A First Timer’s Guide to Registering for the Literacy for All Conference

We’re excited to announce we’ve opened registration for the 28th Annual Literacy for All Conference, co-hosted with The University of Maine, and the University of Connecticut. This year the conference will be held October 22–24, 2017 in Providence, Rhode Island. While we know many of you are veteran LFA attendees, each year we have more and more new faces joining us in Providence. Welcome to all first timers!

We have made it even easier to register for the Literacy for All Conference! Simply visit www.regonline.com/lfa2017 and enter your email address to begin your registration process. We’ve put together a little guide to our online registration system to help make the process as quick and painless as possible.

An Important Note

We have created an online registration process that seamlessly guides you through the steps of registration. Please do not use your Internet browser’s “back” button if you want to go back and make a change, as it will cause errors and you will not be able to complete your registration. Instead, if you need to change something, complete your registration and then email us at literacy@lesley.edu, and we will make the changes for you.

Before You Register

First, you should make a list of all the sessions you want to attend. You can find the full list on our website. Each time block is listed with a letter, ie: LCA, LCB, etc. Then, each session within that time block is numbered. So, the full session code will read something like LCA-1 or LCC-4. You can only choose one session per time block, so you should have one LCA, one LCB, and so on.  Please note, that on our online registration system, RegOnline, the sessions are listed with only the code and the presenter name, not the session title, as shown below.

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The only variation is in the In-Depth sessions, which occur either in the C or F blocks. In-Depth sessions are three hours long, not the normal 90 minutes, so if you choose an In-Depth session for your C or F, you will not be able to choose a D or G, respectively, as the In-Depth session will run through that time.

If a session doesn’t appear on the drop-down menu that means it is sold out and you will have to choose another session. Sessions do sell out, so we recommend registering as early as possible to ensure you get all your first choices.

Second, know your method of payment. If your district will be paying for you with a purchase order, you don’t need to know the purchase order number to register. If your district will be paying for you with a credit card, you can still register yourself. When you get to the checkout screen, simply choose “Pay with Purchase Order” and then have your district call us with the credit card number, or fax or email us the PO within ten business days of registering.  Please note, if you are paying with a purchase order (PO), we require that you submit a copy of your PO to secure your registration.  If your PO has not been received by the opening of the institute, you will be required to provide a credit card in order to attend the institute.

We recommend that all attendees register themselves. The process begins with an email validation– you’ll receive an email with a secure link, which you’ll need to click on in order to continue your registration. Forwarding these emails can sometimes be tricky, so we recommend you register yourself to avoid confusion.

If someone else has to register for you, we recommend that you choose your sessions ahead of time and give the list of sessions, including session code and presenter name to the person registering you.

When entering in your personal information, please note that there are separate spaces to enter your school district and your school name, as shown below. When entering your district, please don’t use abbreviations like RSD or UFSD– if the district has a separate name (ie: Oxford Hills School District) please use that; alternately, please spell out the words Regional School District. This will help us keep uniformity in printing name badges, and help match up registrants to purchase orders when we receive them.

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When you’re done registering, you will see a screen confirming that your registration is complete. If you don’t see that screen, you haven’t finished registering yet! Once you get to that screen, be sure to read it thoroughly, as it contains details about which sessions have required readings and materials, a list of conference policies, your own detailed agenda based on the sessions you selected, and other helpful links.

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In addition to the confirmation page, a confirmation email will be automatically sent to the email address you provided. If it doesn’t appear within an hour of you registering, check your spam and junk folders, as some email providers mark emails from RegOnline as spam by mistake. In the past, many were not able to receive RegOnline emails, because many schools block emails from RegOnline, so if you have a personal email address, we encourage you to use it, instead of your school email, when registering.  If you don’t receive your confirmation email at all, please email literacy@lesley.edu and we will re-send it to you.

Please help us be environmentally conscious! Do not print out your confirmation message to mail in with your check or PO. Instead, just make sure your full name and district are written on the PO or in the item line of the check. That’s all we need to match up your payment with your record in the system.

