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Seven Steps to Better Oral Reading: How to Teach Kids to Read Expressively

Lockridge homeschools her children and holds an EdS in Curriculum and Instruction, an MS in Elementary Education, and a BA in History.

When children read expressively, they bring life to the story.

When children read expressively, they bring life to the story.

Oral reading is an important part of the elementary school classroom, for both teachers and students alike. Not only does oral reading enable the teacher to evaluate student reading ability and comprehension, it allows the student to learn presentation skills that he will use for the rest of his life.

That's why good oral reading habits are so important. When a student recognizes what he is reading, he is more likely read it more expressively; often students who read too slow may forget what they read at the beginning of the sentence altogether and become confused. Proper pausing and expression of words and phrases in a story allows the reader himself and his audience to better understand what the text is about. Although a lack of expression does not necessarily determine a lack of comprehension, shy students or students unaware of how to articulate phrases may also struggle in expressive reading and may dislike oral reading assignment

Teach students how to read expressively with a few simple ideas:

1. Review the different sentence types so students better understand what they are reading.

· This is a declarative sentence.

· Is this an interrogative sentence?

· Give me an imperative sentence.

· Exclamatory sentences are exciting!

2. Describe expressive reading with colorful words.

For example, tell students you want their reading to be like smooth peanut butter, instead of crunchy peanut butter, or tell students you want them to read like an ice skater moves across the ice, with smooth motions.

3. Listen to books on tape while reading.

Listening to examples of expressive reading, while following along in a book, may help students learn how to pause dramatically and vary pace based upon the actual words in the text.

4. Listen to a sports announcer describe an exciting play.

Show students that it is not just the words, but how you say it that is important to the story. Watch a clip of sports newscasters for examples of how they very their pace and volume based upon what happens in the game.

5. Practice “choral” or “echo” reading.

Help shy or unsure students learn to read expressively in a group setting where there is less pressure to get the words and expressions correct. Use poetry or songs that students are familiar with for best results.

6. Read to the class using voices for each character in the story.

Show students that varied voices inject more fun and interest in the story.

7. Practice individual phrases or sentences with each student in the class.

For example, post sentences on the board, or pass out slips of paper to each student. Show them how to read sentences such as “The house is on fire” or “Be quiet, the baby is sleeping” differently.

For more information on the importance of reading and comprehension, check out my articles:

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Observe the progression of this young reader over three years, from K4 to first grade. Although some may say that this young reader's reading is a bit over-the-top, she clearly understands the importance of reading with expression.


Diane Lockridge (author) from Atlanta, GA on July 27, 2011:

Thanks Alma, good point about kids being good copiers, that's why I listed so many suggestions where they listen to good examples!

Alma Cabase from Philippines on July 27, 2011:

A good thing about kids is that they learn really fast. A 5-year old kid can copy your gestures and the words he usually hear with such an ease. So watch your words when a kid is around. hehe

Good hub! Voted up ofc!



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