Is that EXPRESSION I hear?

Reading Fluency
Amanda Cummings

Rationale: The goal of reading is comprehension. In order for a reader to read for comprehension they must be fluent. A  key indicator of a fluent reader is the ability to read with expression. Reading with expression makes the text being read come alive! Students should be able to read expressively aloud and silently. In this lesson students will recognize and demonstrate expression in a read aloud and through writing enabling students to apply knowledge learned from reading to writing.

Materials: One copy of Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late (Williams, Mo. Hyperion. 2006), White board and markers, Sentence strips with sentences from made-up story to be used for practice read aloud with expression.  (See story within procedures below), Cut-outs of punctuation marks to use with sentences, Copy of poem, "Don't Tell Me That I Talk Too Much!" (Spilka, Arnold. Random House. New York.1983) for each student, Checklist below for each student to be used for partner reading:
Primary paper and pencil for writing activity, and Checklist below for each child to be used by teacher for writing assessment:

  1. Today, we are going to work on reading expressively. Expression is the way your voice naturally moves up and down when you talk. Reading with expression means that we use our voice to make the text being read come alive for our audience and ourselves. We are going to have our own chance to read expressively today, so let's get started!
  2. Ask students: Have you ever heard someone read a story to you and you felt like you were really there with the characters? Maybe the character was sad and you felt sad because the person reading read like they were sad. They were reading expressively! But maybe you heard someone else read the same story and you did not feel sad because they did not read with expression.  Let me show you (model for students by reading a sentence without using expression, then model the same sentence using expression. Read this sentence first with a monotone voice. I had a fever of 103! Then read it and emphasis the the number 103. Say: I had a fever of 1----0----3!!!) Now, can you tell me what was different about the second time I read the sentence? I want everyone to repeat after me acting as if they are shocked or surprised that they have a high fever of 103. (Allow time for students to repeat this two times.)
  3. Let's look at some sentences that tell a story and pay attention to the punctuation marks. The punctuation mark in a sentence tells us how to read that sentence. If we see an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence we may read it as if we are excited or surprised.  (Example story to be written on sentence strips. Note that each slash= end of sentence strip and beginning of a new one): Matt got a new red bike for his birthday./ He was so excited!/ He had always wanted a red bike./ His little brother was mad he did not get a bike too./ He asked his mother, "Why did I not get a bike?"/ His mother told him he was not old enough to ride by himself./ Matt's little brother was sad.) Now, we are going to read a story I want you to listen as I read with expression. Another way to think about expression is reading with your emotions like happy, sad, mad, excited.
  4. Introduce Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late with a book talk. "Have your parents ever told you that you could not stay up late?  Well this story is about a pigeon who is not allowed to stay up.  Do you think he is going to be happy about having to go to bed? I need your help to make sure the Pigeon does not stay up.  Let's read and find out."  Remind students to listen for expression as you model.
  5. Since you have had a chance to hear expressive reading, I want you to work with a partner to read a poem expressively. We are going to work on this poem for a couple of days to memorize it and read it from memory to our partner using expression. Today is the first day we are looking at this poem. You will not know it from memory today. (Break students up into pairs; hand out checklists for students to use when listening to their partner. Explain checklist to students. Hand out poem "Don't Tell Me That I Talk Too Much!" By Arnold Splika. Students will read it silently twice to themselves, then take turns reading to each other using checklists for peer assessment.) Remember that reading with expression can mean reading with our emotions. Listen for changes in your partner's voice. Does it get higher or lower as they read at certain parts? Softer or louder?
  6. After students read aloud expressively in pairs, introduce using expression in writing. Students will use primary paper and a pencil to write at least three sentences on their paper showing emotion. (Model on chart with primary paper and cut out punctuation marks. Ex. That man stole my wallet!) Write the sentence on the primary chart paper and then have students decide what punctuation mark should be used. Students will work on this task independently. Remind students that punctuation marks tell us about the emotion or expression that should be used to read a sentence.
  7. For assessment, students will be assessed on the checklist from paired reading of poem. See materials for checklist. Second part of the assessment will be examining students writing. I will use a checklist also listed in the materials section.


Haffarnan, Jessi. "Watch Out! We are Reading with Expression!" 2006.

Crump, Amy.  "If You're Happy and You Know It Show Us Expression!" 2006.

Wallace, Jessica. "Get Excited, Get Mad, Show Emotion!" 2006.

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