Conference Events, Exhibit Fair, and Other Information

The conference registration desk hours are as follows:

  • Sunday, October 22, 2017: 10:00 am–6:00 pm
  • Monday, October 23, 2017: 7:00 am–5:00 pm
  • Tuesday, October 24, 2017: 7:30 am–9:00 am

The conference help desk will be open 7:00 am – 6:00 pm each day.

Literacy for All also includes an exhibit fair with booths showcasing classroom services and products for all grade levels and subjects. Exhibit hours are 4:00-6:00 on Sunday, 10:00–6:00 on Monday, with the Exhibit Fair from 5:00–6:00; and 7:30–3:30 on Tuesday. During the Exhibit Fair on Monday, you can enter to win something from our prize raffle, and get books signed by some of our featured and keynote speakers.

Please visit the conference website, www.lesley.edu/literacyforall, for information on hotels, parking, attendance policy and certificates of attendance, and sessions with required readings/handouts/materials.

Have questions? You can contact us anytime at literacy@lesley.edu or by phone at 617.349.8402.

Looking forward to seeing you all in October!

Close Reading Workouts: 3 Engaging Strategies that Work!



by Guest Blogger Lori Oczkus, Literacy Consultant/ Author and Literacy for All Conference Featured Speaker

Is close reading the new black? Just like the trusty little black dress or classic dark blazer that become reliable staples in a wardrobe, close reading plays an integral role in our literacy instruction with students of all ages. Students rely on close reading to dig into challenging texts in a variety of settings; from eighth graders working in teams to scout out the tone of political articles, to fourth graders pouring over informational books about hurricanes for their blog posts, to first graders preparing to meet a guide dog by reading picture books about working dogs. Our students today need to carry a tool kit of effective reading strategies that they employ as they read a wide variety of texts. Close reading is one way for students to enhance and improve their comprehension when reading more rigorous texts.

Close reading involves rereading to highlight, underline, reconsider points, ask and answer questions, consider author’s purpose and word choice, develop fluency, and discuss the text with others (Oczkus & Rasinski, 2015). Instead of skipping over challenging texts, students need to develop strategies for digging into texts on their own (Fisher & Frey, 2012). Students also should learn to stick to the text at hand rather than going off topic. Close reading keeps students focused as they make meaning and dig deeper into texts for different purposes. Also, close reading helps solve the issue of spoon feeding students or constantly providing too much teacher support. Students learn to take responsibility and to attempt to tackle challenging texts on their own.

When close reading first came on the scene along with the Common Core Standards (2010), many teachers complained that close reading as an instructional routine was “boring” or that it took too long. Eyes rolled and students sighed with dread as they forced themselves to read passages multiple times. In my work in classrooms around the country, we decided to try an interactive lesson sequence that features practical ways to engage students in close reading lessons. The protocol features proven strategies from reciprocal teaching along with a dash of fluency (Oczkus & Rasinski, 2015). Here are some practical ways you can add some serious pep to your close reading lessons:

  1. Make Lessons Interactive
  • Mark It Up

Try making your close reading lessons more interactive by encouraging students to mark the text in a variety of ways, using colored pencils, highlighters, and crayons. Also, invite students to sometimes circle, box, or annotate in margins or on sticky notes with symbols. You might even assign each table just one of the symbols to look for in the text. So for example, one table rereads the text to underline sentences that are confusing while another puts exclamation points in the margins for surprising information. Then encourage students to share their markings.

  • Talk About It

Invite students to reread on their own and mark texts but to briefly discuss their findings after each rereading. Discussion promotes comprehension!

  • Let Students Choose

Allow students to select which passage or page from the book is worthy of a close read. Use the agreed upon portion of text to conduct a series of rereadings. Be sure to ask students to justify why they wanted to reread that particular text. Reasons for close reading might include: challenging vocabulary or concepts, confusing plot twists or character actions, or even well written text that warrants rereading for deeper enjoyment.

  1. Try the “Fab Four” to Dramatically Boost Reading

Reciprocal teaching (Palincsar & Brown, 1986), or the “Fab Four” (Oczkus, 2010) is an effective and research-based reading discussion technique that works well for a close reading routine and yields dramatic results. Research shows that students who participate in reciprocal teaching show improvement in as little as 15 days (Palincsar & Brown, 1986) and after three to six months they may grow two years in their reading levels (Hattie,2008; Rosenshine & Meister 1994). When we use reciprocal teaching as a close reading routine, comprehension improves and student reading levels soar!

