Scooping phrases for fluent sentence reading


Reading a sentence is not like reading a list of words.  For one thing, there is more time pressure when reading a sentence since, to make sense, a sentence has to be read fluently (fast and with appropriate expression).  But a sentence also provides some context that can be helpful when encountering an unfamiliar word.

Using the grammatical structure of a sentence, "scooping" is a multisensory procedure that can help improve fluent sentence reading.

The sentences for practice need to be carefully written to include only words structured with elements that the student has learned and practiced. Sentences written with this type of careful control are called "controlled" sentences. While the student should be easily able to decode most words in a controlled sentence, the goal is fluent reading, with natural expression, guided by the sentence structure and meaning.


  • 5-8 sentences from the student's Lexercise Level, handwritten or typed on a piece of paper, with ample spacing between sentences.
  • a plastic page protector
  • two dry erase pens in different colors


  • Put the page of sentences in the plastic page protector.
  • Tell the student that you are going to practice reading sentences with good expression by "scooping" the word groups or phrase in the sentence. (If this is the first time the student has done this activity demonstrate with the first sentence: Read the first phrase in the sentence as you make a scooped line with the dry erase marker from the first word in the phrase to the last. Continue in this way to the end of the sentence.
  • Give the student a dry erase pen and ask him/her to read the second sentence while using a marker to "scoop" phrases.
  • If the student has trouble knowing where phrases begin and end add a step that provides cues: Use the other colored marker to put dots where the scoops begin and end.
  • People might scoop phrases somewhat differently depending on how they interpret the sense and meaning of the sentence, so there might be several ways to scoop a sentence. Point this out to the student.
  • Depending on the age and ability of the student, you may want to preface this activity with an activity that focuses on sentence structure, and with explicit definitions of sentence elements (e.g., subject, predicate, sentence, phrase, clause).  (See: Sentence Formulation)
  • Erase all the scoop marks and repeat the activity, encouraging the student to go for even better fluency and expression.







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