Standard Lesson

The Reading Performance: Understanding Fluency Through Oral Interpretation

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five to six 45-minute sessions (depending on the number of students giving oral performances)
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This lesson examines how oral reading of poetry may be useful in supporting fluency for sixth- through eighth-grade students. Central to this lesson is the idea that students require practice and repetition to master decoding skills for fluency and comprehension in oral reading. After discussing with the teacher in very explicit terms what readers mean by "reading with expression," students work with partners in selecting a poem from the Internet for oral reading. Working together, students come to appreciate how authors craft their writing to be read and how readers bring meaning to a text, which enables them to read with expression. Once partners have agreed on how their poem should be read, they collaborate on a performance of the poem: an oral reading accompanied by a PowerPoint slide show. As an audience, students come to appreciate the art in interpreting a poem—how a careful reading of language and meaning is something beautiful in itself.

From Theory to Practice

  • After reading rate and automatic word recognition, the third element of fluency on Zutell and Rasinski's Multidimensional Fluency Scale (1991) is prosody.

  • Prosody is the ability to read a text orally using appropriate pitch, stress, and juncture, and to project the natural intonation and phrasing of the spoken word upon the written text. Prosodic cues are the structure of the text and language, which help students identify the appropriate pitch, stress, and juncture to be assigned to a given text.

  • Methods for developing fluency include modeling, repeated reading, paired oral reading, the oral recitation lesson, and choral reading. The oral recitation lesson involves modeling, using a comprehension strategy, discussing the prosodic elements, and performing.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.

Materials and Technology

Overhead projector and transparencies of Ice Cream and Autumn Wind




1. Make an overhead of the two poems Ice Cream and Autumn Wind by Laura Hofsess.

2. Locate and bookmark the websites that you and your students will be using during the lesson and evaluate the sites in terms of readability for your students.

  • This exhibit created by the Academy of American Poets is an impressive Web resource that includes biographies of more than 200 poets, more than 600 poems online (many of them in audio as well as text), discussion forums, a calendar of poetry-related events, links to numerous poetry-related sites, and multiple search engines. People who register can create notebooks with their favorite poems and other information.

  • Poetry Writing with Karla Kuskin. In this website, created by Scholastic, Karla Kuskin guides the reader through a poetry writing process. Go through the workshop yourself. Then reflect on the experience. How does the writing of poetry add to the understanding and appreciation of prosody?

  • Merriam-Webster OnLine. This dictionary site is designed to help students with the pronunciation and meaning of words.

  • The Poetry Zone. This interactive poetry website is intended for children, young adults, and anyone interested in poetry. It contains poems written by students, information on well-known children's poets, and some educational resources for teachers.

  • Electronic Poetry Center. This site, maintained by the State University of New York at Buffalo, is a great place to check out poets, collaborate on a poem, and explore links to sites devoted to the works of individual poets.

  • The Poetry Archives. This website is a database that archives thousands of copyright-free poems. Their stated goal "is to provide the largest free archive of classical poetry available on the internet with a simple user interface."

  • American Verse Project. This project is working to make the canon of American poetry texts available to educators and readers of poetry online. The site is described as ". . . a collaborative project between the University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative and the University of Michigan Press." The project has already assembled an electronic archive of American poetry published prior to 1920.

3. If these websites are inappropriate for your students' reading level, use a search engine to find sites with poems suitable for your students. (Using the names of favorite poets will yield good results from your search.) Make an overhead of the websites you have chosen for your students.

4. Review the Poet's Cues handout. It may be necessary to revise this handout to include only the poetic devices that are part of your grade level curriculum.

5. Print and photocopy the student handouts.

6. Be prepared to help students with the selection of poems. Bookmark or maintain a list of poems on the sites being used that you consider good selections for struggling readers and good selections for students in need of accelerated reading.

7. If you lack expertise with PowerPoint, ask your school's technology coordinator for assistance or invite older students currently enrolled in a technology course to act as peer tutors during the activities.

Student Objectives

In this lesson, students have four important purposes for oral interpretation:

1. To use language cues and text structure for an effective oral reading

2. To find meaning in the text as a reader

3. To communicate an interpretation of the text to an audience

4. To deliver a performance that stands apart from the original text as a reader's response

Above all, the reading performance should engender a joy for the oral reading experience, inviting even the most reluctant students to read out loud.

Instruction & Activities

Reading with Expression

1. Display Ice Cream by Laura Hofsess on an overhead projector and read the poem out loud to students.

2. Invite students to join you in a second choral reading.

3. Explain to students that poets often use line breaks, punctuation, and empty space as cues for the reader to read their poem with expression. To read with expression means that readers use their voice to create sounds and silences that convey meaning. Ask students to identify places in Ice Cream where the poet uses line breaks, punctuation, or capitalization to cue the reading of the poem. Highlight these places on the overhead.
  • How does reading this poem with the expression intended by the author affect the reader?

  • Did they read certain parts of the poem with deliberate expression without a cue from the author?

  • How did they know to read certain parts of the poem without cues from the author?
Elicit from students that readers receive cues from the text's meaning. Help students to analyze the poem for theme, point of view, tone, and mood using clues provided by "the expressive voice" discovered in the poem.

4. Pass out the Poet's Cues handout to encourage students to use more cues when reading with expression.

5. Read the handout out loud. Ask students if they can think of any other ways that poets invite readers to read with expression. Have students add these cues to their handout.

6. Display Autumn Wind by Laura Hofsess on an overhead and invite students to rewrite the poem using at least two of the poet's language cues for reading the poem with expression. The rewrite provided can be used to guide you in a "think aloud" modeling activity that precedes student writing.

