6-Trait Lesson Plans: Sentence Fluency

Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits




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Jumping Mime


Sentence Fluence: Reading Aloud and Peer Review

I avoid reading student work for as long as I can. I do not want to see the handwriting. I do not want to see the punctuation and spelling. I do not want to see the paragraphing or story length. I do not want to be bombarded by the mechanics of the writing. It's like being stoned to death with popcorn.

Instead, I listen as they read aloud.

I listen for the natural flow of words and sentences. I listen for passion, insight, and detailed images. I want the class cringing, laughing, or spontaneously applauding while hearing words flow from the heart.

Simply wanting these magical moments to occur is not enough. We must provide specific language to describe our hopes. We must deliver our clear expectations in precise terms if we want our students to become independent writers.

Small group peer review is a powerful tool. Each writer reads in turn. The group, rubrics at the ready, listens for a particular Trait, and offers reasoned response. But I'm selfish. I want to hear all the stories and I want my class to know everyone's voice. Here is how I do it:

First, establish ground rules for reading aloud and respectful peer review:

  • Look at the reader
  • Attend
  • When a reader finishes offer a question or comment
  • Wait for the reader to call on you
  • Ask questions to clarify points of curiosity or confusion
  • Offer positive and specific feedback on the writing
  • Teachers model the rules for their students
  • Writers make a record of the feedback for later reference

A Reader's Circle
Students need to move. When reading aloud, it is important to break from desk bound tradition. This creates a small ritual and sets a respectful and supportive tone.

  • Push back the desks and chairs.
  • Bring your writing and pencil with you.
  • Sit in a circle on the floor.
  • When listening, look at the reader.
  • Volunteer to read.
  • Sit up straight and project your voice across the room.
  • Start by reading your title.
  • Three rules for reading aloud:
  • Loud
  • Slow
  • Clear
  • You may have a friend read your story if you cannot bring yourself to do it, but we would rather hear your voice.
  • Under certain circumstances, you have the right to pass.

Why Students Need To Read Aloud

You need to know where your students are in their writing, well before your final assessment. Listening to a story gives you a snapshot of a writer's progress. Your students also have a chance to practice essential listening and response skills.

As a student reads, I jot the title and quick notes on the weak and strong traits. I wait for my students to give feedback before offering my own. I model the use of Traits vocabulary. I always lead with a positive observation before offering a suggestion for revision. I urge the writer to record the group's responses.

All oral reading techniques deal directly with sentence fluency issues. Poetry readings, choral reading, and verbal performances of any kind are Sentence Fluency exercises. I have experimented with wireless microphones and audio and videotape equipment as well. Performances will focus students on Sentence Fluency.

By striving for the artful mix of sentences, we honor and illuminate the Sentence Fluency Trait. As a group, we learn to listen for ripening fluency. Eventually, instead of a boring pattern, an awkward phrase, or stutter - we hear a song!

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© 2000 - 2013 Dennis O'Connor