level and give many opportunities to show expression. Now class split up with a partner and pick a book to read. Remember if you come to a word that you cannot read use cover-ups. Start by covering all the letters in the word except the vowel. If the word is split then you would cover everything but i. (Model how to use cover-ups on the board as you are explaining the process). Then once you know the vowel sound uncover s and p. You know that s makes the /s/ and p makes the /p/ so blend them together to make /sp/. The next letter is l and it makes the /l/ sound. Then add the spl and then the vowel /i/. Then you have spli and the last letter makes the /t/, so add it and read the word. Split, thatís right but donít forget to crosscheck. Have each student read the story to his or her partner using no expression. As they are reading they will record their story. After each student has recorded their story I want them to go back through the book and write down some ways that they could change their voice to make story more interesting with expression. Once they have made a list I want them to reread the story and record themselves reading the book with expression. 
  5. Once they have completed the recording of both students reading with expression and without expression I want them to listen to the stories they have recorded. I want them to decide which sounded better. The story read with expression or the story read without expression. The students will come back as a pair and we will write on the board what expressions that they have chosen to use in their story. Then ask the students if any of them would like to read their story for the class.
  6.  For assessment I will listen to the tapes that the students recorded using a checklist. This checklist will include; tone changes, voice fluctuations, and pitch changes. The students will be assessed by having a check for yes they did change their tone or no they did not change their tone. Then they will receive a check for yes they did have voice fluctuations or no they did not have voice fluctuations. Last they will receive a check for yes they did change the pitch of their voice or no they did not change the pitch of their voice.


  1. Sendak, Maurice. (1991). Where The Wild Things Are. New York: Scholastic Book Company.
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