We're Not Reading Robots!

Growing Independence and Fluency

Emily Mills


Reading with fluency helps beginning readers to become more successful readers. Reading with expression is one important aspect of fluency. Expressive reading helps book language come alive, and written words sound more interesting and natural when read with plenty of expression. During this lesson, students will work on developing their fluency and expression through reading and rereading decodable words in a connected text.


1) Which Shoes Do You Choose? Readers' Theater script (8, each with a single part highlighted)
[From aaronshep.net   Script will be modified slightly to make it more decodable.]
2) 8 Popsicle sticks (each labeled with a single character/part)
3) Large sentence strip with "Mom, Brad hit me!" written on it.
4) 8 sentence strips each with one of the following phrases: "Ah! A spider is crawling on my desk!",  "Mom, May I have cake for lunch? Please?", "Yay! I won the spelling bee!", "I am getting so sleepy.", "Can we go on just one more ride, please, can we? Pretty please?", "I am starving!", "My big brother is so mean!", & "Stop that! Put that down right now! I said, 'Now'!"
5) 8 Peer Evaluation Checklists
Does your partner read smoothly?     1st try___     2nd try____   3rd try____
Does your partner vary their tone of voice?  1st try___     2nd try____   3rd try___
Does your partner change the tempo when necessary? 1st try___     2nd try____   3rd try___
Teacher Evaluation Checklist (Does the student read smoothly? Does the student vary their tone of voice? Does the student change the tempo when necessary?)


1. To a group of 8 students: "Since we are all becoming such wonderful readers, today we're going to do something special. We're going to all become actors and we are going to practice reading a play! You are each going to have your own part. You will each draw a popsicle stick from this cup. Later in this lesson, you will read the part that is written on your popsicle stick."

The teacher will have popsicle sticks in a cup and instruct students to each draw only one. After the students each have been assigned their part, the teacher will then have students to lay the popsicle sticks on the table in front of them.

3. Teacher: "Good readers are sometimes kind of like actors. Think of your favorite television show. Would that show be very interesting if all the actors just read their parts?" (pause for student response) "Of course not! Let's look at this sentence. (hold up sentence strip) What does it say? (pause for students to answer). Right, it says, 'Mom, Brad hit me!' Pretend I'm in the backseat of my mom's car, and my little brother just hit me. Would I say, "Mom. Brad. Hit. Me." ? (Read aloud choppily with no expression) Did that sound real? Nope, that didn't sound real at all! Good readers think about what is happening and pretend that they are actually saying the sentences they read. You wouldn't say, 'Mom. Brad. Hit. Me.' You would probably say, 'MOOOOOOM, BRAD HIT ME!' Which was more interesting? The way I said it the first time or the second? Right! When you read sentences and words the way that you would actually say them, you are reading with expression. Reading with expression is a lot of fun, but we need to reread our lines to be able to get better. Real actors have to practice their lines many times before they get them just right, and we have to practice reading and rereading so that we will get better and read with more expression each time!"

4. "Well, now that we know that we should read with expression, let me show you how to read with expression." (Pass out each child's script). "Look at the very first sentence on your scripts. I am going to show you how I would practice reading this sentence." Teacher reads slowly, and choppily with little expression:  "'Kate. Was. T-teared. Of. Wearing. The. same. Old. shoes.' Oh, tired. She was tired of wearing the same old shoes." To the group of students: I had a little trouble reading the word, tired. I accidentally read "teared" instead, but I remembered that what I read had to make sense, so I realized that word was "tired" when I got to the end of my sentence. I remembered to cross-check!" "That read was okay, but I bet I can do even better! I'm going to try it again! (Teacher reads slowly, with minimal expression): 'Kate was tired of wearing the same old shoes.' I did do better! That was still a little boring, though. I read all the words the same. I'm going to read it again, and this time, I'm going to try to read it even faster and with plenty of expression—some words might be louder or softer, higher or lower. I don't want to sound like a robot! (Teacher reads more quickly and with expression, stressing the words "same" and "old"). 
        That was much more interesting! The more times I read and practiced it, the better I got at reading my line! I want you to do the exact same thing I did when you read your lines. The more you practice, the more you will sound like a famous actor instead of a robot! So when I practice, I'm going to work on reading quicker and smoother, and I won't always keep my voice at the same tone like this. (Model monotone voice). Instead, I will read some words high and some words low and also say some words slower than others, just like I would do if I were saying the line instead of reading the line. Does anyone have any questions?"

5. The teacher will pass out a pre-cut sentence to each child.  "We're going to practice reading these with plenty of expression. Pretend that you are actually saying the sentence as you are reading it. Now, turn to the person next to you and practice reading your sentences to each other." The teacher will pull two students at a time away from the group and will briefly have them practice reading and rereading their sentence with expression. Those students will go back to the group when finished, and the student will pull away two more students. This will continue until every student has received guided practice.

6. Have you ever had trouble making a decision? The readers' theater script we are going to read is about a child who just can't make up her mind! She simply cannot pick out what pair of shoes she wants. Will she have to wear them all? You'll find out what happens when you read, Which Shoes Do You Choose?

7. Now, I am going to pair you with a buddy with whom you will take turns reading lines. (Teacher pairs up students and passes out checklists.) Write your partner's name on your checklist. Before either of you begins using the checklist, go through and read all your lines to your partner. After you've practiced once, you will use the checklists. When it is your partner's turn reading, I want you to listen to them carefully, and give them a check if they read smooth, vary their tone, and change their speed. After your partner reads, it will be your turn to read. Switch places with your partner and read while he/she fills out your checklist. When you are finished, you and your partner will have each read your lines 3 times. Try to get better each time you read and do not forget to cross-check and use cover-ups! I will be walking around listening to everyone practice, if you need any help. Ready? Set? Read!"

8. The teacher will monitor students read their scripts with their reading buddies. The teacher will take note of individual students' progress on fluency checklists while walking around the room.


Aaron Shepard. Which Shoes Do You Choose? http://www.aaronshep.com/rt/RTE22.html

Amy Berger. We're Messin' With Expression. http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/odysseys/bergergf.html

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