Express Yourself!


Sammi Pike


Rationale:  It is important for children to learn to read with expression so that it will be easier to comprehend what is being read.  Before children can read with expression they have to be able to identify punctuation marks and the expressions that they stand for.  This lesson will teach children to identify the expression that specific punctuation marks represent so that they will be able to demonstrate feelings as they read.  They will learn this through teacher modeling and through a practice game.  As children master this skill they will be able to more skillfully comprehend what they are reading in connected texts.


Materials:  White board, dry erase marker, card for each student with a question mark on one side and an exclamation point on the other side, list of questions and exclamations for examples, notebook paper (1 sheet per student), pencils (1 per student), worksheet with sentences with an empty box where each punctuation mark should be (1 per student), class set of Very Boring Alligator by Jean Gralley



1.  Introduce the lesson by explaining: “In written language there are certain punctuation marks that tell us what expression to make while reading.  Punctuation marks tell us what feelings the author is trying to convey.  If you know what expression the author is using, it will be much easier for you to understand what is happening in stories and how characters are feeling.”

2.  Write on the board, “What did you eat for lunch?”  “Candy!”  Then ask students: “Have you ever noticed when you ask a question, your voice goes up at the end of the sentence?  The question mark is what tells us to do that in written language.  Likewise when you hear someone say a sentence with a lot of feeling, the exclamation point is what signals us to read with strong feeling when we see it in written language. Now I am going to read the 2 sentences on the board with expression, which are signaled by the punctuation marks at the end.” [Read the sentences with expression.]

3.  Pass out cards with punctuation marks.  “As I say each sentence, I wasn’t you to hold up the punctuation mark that signals that expression.”  Read sentences off of the list with expression.

4.  Hand out a piece of paper to each student.  “Do not write your name on this paper.  I want each of you to write one sentence that uses a question mark appropriately and one sentence that uses an exclamation point appropriately.  First let's review how to make an exclamation point and a question mark.”  Write on board ­ “!” and “?” while explaining how to write them.  “An exclamation point is an upside down lowercase i.  When you make one, you start at the top of the space and go most of the way down and then you put a dot underneath the vertical line.  A question mark is a little backwards c with a line coming off of the bottom and a dot underneath that line.”  Allow a minute or two for them to write.

5.  “Now we’re going to throw snowballs.  I want everyone to crumple up their paper and throw it right here (point to an area within throwing distance that is not too close to any students).  Ok now everyone come pick up a snowball that is not yours and bring it to your desk.  I’m going to give you a minute to look at the two sentences and pick one to read to the class with expression.”

6.  Go around the class and have each student read one of the sentences on their paper with expression and let the rest of the class guess if it has a question mark or exclamation point.

7.  Have students read, “How About That!” to a partner (switching every page) and then discuss the story.  Walk around and take anecdotal notes about who is reading with expression and who isn’t.  “The very boring alligator just won’t go away!  Nothing can get him to leave, even The Gator Cops.  This little girl is going to have to do something about it!  What will she do?”

8.  Pass out worksheet of sentences with no punctuation marks and have students write in the appropriate punctuation mark at the end of each sentence.


Assessment:  Anecdotal notes from when students were reading the story, worksheets



-Express Yourself! by Angel Moore:



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