Reading with Voice

What does it mean to read with voice?  Reading with voice is a key part to reading fluently.  It shows that students understand how characters are feeling by using clues like punctuation and dialogue tags to read with expression.  Today I am excited to share a couple of strategies I use to help encourage my students to read with voice and expression.

What is reading fluency? A big part of it is reading with voice or using expression to show how characters are feeling.

Reading with Voice to Change Meaning

To hook students on the idea of reading with voice, I pull out a favorite poem, “The Homework Machine”, by Shel Silverstein.  (You can find this poem along with many other great ones in the book, A Light in the Attic.)  I display the poem and read it in a very monotone voice.  After that, we discuss more appropriate voices for the different parts of the poem.  When reading the final four lines, we talk about different voices that may be appropriate: mad, sad, surprised, embarrassed, etc.  We practice reading the poem, changing our voice in the last couple lines and discussing how that changes the meaning.  For fun, we also tried other voices like scared and robot reading.

Use a poem to help your student learn to read with voice.

Book Previews

Another whole class lesson that works well for my students is to discuss how previewing a book can help to predict the voice we should use.  I model how to look at the cover, back, pictures, and Table of Contents to help predict what voice might be best to use during different parts of the reading.  Students practiced this technique with their reading partners by verbalize how the plan to reading their book.  Once each partner has shared, students read independently.  At the end of the reading workshop, students meet with their partners again and share a portion of the reading where they feel confident that they are able to use a “just right voice”.

An Awesome Series to Practice Reading Fluently

When working with small groups, there are many activities you can incorporate for choosing the right voice.  One of my favorites is to use poems with more than one voice.  A great series for this is the You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You Series.  (You can also use these poems with the entire class.  Students love this!)  You can divide your group into two and assign each one a part.  If time permits, students can even to a bit of readers’ theater with these poems.  

This poem is fabulous for practicing reading fluency.

One of the things I love about this series is that there are multiple reading levels represented.  For example, the fairy tale version is a guided reading level J, and the Very Short Stories book is guided reading level M.  There is something for everyone to practice reading fluently!

A Fun Way to Practice Reading with Voice

My students enjoy reading in different voices.  To have a little fun, I have students practice reading fluently in voices that may not necessarily match the characters.  We talk about why it doesn’t make sense and usually have a good laugh about it.  One way I do this is by having students randomly select a voice card to read an assigned part of the text.  Whatever the voice card says is how the students need to read.  If you would like to give this strategy a try, you can get these voice cards delivered straight to your inbox by completing the form below.

These voice cards are wonderful for oral reading fluency practice!
A sample of the Voice Cards

Having students read with an appropriate voice is a great way to monitor their comprehension.  During reading conferences, I often prompt students to go back and reread parts of the text in a way that shows how the characters are feeling.  This helps keep the students engaged with the text.

What about nonfiction?  I put a different spin on reading nonfiction text with voice.  I do have a blog post about that.  You can read it by clicking here on on the button below.

Do you have a favorite activity you use to teach students how to read with voice?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.  Let me know how your students do with the voice cards.  They are always a hit in my classroom.

Thank you!

Teaching blogger for elementary teachers

Mary Wingert, licensed educator (K-12 Special Ed. & 1-8 General Ed)

I started teaching in 1993.   I have taught special education, fifth grade, and fourth grade.  I moved to second grade in 2015, and I am still there today.  

I believe in teaching strategies that are effective, differentiated, and engaging. I am looking forward to building a community of teachers who feels the same!  Read more here.