  • Natural 4 Steps for Close Reading Lessons

Reciprocal teaching is a scaffolded discussion technique that includes four critical strategies that good readers rotate through as they comprehend text– predict, question, clarify, and summarize (Oczkus, 2010). When rereading a text, these four strategies provide a practical protocol and can be discussed in any order. As students move through the strategies and reread for each, they can also mark texts by underlining, circling, and writing in margins. The students begin to use the strategies on their own as the process becomes second nature whenever they read!


First the reader briefly glances over the text to make predictions and to consider the author’s purpose.


Depending upon the grade level the students may read the first time through a text on their own. Then the teacher reads it aloud after they’ve attempted it. For younger students or struggling readers, the teacher reads the text first and students reread it.


Next the reader reads the text through identifying challenging words or ideas.


Then the reader and the teacher ask questions including text dependent ones.


During the final rereading of the text the reader summarizes the text and author’s purpose.

  1. Sneak Fluency into Close Reading Lessons

Close reading, by definition, requires that students read a text more than once and for different purposes. One purpose of repeated readings is to learn to practice reading a passage with fluency (Rasinski & Griffith, 2010). Since we are asking students to reread texts during close reading lessons, fluency instruction is a natural fit! Here are some easy ways to incorporate fluency into your close reading lessons.

  • Model the Three Aspects of Fluency

Fluency includes three important aspects that can be quickly highlighted during close reading instruction. The teacher reads aloud the passage fluently and can model and point out one aspect of fluency such as appropriate rate, accuracy, or prosody.

Rate:  Encourage reading with expression, volume and at a conversational pace.

Accuracy:  Praise self-corrections.

Prosody:  Point out during your modeling how to group words together to sound natural or how to read with expression and emotion.

Close reading lessons boost reading when you employ reciprocal teaching, engagement strategies, and fluency modeling.

Lori Oczkus is speaking at the Literacy for All conference on:

Monday (10/24)

10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.- Close Reading Workouts With Paired Texts (Grades K-8)

3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.- Guided Writing: Practical Lessons, Powerful Results! (Grades K-6)

Tuesday (10/25)

10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.- Close Reading Workouts With Paired Texts (Grades K-8)- repeat session


Common Core State Standards Initiative. 2010. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Washington, DC: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Fisher, Doug, and Nancy Frey. 2012. “Close Reading in Elementary Schools.” The Reading Teacher 66(3): 179-188.

Hattie, John A. 2008.  Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement.  Oxford, UK. Routledge.

Oczkus, Lori D. 2010. Reciprocal Teaching at Work: Powerful Strategies and Lessons for Improving Reading Comprehension.  2nd Edition. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Oczkus, Lori D. and Timothy V. Rasinski. 2015. Close Reading with Paired Texts. Series K-5. Huntington Beach, CA: Shell Education.

Palincsar, Annemarie Sullivan, and Ann L. Brown. 1986. “Interactive Teaching to Promote Independent Learning from Text.” The Reading Teacher 39 (8): 771-777.

Rasinski, Timothy V. 2010. and  Lorraine Griffith. 2010. Building Fluency Through Practice and Performance.  Huntington Beach, CA: Shell Education.

Rosenshine, Barak, and Carla Meister. 1994. “Reciprocal Teaching: A Review of the Research.” Review of Educational Research 64 (4): 479-530.

What Really Matters When Thinking About Text Difficulty: The Dual Needs of Struggling Readers

by Eva Konstantellou, Reading Recovery Trainer

coverIn his recent article in The Reading Teacher, “What Really Matters When Working With Struggling Readers” (click on “Get PDF” under “Article Tools” to read the full article), Richard Allington makes the important point that “struggling readers just participate in too little high-success reading activity every day” (p. 525) and blames this common practice for the failure of struggling readers to become achieving readers.   He argues that if struggling readers are asked to read texts that are too difficult for them, they will continue to flounder with very little chance of becoming engaged readers who learn from their own efforts.  He proceeds to suggest that the reading development of primary-grade struggling readers will be fostered if they have opportunities to read texts at a high level of accuracy between 98% and 100%, just like the better readers in the classroom.

