Reader Lacks Expression

The Problem Looks Like...

Every sentence sounds the same. Reading is monotone.

How to…

 Improve expression, fluency and comprehension by noticing and using a question mark.

It’s Related to…

Recognizing and Noticing a Question Mark

The question mark is a good place to begin teaching expression. Young readers and writers enjoy the look of a question mark because of its unusual shape. It is an easy to recognize punctuation mark. Using a question mark also improves the reader’s comprehension and fluency.

Understanding How Question Marks Improve Comprehension

⦁    A question signals the reader to pay close attention because questions generally indicate important content.   
⦁    Question marks are frequent in dialogue. Since dialogue is common in all writing, question marks are essential to understand and use. 
⦁    Questions can move a story line forward in the briefest manner. This page of “Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter establishes main characters, setting and problem in one quick question.


⦁    Prediction after a question mark is the natural next step, which leads to improved comprehension. 
⦁    Ask the reader, “Do you think Peter has seen the carrot? Where do you think it could be? Who is asking Peter this question?”

In the children’s book “Turn the Page…It’s Fun!: A Concepts of Print Story” by Connie Dickison, children are guided to use a question mark as a place to practice answering. 

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Question Marks Guide Fluent Reading

⦁    One component of fluency is expression. Repeated practice raising the pitch of voice at question marks develops fluency.
⦁    Expressive reading occurs when the reader is able to maintain awareness of plot while also noticing and using punctuation. 
⦁    The vocal expression of a question is different from the expression of a statement. The voice rises slightly in pitch at the end of a question. This rise is a cue to the listener that a response may be forthcoming. 
Pages from “Yo! Yes?” by Chris Raschka, demonstrate the brevity and power of a question mark.

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Another frequent occurrence, in children’s reading, is multiple questions in a row as in this example from “Abuela” by Arthur Dorros.


Now That’s Better…

Readers notice question marks and enjoy changing their voices for expression. They understand that questions frequently contain a lot of information and are often part of conversation between characters. Answers are either directly in the text or by prediction. With exposure to many kinds of stories, children easily read multiple questions in a row. Multiple questions do not disturb phrased fluent reading.