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Gaining Fluency Design

Let’s Read with Expression!

Gaining Fluency Lesson Design 

Sarah Nelson 

Rationale:  Fluent reading is a student's ability to read quickly, smoothly, and expressively. This ability is reached through the automaticity of recognizing words.  When students can read fluently, they can focus more of their thoughts on comprehension rather than decoding each word Reading with expression brings life into a text!  In this lesson students will learn the importance of reading with expression. Students will learn how to read fluently by examining how different sentence punctuation influences expression and how changing their voices can show different emotion and expression while reading.


1. Copies of Cat in the Hat

2.  4 sentence strips that make up a paragraph (After school, my mom made me a snack. She cut up an apple put peanut butter on it. Do you like peanut butter? It is my favorite!)

3. Peer Evaluation Form for each student and teacher (example included)

4. Pencil

5.     Set of punctuation mark cards for each student.

6.    Frog and Toad are Friends


1.   Teaching will begin by asking students, “Raise your hand if you like to be read to.” Students will respond, “Me! Me!” “ Who likes it when people read with different voices and silly faces?” Students will respond, “I do!” Different voices and silly faces deals with expression. The teacher will explain, “Expression is when you change your voice loud or soft, high or low, facial and body moves when things happen through the story. One way you can do this is by creating different voices for the characters throughout the story.”  For example, if I am reading a scary part of the story my voice might sound scary." Give example sentence on board – The ghost appeared in the window. Read the sentence with expression (low, shaky, scary voice) and then have the students read it chorally with you in a scary tone. Give the next example sentence – I got a new puppy! Read sentence with an excited voice and then have students read it excitedly with you.

2.  "Before we learn how read a story with expression, lets read some sentences and talk about how we might be able to read them with expression. Remember, if you have trouble reading a sentence it is important to correct your mistake and figure out where you went wrong so that it can make sense. Always go back and reread so that you can get the message." Always finish the sentence if you have trouble with a word to see if you can figure it out. Put sentence on the board: My cat is sick today. "Now, raise your hand if you can think of a way that we could read this sentence. Would we read it in a happy tone? An excited one? A sad one?" Call on a few students so that they can give their ideas about how we could read it. After 3 or 4 students have given their ideas, call on one of them to read the sentence in the way that they described (sad, crying, etc). Once the student has read it, have all of the students read it together. Put the next sentence on the board: I am going camping this weekend. Repeat what was done for the first sentence. Let a few students give you their ideas for how we could read it and then let one of them read the sentence. Have the class read it together with expression. Add a few more sentences if the students need extra help with the concept. Say "By reading with expression we can change the tone of our voice as we read to go along with the story. If you are reading an exciting part of the story you could read with an excited and happy voice. If it is a sad part you could read slower and with a lower voice."

3.  The teacher will engage in a book talk to introduce the book. “Today we are going to read The Cat in the Hat. Sally and her brother are left at home  all alone on a cold rainy day. All of a sudden they hear a BUMP upstairs, all of a sudden a giant cat appears wearing a hat who wants to play a game with them. What do you think Sally and her brother will do? Lets read to find out.” During the reading the teacher will read with expression, changing the tone of their voice and use different voices for different characters.

4.  The class will now engage in a punctuation activity. Each student will be given a stack of punctuation cards that are printed with "!", "?",".". I will read the sentences listed below and students will hold up the card of the correct punctuation that goes with the emotion of the sentence. "Now I have given you a stack of cards with an exclamation mark, question mark, and period. I am going to read some sentences to you using emotion and I want you to decide which punctuation that we will use at the end of the sentence. Remember, if the sentence is exciting or angry, we use the exclamation mark. If the sentence is confusing or questioning we use the question mark. If the sentence is simply making a statement with no definite emotion, we use a period. Knowing these different punctuation signs is important because they help us to know what expression to use while we are reading and this helps us to be more fluent readers."

            After school, my mom made me a snack.

            She cut up an apple put peanut butter on it.

            Do you like peanut butter?

            It is my favorite!

5.   Students will be put into pairs and given a copy of Frog and Toad are Friends and a peer evaluation sheet. While one student reads, the other will fill out the evaluation sheet based on their partner's reading expression. I thoroughly explain the evaluation sheet and each question so that students know exactly what to do. "We are now going to read a book called Frog and Toad are Friends. Turn to page 6 read the first page in a boring monotone voice: "Frog walked into the house. It was dark. All the shutters were closed. "Toad, where are you?" Called Frog. "Go away," said the voice from a corner of the room. Toad was lying in bed." "Now, was that very interesting or exciting? No way! Now I will reread it with expression and tell me what you think." Emphasize expression with walked, dark, closed, are, and go away. Say: "Did you hear how I changed my voice at some parts of the story. Did you hear my voice get lower when I said the word dark? Did you hear how it got louder when I said the word are? Where are some places that you heard it change? Dark…yes! My voice got a little lower and spooky." Reread sentence to remind students. Where else did it change? Go away…yes! My voice sounded meaner. Reread it to remind them. Say: "This is how you read with expression. Change the tone of your voice to match what is happening in the story." I have given you each a book and an evaluation sheet.  Each partner will take turns reading the book to the other. The partner who is not reading will listen carefully to the expression of the reader.  If your partner is reading smoothly, you will put a check by #1 if you're your partner changes the tone of their voice and it is sometimes high and sometimes low, then you will put a check by #2. If your partner reads faster and slower at different parts of the book, put a check by #3. And if your partner shows emotion in their face and movements while reading, put a check by #4.


Collect the partner expression checklist sheets. In addition, the teacher will call students up individual to his or her desk to read a section of chapter 3 for expression evaluation. After a student reads a passage ask open-ended questions to assess their reading comprehension.


Lobel, Arnold, and Arnold Lobel. Frog and Toad Are Friends. New York: Harper & Row, 1970. Print.

Seuss. The Cat in the Hat. New York: Random House, 1985. Print.

Act It Out With Your Voice! By Bridget Clabby http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/projects/clabbygf.html

Repeated Reading Checklist


After 2nd               After 3rd

_______                _______      Remembered more words

_______                _______      Read faster

_______                _______      Read Smoother

_______                _______      Read with expression