Reading Recovery teachers understand the importance of having their students access texts they can read independently.  Reading Recovery students need to make accelerated progress so that they catch up with their classmates.  One kind of learning that contributes to acceleration is performing with success on familiar materials.  “Acceleration is achieved as the child takes over the learning process and works independently, discovering new things for himself inside and outside the lessons” (Clay 2005, p. 23).  Indeed in the 30-minute daily Reading Recovery lesson, students have the opportunity to read two or more familiar texts which provides for volume of reading practice, orchestration and practice of a range of complex behaviors as well as the understanding and enjoyment of stories.

In addition to choosing texts that allow their students to practice independent reading of familiar texts, Reading Recovery teachers also choose texts that allow their students to engage in independent problem-solving on new and interesting texts.  The teacher’s supportive teaching and prompting extend the student’s ability to problem-solve in texts that are just right—neither too easy that they do not offer opportunities for problem-solving nor too hard that they create frustration to the reader because he has to work on a large percentage of words which renders the reading dis-fluent and interferes with comprehension.

Fountas and Pinnell have also stressed the importance of having struggling readers access texts that allow them to perform like proficient readers:   “It is important for students to read a great many independent level books—texts they can read with an accuracy rate of 95 percent or higher (Levels A through K) or 98 percent or higher (Levels L through Z)”  (Fountas and Pinnell, 2009, p. 126).  They have also commented on the importance of selecting text for differentiated reading instruction that allow their students the opportunity to grow as readers:

“Students do need to take on more texts that are more difficult than those they can presently read independently.  But the gap cannot be so great that the reader has no access to most of the words and the meaning of the text”  (Fountas and Pinnell 2012, p. 2).  Texts that are a bit harder than their independent reading level have high instructional value because they help build the students’ network of strategic activities that will allow them to operate successfully in increasingly more challenging text.  These new, instructional texts become easy for students with successive readings and the processing system is strengthened as fluency and comprehension are also improved.

Struggling readers need to have opportunities to read a large quantity of engaging, delightful texts independently.  At the same time they need to extend and deepen their competencies through “reading work” in texts that offer them opportunities for problem-solving—searching for and using information from many different sources, self-monitoring and taking initiative to correct their mistakes, confirming what they’ve read, and solving new words by using a range of strategic actions.

Allington, R.L. (2013) “What Really Matters When Working With Struggling Readers,”The Reading Teacher, 66, 7, 520-530.

Clay M.M. 2005.  Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals:  Part One, Why?   When?   And How?  Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann.

Fountas I.C. and G.S. Pinnell.  2012.  “The critical role of text complexity in teaching children to read,”  Heinemann. http://www.heinemann.com/fountasandpinnell/supportingMaterials/fountasAndPinnellTextComplexityWhitePaper.pdf

Fountas I.C. and G.S. Pinnell.  2009.  When Readers Struggle:  Teaching That Works. Portsmouth, NH:  Heinemann.

How Can Complex Texts Ever Work for Below-Grade-Level Readers?

by Guest Blogger Jennifer Serravallo- Literacy Consultant, Author, and 2013 Literacy for All Featured Speaker

Jennifer SerravalloFor readers, practice matters. Volume of reading matters. As we think about the Common Core State Standards’ goals, experience is a better word than practice—a word that carries baggage of activities around reading.  If we want children to be good at reading, they need long stretches of uninterrupted time to read[i]. Amount of time spent reading is directly linked to reading success[ii] and success as students overall[iii].

Yet all independent reading is not created equal. Research has shown that children’s reading time is often wasted when they are not matched appropriately to books that they can read with accuracy, fluency, and comprehension[iv]. If we wreck students’ motivation by presenting books at their frustration level we will simply make them feel deficient. Students who find pleasure in reading naturally take on books at higher and higher levels as they mature, and get book recommendations from peers and teachers. As they read, they do all the rigorous questioning, imagining, analyzing, and learning that is a part of being in an engaged state of reading. Students’ minds literally can’t get to higher-level thinking if their cognition is so mired in tackling vocabulary, content, and concepts for which they are not developmentally ready — or if they are bogged down trying to just figure out what the words say, being forced to use decoding strategies in every sentence.

