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How to Analyze and Use Running Records for Small Group Reading Instruction

written by: Margo Dill • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

Running records are one of the easiest reading assessments to give to students. Ask a student to read a book, and record a check mark for each correct word. For each incorrect word, write what the student said. But what do you do with running records? You can use these to guide your instruction.

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    Easy Running Records

    Teachers are often wondering how to use a running records analysis. They are also wondering what is the easiest way to take a quick running record.

    When you are taking a running record, you can use a notebook piece of paper and a pencil to keep track of correct and incorrect words the student reads. After he is finished reading, it is important to ask him some reading comprehension questions. You can either record his answers on a recorder or take notes about the questions and his answers. Some teachers will give running records on any book the student is reading that is close to the student's level. Other teachers have certain books that they feel work better for running records, and they will ask their students to read those. After you are finished with the assessment, it is important to draw conclusions from the data. It is important to know how to use a running records analysis to guide small group reading instruction.

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    Studying the Running Records

    When preparing for small group reading instruction using a running records analysis, you will need to look at each individual student's progress before you put them into groups.

    First, look at the misread words or words that the student skipped while he read. What do you notice about what he actually read? Does he read a word that is similar phonetically or one that means close to the same thing? Is he skipping over small words because he is reading too quickly, or is he figuring out every word but it takes him a few tries to "sound-out" the word? By looking at the answers to these types of questions, you can discover if you should include more phonics and word study in your reading instruction or if you need more reading comprehension strategies or both.

    Study the student's answers to the comprehension questions or the details in his retelling of the story. Is the student comprehending the story at all, on a basic level, or is full comprehension present? Your results should be able to answer most of these questions and more, so you will know how to use running record results.

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    Small Group Reading Instruction

    Once you have the running record anaylsis, you need to make some decisions on the focus of your small group reading instruction. It is easier to target your instruction to what the reading assessments pointed out as weak areas for this group of students.

    If the running record analysis shows that more phonics instruction is needed, then you can do activities such as building words, recognizing word patterns, and rhyming word lists in small group reading instruction.

    If the assessment shows that more reading comprehension practice is needed, you can have students draw pictures of what they see when they read, retell small sections of a story instead of the whole story, and learn to make personal connections between their lives and the character's lives in the stories.

    Before you take class time and planning time with these reading assessments, make sure you know how to use running records to guide your reading instruction.

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    Personal experience: Two years as a Title I reading teacher in elementary schools

    Ten years as an elementary teacher

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