The past three weeks of the Fluency Boot Camp has focused on three areas of reading fluency covered in the primary grades: PACE, PHRASING, and PUNCTUATION.
As usual, back-to-school assessments kick-off the school year with fluency, so it is important to glean what teachers are looking in order to improve in reading fluency by the end of first quarter! Subsequently, the last week of the Fluency Boot Camp will cover EXPRESSION.
Reading aloud with EXPRESSION is a foundational reading skill students develop between first through fifth grade, according to Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. In order for children to become more fluent in their reading, they need to learn how to read with expression. What is expression? For the most part, prosody is the term that teachers use to define the feature of expressive reading. It is a technical way to look at all of the variables of timing, phrasing, emphasis, and intonation that speakers use to help convey aspects of meaning and to make their speech lively.
For the most part, reading with EXPRESSION is challenging for students primarily because when they first begin to read aloud they are conscientious about reading the text correctly, so teachers spend time in the classroom teaching different strategies on how to read with expression.
A popular strategy used to practice expression is through reading poetry aloud. Students can experiment reading poems in different voices, emphasizing words, changing phrasing, or reading at different rates. Generally speaking, poetry reading provides students with an opportunity to reread for fun and to share with others.
Readers’ Theater provides children with a wonderful opportunity to focus on prosody in a format that is fun and engaging. In Readers’ Theater, students are assigned roles in a short play or skit that they practice in a small group prior to reading what they had rehearsed in front of a large group. When teaching, the focus becomes on the process, not the perfection of the student’s production. In Readers’ Theater, students do not have to memorize lines, wear costumes, or use props. Reading with expression is particularly fun for students. Children enjoy changing the way the pitch of their voice sounds. They have fun with sound, as the tone of their voice changes with the punctuation. Expressive readers change the volume from soft to loud depending upon the characters in the story.
The goal of Readers’ Theater is for students to begin to convey meaning through their reading, with an emphasis on their understanding of the characters through appropriate intonation and oral expression. Students enjoy practicing reading their scripts several times before presenting it to the whole class.
As a rule, children learn to read with expression through modeling, usually this happens while listening to someone else read a story aloud, and then with individual practice. First, teachers and/or parents will choose a book to read aloud. When reading aloud for the first time, children might read or sound like a robot, and they may read in a very monotone way. This may result in the story sounding very boring, which is why modeling and a little practice make the difference! Next, reread the story and say it like the character might actually speak at a given point in the story. For the most part, this technique gives students practice learning how to use inference skills to show both intonation and feelings. At the same time, when practicing reading with expression children begin to understand the author’s intended meaning and communicate how they interpret the meaning to others when reading aloud.
Learning to read dialog with EXPRESSION, in a manner that reflects the intentions and emotional states of the characters is a great way for young readers to begin to comprehend the both fiction and nonfiction books.
With practice, reading with EXPRESSION will change over time. Gradually young readers will begin to improve their voice to match characters; and read as if he/she were speaking, moving the voice volume up and down as they express themselves when reading aloud. Have fun practicing expression while reading either one-on-one with your child or in a classroom setting of both small and/or large groups. The dimensions of reading fluency were briefly previewed in Fluency Boot Camp over the past four weeks, and we covered: PACE, PHRASING, PUNCTUATION AND EXPRESSION all of which are interrelated. Overall, keep in mind that reading fluency is not a “stage” in development, with practice, gradually fluency will change over time when children truly begin to engage in print. Keep on reading!