So on behalf of all readers, but especially readers who struggle, we have to resist the pressure to meet this new mandate for reading complex texts by replacing students’ just-right reading materials with grade-level texts. It’s magical thinking to assert that every child will suddenly comprehend tougher texts if we merely raise expectations. Research simply does not support that this will make the biggest difference in improving their skills as readers. We need to have a strategic approach, supporting students’ reading of grade-level texts while also meeting students where they are.

First, use effective assessment tools to accurately determine a just-right independent reading level using whole texts and identify goals to support each study. Provide many hours each week for students to read independently — at their independent level — as they practice, and to support students with one-on-one, small-group, and whole-class lessons.

Second, give all students access to grade-level texts by carefully planning close reading lessons using short, “worthy” passages that offer opportunities for instruction. These close-reading lessons may be in small groups or whole class. In my view, close-reading instruction should never interfere with the sacred minutes set aside for independent reading; it is an additional time, as part of an overall balanced-literacy approach. Of course, what students learn can — and should — be applied to their independent reading. Keep in mind that it’s the high-level reflection and discussion we do with texts that cultivate students’ intellectual capacities to a large degree, and not the texts alone. Further, long and dense texts don’t necessarily trump shorter ones in terms of opportunities for college-level analysis.

For example, a teacher can take a level S picture book like Patricia Polacco’s Pink and Say, about a friendship between a Confederate and a Union soldier during the Civil War, and help students comprehend and discuss its themes and ideas with sophistication rivaling a Rhodes scholar reading Shakespeare. It’s not always the text; it’s what you do with it.

Jennifer Serravallo, a featured speaker at the 24th Annual Literacy for All Conference (November 3–5, 2013 in Providence, R.I.), is the co-author of Conferring with Readers (Heinemann, 2007), and author of Teaching Reading in Small Groups (Heinemann, 2010), and Independent Reading Assessment: Fiction and Nonfiction for grades 3, 4, and 5 (Scholastic, 2012 and 2013).

Jennifer will be presenting two workshops, sponsored by Scholastic, Inc., at this year’s conference:

  • Informational Texts: The Intersection of Complexity and Skills (Grades 3–6)
  • Lenses and Lessons For Informational Text Reading (Grades 3–6)

We have launched our registration for this year’s event with more than 100 workshops for teachers, literacy coaches, and Reading Recovery educators.


[i] Allington & McGill-Franzen, 1989; Haynes & Jenkins, 1986; O’Sullivan et al, 1990; Zehr, 2009

[ii] Anderson, Wilson & Fielding, 1988

[iii] Krashen, 1993; Cunningham & Stanovich, 1991; Stanovich & Cunningham, 1993; Allington, 2001; Pressley, et al, 2000; Taylor et al, 2000

[iv] Gambrell, Wilson & Gantt, 1981; Allington, 2001; Ainley, 2006; Fink, 1995; Guthrie, 2004

Text Difficulty

By Irene Fountas

Director, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

What is the role of text difficulty in helping our students learn how to read?

Over many decades teachers have attended to the difficulty level of texts. You know well when a text is too hard for a student to process and the reader begins laborious sounding and guessing that can only result in a loss of attention to the meaning of a text.  You also know well what smooth, phrased reading sounds like when the student can process a text well independently.  And you also know when you have given the student a text that is not too difficult or not too easy, so the reader can learn how to do something better.  You know that the text supports your effective teaching and the student’s ability to learn.

Over decades, many have used a variety of mathematical formulas to assess the difficulty of a text. Clay (Clay, 1991) argued for the use of a text gradient as it can support or interfere with the reader’s ability to put together an effective system for processing texts.  Of course, she argued, any gradient must take into account the student’s unique experiences and language so all gradients are fallible.

A consideration of difficulty level is essential but different readability measures are based on different elements.

