Fluency Components Part 1: Intonation & Phrasing (+ a FREEBIE!)

Oh my goodness.

I can't believe we are two weeks away from school starting here in Nashville. I have gotten nothing done!

 I have the curse of being overly optimistic when it comes to to-do lists...anyone else struggle with that? I pile


on my list, feel so accomplished for writing it all out, then realize how impossible it will be to actually knock everything out in the time frame I have...so then I feel bummed and not productive. And I don't get even one thing completed!

Well, I am happy to say that I am trying to take advantage of the few days we have left and I'm writing a (small) series of blog posts! Having a newborn does give you a lot of time sitting on the couch nursing. When I realized that I could have my laptop on my knees and get things done, it was a game changer! (and it probably makes me a workaholic...but we won't talk about that. Haha)

The other day, I posted about a

Fluency Pack

that I had created. I wanted to piggy back off of that and write about fluency in general.

I am a nerd about this topic. It's one of my favorite things to cultivate in my students each year. I have bought and read books, downloaded articles...I am a weirdo. BUT! I also have a lot of fluency knowledge stored up that I really want to share!

Ok, so I want to talk to y'all about Intonation and Phrasing. These are two things that you are modeling every time you read to your students, but you may not have explicitly taught them before. 

In case you're like me, and you're unsure exactly what these words even mean, this is a run-down:

INTONATION: The way we change our voice when we read to create meaning. When we change our voice to match punctuation, or when we read the way we think a character may have said something, based on context clues...that's intonation!

PHRASING: The way we group words together when we read to make it flow better. We. Don't. Read. Word. By. Word. Instead, we say several words together quickly and take brief pauses at articles, conjunctions, and punctuation marks. 

It's important to teach your kiddos what these words mean, and model doing it correctly. Like many skills that we teach our students, a powerful demonstration is to read to them WITHOUT intonation and phrasing. 

My favorite books to use for this are the Pigeon Series by Mo Willems. Gosh, I just love that man's books. Anyone else feel like he just


 kids? I own so many of his books in my classroom library, and they are totally worn out after just a few years!

Anyways, sometime near the beginning of the school year, I will introduce Fluency, and I will go through the 5 main parts of fluency that I want them to pay attention to this year in their reading (I teach 2nd grade, FYI). I do mini-lessons on different days for the different parts. When I teach about Intonation and Phrasing, I will explain what they are, and then I'll read a Pigeon book to them

The trick is that I keep the pigeon book turned away from them so they can't see it, and I read


any intonation and phrasing. I will pause every once in a while and ask them how they think Pigeon feels about what's happening in the text. Some of your kiddos will be too smart for you and they will say that they know he's upset because they've read it before (eye roll). But, when you really press them to explain


 they know how Pigeon feels...they can't tell you. You haven't given them the tools they need to comprehend the story by stripping your voice of expression! (Also, when you read word. by. word. it's hard for them to follow, also making comprehension more difficult.)

After this boring read-aloud, I tell the kids that I am going to try this again, but I need them to coach me. I teach them hand signals for each type of punctuation that Pigeon uses. (PS-this is why these books are so great for this lesson! They are short enough to read twice without eating up a ton of class time, AND they almost all have every sentence type in them!) 

I show them the book this time around, and as each sentence comes up, I look to them for what I need to do with my voice. 

Here are the hand signals I use

(Pictures would be so helpful here...I will get some soon!):

Question Marks: Point your fingers up to the sky (to show that you raise your voice)

Periods (for statements and commands): I bring my fist down on my palm to show that my voice drops and stops. (like the Rock in Rock, Paper, Scissors)

Exclamation Points: I do "spirit fingers" (haha!). Basically, just wave your hands to show that you read the entire sentence in a more excited voice!

After the second read aloud is over, you have taught your students hand motions that can be used in my Primary Fluency pack, ANNDDD they have a stronger understanding of how much more exciting a story can be if you pay attention to the way you use your voice! 

So that's it, y'all! I'd love to hear how the hand signals go for you if you use them!

Also, because the components of fluency need visuals, I am linking some

FREE anchor charts

that you can use in your classroom!

Happy Teaching! 

Stephanie Sutherland