Become an Expressionist!


Growing Independence and Fluency

Marguerite DeWitt



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.

One copy of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, 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 ("If We Didn't Have Birthdays" by Dr. Seuss),
for each student, checklist below for each student to be used for partner reading:
- Does your partner's voice go high or low as he or she is reading?
- Does your partner change his or her voice to loud or soft?
- Does your partner's voice change reflect the end punctuation mark?
- Does your partner's voice stay the same as he or she is reading

Primary paper and pencil for writing activity, and Checklist below for each child to be used by teacher for writing assessment:
- Does the student's writing show understanding of punctuation?
- Does student demonstrate ability to connect expression to punctuation?
- Does student use punctuation appropriately?

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 angry and you felt angry because the person reading the story read it like they were angry too. They were reading expressively! Maybe you have also heard a person read the same story but it did not make you feel angry because the person reading the story was not reading expressively.  Let me show you the difference" (model for students by reading a sentence without using expression, and then read the same sentence using expression. Read this sentence first with a monotone voice. "I just ate 20 cookies".  Then read it and emphasis the number 20.  Say: "I just ate 20 cookies!!!").  "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 just ate 20 cookies". (Allow time for students to repeat this two times.)

3. "Now 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): Jill woke up and looked outside. / "Oh no," she thought to herself, "it's raining again!" / It had been raining for days. / All Jill wanted to do was go play outside. / She asked her mother: "is it going to rain all day?"/ Her mother told her that the weather was supposed to clear up by the afternoon. / That news cheered Jill up a lot.). "Now we are going to read a story and I would like you to listen as I read with expression. Another way to think about expression is reading with your emotions like happy, sad, mad, or excited".

4. Introduce Green Eggs and Ham with a book talk. "Have you ever had someone ask you to try a food that seemed really gross?  Well, that is exactly how Sam's friend feels when Sam asks him to try green eggs and ham.  Sam keeps pestering his friend to try them in all sorts of places.  Do you think he will give in?  We'll have to read to 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". Read the poem to the students first, and then as a class.  Model how to decode words like "birthday" by showing students how to break the word into chunks.  Afterwards, break students up into pairs; hand out checklists for students to use when listening to their partner. Explain checklist to students. Hand out poem "If We Didn't Have Birthdays" By Dr. Seuss. 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. For example: We get to have an extra 10 minutes of recess!) 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 the paired reading of the poem. See materials for checklist. The second part of the assessment will be examining students writing. I will use a checklist also listed in the materials section to evaluate their written work, as well as have the students read the poem to me individually to make sure they can read with expression.

Cummings, Amanda. "Reading Fluency" 2007.

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