I got this idea from watching a Teacher College video. It looked effective so I wanted to give it a try to help my students improve their comprehension by reading a paragraph expressively and fluently by emphasizing the main idea sentence and details. A secondary goal was to have the students compare and contrast reading with expression with reading in a monotonous voice to directly experience the two ways of reading and the impact on their comprehension.
I asked the students to come to the rug with their article titled, "The Weird and Wonderful Octopus".
Teaching Point: Today you will determine the main idea of a paragraph by reading it in two different ways. The first way is to read it flat, without and intonation and regard to punctuation. Read in a monotone, like you have no idea what you are reading. Read like plink, plink, plink.... Read like you don't care what the author has written. Then read it a second way. Read just the opposite. Read with fluency, intonation, and expression. Read in such a way that the main idea really stands out because of how the author wrote it.
Tip: Readers reread passages to determine main idea and supporting details.
Turn and talk with your partner about the two ways I want you to read a paragraph to your partner." Listen in and call on a couple of students to explain what they are going to do.
Now watch me as I read one of the paragraphs from the octopus article. Follow along as I read the fourth paragraph. It starts with the sentence "The amazing octopus has many ways to defend itself from predators." Does everyone see where I am going to start reading? OK good. Listen to the first way that I am going to read this paragraph. I am going to read like I don't care what the author wrote. I'm going to read without any expression, phrasing and I'm going to make my voice sound flat. Are you ready? Here I go..The amazing octopus has many ways to defend itself from predators. When an octopus wants to move quickly to escape a predator, it can shoot water out of its siphon and push itself backwards. This is called jet propulsion. Using this technique, octopuses can travel many miles. An octopus can also protect itself by squirting ink at a predator, causing it to become blind and lose its sense of smell temporarily. This makes it difficult for the predator to track the octopus once it has darted away. The octopus can also change its colors like a chameleon to blend in to its surroundings. And if a predator manages to grab an octopus by the arm, the octopus has one more trick up its sleeve. It can break off its arm, swim away, and then grow a new one later.
Wow! What did you think? Did you see how when I read that way it is super hard to understand the author's main idea? I didn't understand anything I just read! Now I am going to reread the same paragraph but this time I am going to read it the way the author wants it to be read. Listen as I read it a second time. I will read with expression and intonation. I will watch out for the punctuation and pause at commas and stop at periods. I am hoping that the main idea really sticks out when I read it this way.
Continue by rereading the paragraph the second time with prosody. Students, turn and talk with your partners about the main idea. Which sentence is the paragraph all about?
Listen in and all on a few students to share the main idea. Ask if anyone has a different sentence. Have students defend which sentence is the main idea sentence.
Now students it is your turn. I want you choose a partner and find a place in the room to read to each other. Read your paragraph in two ways. First flat and monotone and the second time filled with expression. Then tell your partner which sentence is the main idea sentence and explain why.
Students found a place to read in the room with their partners. They decided what paragraphs they each would read. As students were reading, I went from pair to pair and listened in.
After experimenting with the two ways to read, students continued working a comprehension worksheet answering questions identifying main idea and supporting details from the article.
I conferred with ELL students to check on their understanding by asking them questions about the article.