Express Yourself!

Alison Stokes
Growing independence and fluency

Rationale: In order for children to develop reading fluency they must establish smooth, fast, and expressive reading. "Fluency means reading faster, smoother, more expressively, or more quietly with the goal of reading silently.  Fluent reading approaches the speed of speech" (Murray). In this lesson, we will discuss reading aloud using expression. Everyone in the class will have a copy of the story Who took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar?. The class will also practice developing fluency by rereading the familiar book using the different strategies when stuck on a word. The children will practice as a whole reading aloud to one another using character mask. I will also use a tape recorder to encourage the children to use expression when reading aloud and for them to listen to themselves to assess their own progress.

Materials: paper plates, paint sticks, class copies of Who took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar? By: Bonnie Lass and Philemon Sturges; Published by Scholastic Inc., Fluency assessment sheet, tape recorder, tape of a story, crayons, markers, glue, tapes, yarn, construction paper

A.) Put the students in dyad groups. "Ok class, I want everyone to practice reading the book, Who took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar? by reading aloud to your partner. Whenever you come to an unfamiliar word remember to read the rest of the sentence by cross-checking. Doing this might help you in figuring out what the word is from the context of the entire sentence. I want everyone to read the story at least twice until you know the words of the story." I will walk around as the children read to see if anyone needs help and to assess their fluency of the story.

B.) There are 10 different characters in the story-mouse, raven, squirrel, rabbit, turtle, raccoon, snake, beaver, frog, ants. I will write the different characters on the board. "Now I want everyone to get a paper plate and a paint stick. From the list on the board, everyone can choose which character mask they want to make. There are all kinds of materials such as crayons, markers, yarn, and construction paper to use in order to create your character. Afterwards, glue a paint stick onto the back as a handle." The children will make their mask and use when reading aloud to encourage using expression while reading.

C.) Discuss with the children why using expression while reading means that you are a fluent reader. Have a tape of a story being read with and without using expression. "Now, I want everyone to listen to the story and tell me which one is more appealing to listen to." The children should agree that the story being read using expression is more interesting to listen to. "Now I want everyone to listen to me read using expression and using different voices for the characters." I will model using expression by reading a small section of the book aloud to the students. I will encourage them to read using expression the way I did when reading aloud. "Now I want everyone to read aloud the first page using expression. This is just practice and later we will read with a partner to practice more. Remember that using expression in your voice is a step in becoming a fluent reader."

D.) Next I will have the children get in dyad reading groups with their character masks. "As each one of you reads the story to each other, I want you to use your character masks when your particular character comes in the story. Use a character voice as well for your particular character. Try to use different voices for all the characters even the ones you do not have mask for." As the children read aloud to one another, I will walk around to observe the expression the children are using as well as their fluency and speed.

E.) In order to assess the children, I will have each student read their particular characters part of the story aloud to me individually. As they read, I will tape record them so they can listen back to themselves. We will discuss together certain accomplishments as well as what to work on after the student has listened to the recording of them reading the story. I will use the fluency assessment sheet as well after they have finished reading the story

Fluency Assessment Sheet:

After Second reading
After third reading 
Remembered more words 

Read faster 

Read smoother 

Read with expression 


(Web page titled Express Yourself by Christi Keith)

Lass, Bonnie and Philemon Sturges. Ashley Wolff, illus. Who took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar? Scholastic, Inc, 2000.

Murray, Bruce.  "Developing Reading Fluency."  The Reading Genie.

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