"Doggone Good" at Expression
Growing Independence and Fluency

Leann Patterson

Rational:   To be a good reader, a student must become both independent and fluent.  Reading fluency is the ability to recognize words accurately, rapidly, and automatically.  Fluency means reading faster, smoother, more expressively, or more quietly with the goal of reading silently.  It is very important for children to learn to read with expression.  As children learn to read expressively, they gain a more in depth understanding of the text and come to the realization that reading is fun.  In this lesson, students will be required to read and reread "It's Fun To Be A Firedog" until they become fluent.  Today's main goal is on expression.  However, rereading text also helps build automaticity.

Materials:   chalk; chalkboard; evaluation sheets for each child; pencils; "It's Fun To Be A Firedog" by Mary Ann Hoberman (copies for each student)

1. "Today, we are going to work on reading with expression."  After today's lesson, everyone should be "doggone good" at reading with expression.  But before we begin, I would like us to review what we have learned about reading a word that we do not recognize right away." <Review cross-checking. > "Remember students that it is always helpful to go back and reread the sentence for clues if we see a word that we do not recognize.
    A. Example:  Write a sentence on the board and intentionally miss a word.  <Sentence:  It's fun to be a fire dog with "ornamental" spots. >
    B. If you miss the word "ornamental," go back and reread the sentence.  This is modeling and demonstrating crosschecking.

2. "It is now time to talk about reading with expression.  Does anyone know what the word "expression" means? <Write students' responses on the board.  You may want to elaborate or add to their definitions to create one that resembles "changing the tone, volume, or speed of our voices when we read.

3. Write the proper definition on the board for the students to visually see.

4. Explain the three concepts of expression (tone, volume, speed) and give examples.  Again, write each concept on the board along with the definition.

A. Tone- "Students, tone is the type of voice used when speaking.  For example, your tone could be angry, excited, or maybe even bored.  Listen to me read this sentence.  <Read it very boring. >  "I ride in fire engines with sirens at full blast.  <Pause for a moment and let the students think. >  Now listen this time as I read.  <This time read the sentence with lots of enthusiasm and excitement. >  "I ride in fire engines with siren at full blast!!!  Did everyone notice the two different tones that I used?  Great!
B. Volume- "Students, volume is how loud we speak.  For example, what if I said, "Quiet!" <Say very loud; then, say it using a different tone such as a whisper or  just very softly.  "Does anyone see the difference in the tone of my voice I used?" <Ask students to demonstrate/model various volumes for the class to hear. >
C. Speed-  "Class, speed is how fast or how slow you say something."  <Pick a sentence from the poem and read it very fast.  Pause, then, read the same sentence very very slowly.  Allow the students to react to the different speeds.  Explain to the students that sometimes it is necessary to speed up or slow down when reading. >  "For example, what if I was really excited about getting a new puppy.  I would probably talk really fast due to being excited.  When would someone maybe talk really slow?  Yes, maybe when one is sad.  It is very important to remember speed when reading with expression.

5. Demonstrate the importance of expression by reading the poem about firedogs.  Use no expression when reading to the class.  Ask the students if they enjoyed hearing the poem afterwards.  Of course, the answer will be "no" so ask them why they did not enjoy it.  Ask the students what you could have done to make the reading enjoyable to hear.

6. Distribute copies of the poem to the students.  Have each child pick a partner. It may be less of a hassle if you put the students into pairs.  Have the students practice reading the poem aloud to their partner.  Have the students practice reading the poem aloud four times to one another.  Remind the students that we are working on expression and you want to hear a room full of expression.

7. Assessment:  Pass out the student evaluation sheets.  Give each student a new partner to work with and explain to them that they are going to take turns reading, "It's Fun To Be A Firedog" to each other.  Tell them to remember to listen carefully and respectfully to their partner.  As their partnerreads remind them to listen carefully for the three "ingredients" to expression.  Also, as their partner reads, they should score them by marking a YES or a NO to each question on the evaluation sheet.  Be sure to walk around the room and observe as the students are reading.  You may want to randomly assess some students yourself if they appear to be struggling with expression.

8. Instruct the students to give you the evaluation sheets when they have finished evaluating one another.

9. Optional Assessment/class activity:  Have the students memorize the poem about firedogs.  Then, have each student perform the poem in front of the class.  This would be a great way to allow students to practice their speech skills as well as presentation skills.


Hill, Tonya.  "Beeing Expressive."   The Reading Genie.

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