"Is that expression in your voice or are you just happy to see me?"

Reading with Expression
Melanie Smith


Fluency is a vital component of skillful readers and reading with expression is a component of fluency.  Reading with expression makes comprehension easier and makes stories more exciting/inviting.  This lesson will help children see, hear, and practice enthusiastic reading, recognize punctuation, and continue to improve their reading. 


Bedhead by Margie Palatini, Paper and pencil, Chart paper, Sentence strips that you must use expression when speaking, (Such as “Ouch! That hurt!” or “Shh! Be quiet!”)

1. Tell the children that we are going to learn how to read with expression.  First, write punctuation marks on the chart paper.  Include question marks, exclamation marks, quotation marks, commas, and periods. Explain to them know what each punctuation mark means.  Explain that quotes mean someone is talking, exclamation mark means to read with excitement, if all the letters in a word are capital letters read those words loud (STOP!), if all the letters in a word are small letters read those words soft (be quiet), and question marks mean to say as if you asking someone the question, after a period or comma you should pause shortly.  Explain to them that when we talk, we talk with expression.  When we read, we should be reading with expression to make the story more interesting for the audience. 

2.  I will read a few pages of Bedhead with no expression.  “How does this book sound?  Do you like it so far?  Would you want me to read an entire book that way?  (wait for student response)  That’s right.  It is very boring.  Now I’m going to read the same part of the book with expression. (Read sentences again with expression)  Which way do you like better?” (wait for student response)  “Now I  am going to finish reading this book, Bedhead is about a boy who wakes up one morning with horrible bedhead hair and worst of all it’s picture day at school.  Will his family figure out a way to fix his hair before school?  We’ll have to read to figure it out.  While I’m reading I want you to listen for me to read with expression if you think I did a good job give me a thumbs up at the end of the page if I didn’t read with expression give a yawn (model).  Reiterate to the students that reading softly does not mean you are reading without expression.  Read 4 or 5 pages, some with expression and some without, and have students respond at the end of each page.

3.  Ok, now that you understand how to read with expression.  I want to you to read for me.  Hold up the sentence strips with sentences such as “Wait! That’s sharp!” “No way! That is so cool!”, “I lost all keys. Will you help me find them?”  Go over the sentences as a group and then let the students come up one at a time to read the sentences to you.

4. For assessment, have the children get in groups at their desks and write down sentences they might read with expression, looking for punctuation.  Have each group share their sentences, and take turns reading each others.  I will use a checklist to make sure the students are using a variety of punctuation marks and can apply the new strategy to different situations. 


Hall, Mallory. American Expression http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/catalysts/hallgf.html

Palatini, Margie.  Bedhead.  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2000. 32 pages

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