The Fountas and Pinnell Text Gradient™ A-Z was designed as a tool to support classroom teachers and teachers working with small groups to select texts for small group instruction. It is a complex gradient, as it takes into account ten different characteristics of text and goes far beyond mathematical formulas that are based on word and sentence length only.  They include:

  1. Genres/Forms- the type or kind of fiction or nonfiction text (e.g., biography, informational, historical fiction, folk tale, realistic fiction, fantasy). Also, the particular form (mystery, oral stories, picture book, graphic text, short story).
  2. Text Structure– the way the text is organized.
  3. Content– the subject matter of the text­– what it is about, the topic or ideas.
  4. Themes and Ideas– the big ideas in the text, the overall purpose, the messages.
  5. Language and Literary Features– the literary features (such as plot, characters, figurative language, literary devices such as flashbacks).
  6. Sentence Complexity– the structure of sentences includes the number of phrases and clauses.
  7. Vocabulary– the meaning of the words in the text
  8. Words– the length and complexity of the words (syllables, tense, etc.)
  9. Illustrations– the photographs or art in fiction texts; the graphic features of informational texts.
  10. Book and Print Features– the number of pages, print font, length, punctuation, and variety of readers’ tools (e.g., table of contents, glossary).

When the ten characteristics are used as a composite, the approximate level of a text can be determined.  And when the teacher begins with where the learner is, it can be productive and help the student climb the ladder of success.

The following chart shows the approximate goals for each grade level.  The arrows represent the goals, not the reality.  When you begin with where the student can learn, you can provide teaching that supports continued progress up the gradient.

We hope you will continue to engage in the analysis of texts to be sure to match texts to readers for one small part of the literacy instruction   you provide.  Of course, it will be important to also offer students daily opportunities to engage with complex texts geared to the grade and age level in interactive read aloud and book discussion groups.

We encourage you so share your experiences and comments on our blog.

Clay, M. (1991). Becoming literate: The construction of inner control. Portsmouth, NH. Heinemann.

Fountas, I.C. and Pinnell, G.S. (2009). The Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Book List, K-8+. Portsmouth, NH. Heinemann.

Day Two of the When Readers Struggle Institute

by Cindy Downend

We started out day two of the institute with Eva Konstantellou and Kathy Ha talking with us about the role of fluency in supporting readers who struggle.  Here are some quick thoughts to share from the session in case you were unable to join us.

What gets in the way of fluency? 

  • Habituation of slow, staccato, word-by-word reading
  • Making children think that reading has only to do with letters, sounds, and words
  • Interrupting the reading (too much) with our teaching
  • Encouraging children to problem solve out loud (may interfere with reading for thinking)
  • Do we have different expectations for struggling readers?

Richard Allington says struggling readers are more likely:

  • To be reading too difficult text
  • To be asked to read aloud
  • To be interrupted too quickly
  • To wait for a teacher prompt
  • To be told to sound out a word
  • Not to be held accountable for fluent reading

The role of the teacher is critical!   Here are some quick ideas to think about in terms of teaching for fluent reading:

  • Teach with instructional level text
  • Provide a rich book introduction:
    • Attend to the whole meaning of the text
    • Introduce and have children practice complex or unfamiliar language structures
    • Help children understand how the structure of the text work
  • Teach explicitly for phrasing
  • Select texts that facilitate fluent reading
  • Read stories to the child, demonstrating fluent reading
  • Allow for massive practice on familiar texts

Reading Rate and Phrasing

By Irene Fountas

What happens to reading rate when your students read with phrasing? You probably notice that the reading rate is good- not too fast, not too slow.  Phrased reading is important because it means the reader is pulling together the meaning units as he reads.

Think about this sentence.

As I looked out the window, I noticed a squirrel run up the tree. 

This sentence can be read with a slight pause at the comma, a slight pause after “squirrel” and a full stop at the period.  Alternatively the reader might pause slightly after “I noticed” and “a squirrel.”

The reader is putting together word groups.  When students read this way, they are reading meaningful word groups and don’t sound like they are reading a list of words.  Word by word reading becomes habituated when readers are allowed to read that way day after day.

You can focus on teaching for the reading of word groups by:

•  modeling

•  showing phrases with two fingers and asking the reader to read the words together


• echo reading

You can use shared reading or readers’ theatre for students to hear and practice reading that is smooth and phrased.  You can select a page with a lot of dialogue and assign parts quickly so students read dialogue and reflect the way people are talking in phrases.

If you value phrased reading, your students will too.  There is a strong correlation between fluent, phrased reading and good comprehension.  So let’s all be sure we teach our students to read fluently and insist on fluent reading in every text.