Fluency: Introduction | Fluency: Assessment | Fluency: Speed

Instructional Activities to Increase Reading Expression

Print this page

[Click on the photos to see a larger version]


This section of the Fluency Guide describes some instructional activities designed to increase students' reading fluency--particularly their reading expression. Each activity involves repeated reading of text, a practice research has demonstrated improves both reading fluency and overall reading achievement. The activities in this section include:


Readers' Theater

pixReaders' Theater provides children with a wonderful opportunity to focus on prosody in a format that is fun and engaging. In Readers' Theater, small groups of students rehearse and perform a play. The focus, however, is on the process, not the production. Students do not memorize lines, wear costumes, or use sets or props. The only way for them to convey the meaning of the script is through their reading.

In Readers' Theater, students read from scripts that are rich in dialog. They may read from plays, adapt plays from stories they have read (series work especially well), or write original plays. The emphasis is on interpreting and sharing their understanding of the characters through appropriate intonation and oral expression. After practicing their reading several times, the students can present it to the rest of the class or to another group of students.

Readers' Theater can allow you to customize reading parts to individual students' needs. It promotes cooperative interaction with peers and makes reading appealing. In addition, it does not require near the amount of time or preparation of traditional classroom plays.

Poetry Reading

pixPoetry lends itself beautifully to expressive reading and is meant to be read aloud. Our enjoyment of poetry can be found in the words of the poet as well as the voice of the reader. When rereading and reflecting on the meaning of a poem, students attempt to portray vivid images and emotions in their voices. They demonstrate their understanding of the poem in their reading of it.

Poetry reading is already a part of many elementary classrooms. To use poetry to build students' prosody, you should first model an expressive reading of a poem, followed by opportunities for students to practice rereading the poem in pairs or independently. Alternatively, students can select their own poem to rehearse after hearing several read by the teacher.

To meet the various needs of your class, you can include poems of different lengths and difficulty levels. Students can experiment with reading the poem in different voices, emphasizing different words, changing the phrasing, or reading at different rates. When they are ready, the students may share their readings with another pair, a group of students, or the class. Like Readers' Theater, poetry reading provides an authentic reason for students to reread--one that is fun to share with others.


Chunking is a method of fluency instruction that encourages students to move beyond word-by-word reading. Chunking entails reading phrases, clauses, and sentences by dividing text into chunks. It can help students improve both their prosody and their comprehension.

With this approach, you should begin by modeling the chunking of a portion of familiar text. The text may be written on the blackboard, on sentence strips, or on individual sheets of paper that are copied for each student. Using a think-aloud strategy, you should model dividing the text into three- to four-word chunks or phrases, placing slash marks where the reader should pause. Then show the students how to "read" (or pause at) the slash marks. Students can then practice reading the same selection of text in chunks.

Click here to see an example of using a Quick Reads passage.

Once students are successful reading text that has been chunked for them, they can practice identifying chunks themselves in another text. The students can place an overhead transparency over a text they are reading and use an overhead pen to mark slashes, or they can use a highlighter or marker to make slashes on a paper copy of text.

"Look for the Signals"

"Look for the Signals," described by Opitz and Rasinski in Good-Bye Round Robin, is a procedure where you show students how punctuation and other typographical signals (punctuation marks, large or bold print, underlining, and italics) affect expression and meaning. In "Look for the Signals," you select a sentence from a book the students have read or will be reading. The sentence should include an example of the specific signal to which you want the students to attend. For example, if you want to demonstrate that commas indicate a need for pause, you might show how altering the placement of the comma in the following sentences completely changes the meaning of the text:

Erik, my teacher is fabulous.
Erik, my teacher, is fabulous.

Click here to see a chart used to emphasize ending punctuation.

A comprehensive list of signals, what they convey, and examples of meaning changes can be found in Opitz and Rasinski's Good-bye Round Robin.

"Say it Like the Character"

pix"Say it Like the Character," is another activity described in Good-Bye Round Robin. In "Say it Like the Character," students practice rereading a passage the way they think the character might actually speak at a given point in the story. This technique provides students with practice in learning how to infer both intonation and feelings, so that they can better understand the author's intended meaning and communicate this interpretation to others when reading aloud. Each student in the group may be given the same passage to practice rereading as the character would, or the students may be assigned different passages to practice rereading and share. Questions such as "What emotion were you trying to convey when you were reading?" and "What made you think that you should have read it that way?" cause students to reflect upon their reading and the meaning of the passage as well as the expressiveness of their reading.

Please feel free to download and use any of the activities and information that we have provided. You may contact the Reading First office at the University of Virginia if you have any questions.

Fluency: Introduction | Fluency: Assessment | Fluency: Speed

Pictorial Case Study: Fluency in the Classroom

Contact Reading First in Virginia

Copyright 2003-2010 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. The University is an equal opportunity educator and employer. This information is subject to change without notice. For questions or comments on the content contact Reading First in Virginia. For questions or comments on the site itself contact the Webmaster.