Sample rewrite of Autumn Wind

Leaves d n e to the
a c

Whirl . . .
to bend.
7. Invite three students to display their rewrite of the poem on an overhead and read it aloud to the class. Encourage students to explain what cues they employed when rewriting the poem and why. When all three students are finished with their presentations, ask the class why modern poets do not always choose to use visual cues like empty spaces and exclamation points to help readers read a poem with expression. Ask students why both poems with cues and poems without cues can be good poems for oral reading.

Selecting a Poem for Performance

1. Assign students partners and explain that they will be choosing a poem that they will turn into an oral reading performance that includes a PowerPoint slide show. Distribute the Performance Rubric and read it aloud to students so that they have a clear sense of purpose before logging on to the Internet. As you read, explain to students that they will use the Performance Rubric to guide their partner work. After completing one of the steps listed on the rubric, students should assign themselves the number of points they feel they have earned for that step in the "Student Points" column.

2. Following the instructions detailed on the rubric, instruct students to select a poem from one of the websites displayed on your overhead and print out three copies of the poem.

3. Partners take turns reading the poem out loud slowly and with deliberate expression. The student not reading marks up one printout of the poem showing where his or her partner got louder, softer, paused, or used voice to convey meaning. (This process should be modeled before partners work independently.) After each student takes a turn reading the poem out loud, one printout should be left without markings (i.e., the one that was used by both partners to read). On this printout, partners come to a consensus about how the poem is best read, and together mark up the text.

4. Before completing this part of the lesson, ask students to reflect on their partner reading using the handout entitled Reflection: Partner Work. This reflection enables students to think as individuals, whereas the Performance Rubric requires them to assess what they accomplish as a team.

Creating a Performance

1. Referring to the design tools listed on the Performance Rubric, model how students can create a PowerPoint presentation that visually shows the expression that partners have agreed to read in their poem. The following design tools are used to enable an audience to experience a poem through visual interpretation:

  • All capital letters

  • Bold or underlined text

  • Outlined text or a massive font

  • Italicized text or a fine font

  • Embossed or 3-D text

  • Mirrored text

  • Font color

  • Text shadows

  • Text shapes

  • Background texture or images

  • Background color
  • Long transition time

  • Short transition time

  • Slides with no words

  • Words sized to fill an entire slide

  • Words placed in one corner

  • Words placed on one-half of slide

  • Words sized to fill the top one-fourth of slide

  • "Dropped" letters

  • Text animation

  • Transition animation
Graphics, sound clips, and video clips should not be used since words and the page are the tools of a poet's work.

2. Require students to include a slide devoted to references where students cite all of the sources that they used to create their PowerPoint presentation. Students may use MLA format to cite their references.


Angelou, Maya. "On the Pulse of Morning." The Electronic Text Center. Ed. David Seaman. 1998. Alderman Lib., U of Virginia. 8 October 2002.

Merriam_Webster Online. 2002. Merriam-Webster Incorporated. 8 October 2002.

Oral Reading Performance

1. Distribute the Quick Notes on Performance to individual students for each performance. The oral reading performance is an experience in oral interpretation, and students will come to appreciate how individuals respond to texts by responding themselves to multiple and diverse performances. All students in class will complete the Quick Notes sheet while two students are performing and two are removed for the purposes of timely reflection.

2. Following each performance, collect, count, and deliver the student assessments to the partners who performed. Ask partners to complete a Reflection: Performance sheet considering their performance experience and the feedback they received from their peers. (Sending partners out in the hallway for the length of one oral reading performance is recommended. During this time, students complete their reflection. The length and quality of the reflection are not as important as the timeliness.)

3. At the end of the performance, collect the Performance Rubric and provide feedback in the "Teacher Points" column. The "Teacher Points" become the grade. If the sum of the "Student Points" is much greater than the sum of the "Teacher Points," meet with both partners at a later time to discuss qualitative reasons why the "Teacher Points" are lower.


  • Global sharing. On a school server, publish your own adaptation of this lesson as a webpage. Share your own handouts and assessment tools with other educators. Post an example of your students' work by linking to one of your student's PowerPoint presentations. In addition, post your school e-mail address to get feedback from members of the global community visiting your site.

  • Oral reading anthology. After the oral reading performances, students extend their learning by returning to the assigned websites to search for other good poems for oral reading. They create an anthology of poems that they would recommend as good selections for oral reading. Throughout the remainder of the year, you can invite students to read selections from their anthology out loud to the class.

  • Poetry e-zine. If space is available on your school server, create an e-zine of students' original poetry written for oral reading. Resting on this lesson for prerequisite understandings, students write their own poems for oral reading. Then students create webpages designed to display their poems with as many cues as they wish for how it should be read, including a button linked to their own oral reading beneath the text.

  • Performing prose. To promote transfer of the understandings of this lesson to the oral reading of prose, the lesson can be repeated in a timely manner using prose texts in place of poetry. For instructional variation, the final project can be a multi-media webpage presentation (which would lend itself better to the comprehension and manipulation of a longer text).

Student Assessment / Reflections

Lucy Doeemus
Preservice Teacher
I am so grateful to have a site to get ideas to improve or formulate an effective lesson plan!
willie Byrd
Preservice Teacher
This lesson was very helpful and informative. The examples of lesson plans was really interesting and good to refer back to.
Remi jayi
K-12 Teacher
A very useful resource for any teacher in training and in practice. I will sure apply it!
Seyed Aliakbar Moosavi
Preservice Teacher
This is a very useful lesson.It explains very well how to integrate technology with knowlede in effective teaching. this is a good examle of lesson plan and I am sure I will use it as a good manual for preparing lesson plan in my teaching career.

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