Reading fluency isn’t just about reading without mistakes. It’s also about reading with expression, otherwise known as feeling or emotion. Expression helps kids to understand what the author is trying to portray through the characters or content of the story, and ultimately helps with the comprehension of a text.
If you’ve ever attempted to teach kids how to read with expression, you know it is a challenging feat, one that can leave you frustrated. Here are 20 ways to help alleviate that frustration:
1. Teach Kids About Punctuation
Making sure kids have a solid foundation in punctuation is a great first step for readers. Without punctuation, expression is impossible. Giving them some pointers on the purpose of these writing tools is key.
Learn More: The Owl Teacher
2. Choral or Shadow Reading
This activity is all about good, old-fashioned practice. Whether you use this as a classroom reading center or small group activity, choral and shadow reading is a great way to have kids mimic what they hear from stronger readers to practice this skill.
Learn More: Medium
3. Reading Out Loud to Your Children
Studies have shown repeatedly that reading out loud to your children is one of the best things you can do to set them up for literacy success. Having children hear you read with expression creates the innate ability for them to want to model after you. This is something you can start at birth and takes 10 minutes a day.
Learn More: My Three Readers
4. Teach Kids to Match What Characters are Feeling
Inviting children to match what the characters are feeling with their own voices will help introduce the idea of expression. Having them think about the story and what is happening with the characters helps to remind them what they sound like when they themselves experience the same emotions or scenarios.
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5. It’s All About Expression: Growing Independency and Fluency
Learning to identify emotions is sometimes tricky for younger readers. Oral reading expression only begins to develop once that ability is learned. Get kids out of “robot reading” by first teaching them how to identify expression in this activity.
Learn More: Lesson Planet
6. Reader’s Theater
Reader’s Theater is a phenomenal way to help students with expression. Because a drama is set up in a more simplistic format, students will be able to focus more on what the characters are going through in order to read with expression.
Learn More: Homeschool Notes
7. DIY Expression Sticks
This is a hilarious little activity that all kids will love. The expression sticks give students an emotion or a voice, and they are expected to read the text in that particular emotion/voice. For example, happy voice, granny voice, frightened voice, worried voice, etc.
Learn More: Sea of Knowledge
8. Develop the Ability to Decode
If your kids or students struggle with fluency, or, smoothness in reading, it is likely that they may have other reading deficits that need to be addressed prior to mastering fluency. Decoding words is usually one of the biggest roadblocks and these recommended activities by grade will help students overcome that challenge to make reading with expression a whole lot easier.
Learn More: Texas LD Center
9. Record Your Child
Getting your child to read without a monotonous voice takes some practice, and this particular strategy is great for center activities or even at home. Simply recording kids reading so they can hear it back allows them to hear themselves.
Learn More: Learn With Homer
10. Expression Charades
Turn the classic game of charades into a favorite literacy center or just a fun game at home where kids can act out different expressions they might read with.
Learn More: Learn With Homer
11. Whisper Phones
Whisper phones are perfect resources for teachers in bustling classrooms. If a child cannot hear themselves reading, how will they know if they are reading with expression? These clever little inventions can be bought or made from PVC pipe and allow your kids to whisper their stories to themselves while being able to hear perfectly!
Learn More: Amazon
12. Expression Bookmarks
Similar to the DIY Expression Sticks, this bookmark reminds kids who are independently reading not to read in a monotone voice and helps them build the ability to change their expression and inflection.
Learn More: A Teachable Teacher
13. Show Examples of GREAT Expression
Upper elementary students will get a kick out of this sweet older gentleman reading with proper expression. He really gets into his role as a reader and uses silly voices to reenact what he is reading. As funny as he sounds, he is extremely engaging and a perfect example for students.
Learn More: BritishVoiceTalent
14. Show Non-examples of Expression
The free mini-lesson provided on this webpage is one of the funniest and most memorable ways to help students understand the expression. You can use the suggested book or choose a book appropriate for your grade level or child’s age.
Learn More: A Teachable Teacher
15. Fluency Poems
This cut and glue activity not only provides practice with speed but increases the exposure, expression, and fluency as students read and re-read the poem multiple times in order to put it in the correct sequence.
Learn More: Fun In First
16. Roll an Emotion
Sometimes, presentation matters for elementary readers. Give the kids some dice and let them ROLL an emotion to read with and instantly you have a game they won’t want to stop playing.
Learn More: Pinterest
17. Mo Willems Acorn Expression Cards
What I love about this particular strategy is that it isn’t just for kids who are already reading. The author suggests a variety of activities on how to use the Acorn Expression Cards with even the youngest of students.
Learn More: Growing Book By Book
18. Students’ Reading = Boring
Students’ Reading = Boring is another strategy to teach punctuation to kids over the course of a week. It includes activity downloads that will help the information stick.
Learn More: What The Teacher Wants Blog
19. Poetry Performances
Sometimes, students do not develop expression in primary grades for whatever reason. Get them reading with expression using age-appropriate activities like Poetry Performances! As a bonus, it’s easily combined with poetry standards.
Learn More: Arts Learning Festival
20. Audio-Assisted Reading
Audio-Assisted Reading is another great option for older students who have not yet fully developed the appropriate grade-level skills to be successful with expression. Offer them reading passages that can be read out loud to them, and as they gain confidence, they can remove the scaffold of audio and practice reading on their own.
Learn More: Upper Elementary Snapshots