One of the reasons I love teaching second grade is because I get to see huge growth in my young readers. Although we definitely continue with word attack skills and self-correction, we also get to move on to some higher-level reading strategies. One of my favorite strategies to teach is how to read with the correct voice.
To hook students on the idea, I pull out a favorite poem, “The Homework Machine”, by Shel Silverstein (You can find the poem and many other great ones in the book, A Light in the Attic.) I displayed the poem and read it in a very monotone voice. After that, we discussed more appropriate voices for the different parts of the poem. When reading the final four lines, we talked about different tones that may be appropriate: mad, sad, surprised, embarrassed etc. We practiced reading the poem, changing our voice in the last couple of lines and discussing how that changes the meaning. For fun, we also tried voices like scared and robot.
The second day we worked on choosing the right voice for reading, we discussed previewing the book to predict the proper voice we would need. I modeled 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 verbalizing how they planned to read their book. Once each partner had a chance to share, students read independently. At the end of reading workshop, they met with their partner again and shared a portion of their reading where they felt confident that they had a “just right voice”.
When working with small groups, there are so many great 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 for the whole class by dividing them into two groups. Students love this!)
One of the things I love about this series is that there are multiple reading levels within the series. This makes the series suitable for a wide variety of students. For example, the Fairy Tales book above is guided reading level J, and the Very Short Stories book is guided reading level M.
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 book in a way that shows how the characters are feeling. It’s fun to see them engaged in the text this way.
I’d love to hear your favorite book or strategy to coach students to read with the correct voice. Please share your ideas in the comments below.