Express Your Character!

Katy Bugg

Reading with expression promotes fluency and reading comprehension. Reader’s Theater is a fun and engaging way to get students to read fluently with expression as they are playing a character. By practicing a script, students are reading the text repeatedly to gain fluency. This lesson uses reader’s theater to lead children into reading with expression.  
· Photocopies of the The Old Woman and Her Pig Reader’s Theater script for each student. (From: Readers Theatre for Beginning Readers by Suzanne I. Barchers. Englewood, Colorado: Teacher Ideas Press, 1993, p. 16)
· Dry erase board with marker to write “I am so happy to be at school today” and “It is raining outside again.”
· Evaluation sheet for each student
    -Did the student use expression in their voice when reading? Did they properly portray their character?
    -Was the student’s facial expressions appropriate for the character and the    story?
    -Overall, did the student use expression?

Step 1:Explain the importance of reading with expression and model expressive reading. Tell Students: When we are reading out loud, it is important that we sound like we do when we talk to our friends. When you talk to your friends do you sound like this? (Say in a monotone with no expression) “Hi. How are you. It is so good to see you.” I hope not. We usually use expression when we talk to each other like this: (With expression) “Hi! How are you? It is so good to see you!” It is also important to use facial expressions when you are reading and let you voice tell others the mood of what you are reading. Would you say (In excited and happy voice with smile on face), “I am so sick today!!!” Probably not. You might say it like this (sad face and low voice), “I am so sick today.” It is important to remember this when reading out loud.

Step 2:Say: I have a sentence that I am going to read to you and I want you to listen for expression. (Write “I am so happy to be at school today” on board) I am going to read the sentence two times in two different ways. See if you can tell the difference in my expression. (Sarcastic snobby voice with half smile) “I am so happy to be at school today.” Do you think I am being sincere? Am I really happy to be at school?  Doesn’t sound like it. It sounded like I was not happy at all to be at school. (Smile and speaking excitedly). “I am so happy to be at school today!” Do you think I really am happy? How could you tell? Because I was smiling? What about the tone of voice I used?

Step 3:Practice reading some sentences as a class. Say: Now I want everyone to practice reading this sentence with expression. (reveal: It is raining outside again.) Everyone did a good job! Now let’s read it again, and this time, let’s read it like we are so excited its raining because we all love dancing in the rain and hopping in mud puddles! Great job! I heard some happy voices and saw some smiling faces! Now, let’s read it again, but this time, let’s pretend like we hate the rain and it has just ruined our day. Good Job! I heard that you all were so sad that it was raining and I could see it in your faces!

Step 4:Introduce reader’s theater. Say: When people are acting in a play or movie, they use expression to make the story seem real. Today, we are all going to be actors in a play! The play is called The Old Woman and her Pig. I am going to give each of you a script and the highlighted character is the one you will play today. In this story, there is a little old lady to finds a coin and she decides she wants to buy a pig. She asks several characters along the way to help her out. Each character uses different expression. For example, how might the little old lady talk? Let’s say her first line together using expression. “What good fortune! I will go to the market and buy a little pig!” Good job! I heard many of you talking in a shaky voice like an old lady. You also sounded excited! I liked the smiles and happy expressions on your faces too!

Step 5:Pass out scripts so that each student has a part in the story. Say: I want each of your to whisper-read your parts to yourself to make sure you know all of the words in your part. Then, find a partner and read your parts to each other using expression. I will be walking around and listening to your voices and looking at your faces for expression.

Step 6: Have the students perform the story as a group. Say: Now, I want you to perform the story for me. I will be listening for expression so I know how the characters are feeling in the story. I will also be looking for facial expressions.


As the students perform, listen and watch for expression. Listen to the class performance and answer the following questions about each child:
-Did the student use expression in their voice when reading? Did they properly portray their character?
-Was the student’s facial expression appropriate for the character and the story?
-Overall, did the student use expression?
Take specific notes on each student about their reading. Pick out parts of the story where they used lots of expression and parts where they could have improved. Share notes with student.


Lauren Cauthen Lesson Design – Reader’s Theatre for Reading Expression
Reader’s Theater Script The Old Woman and Her Pig

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