Remember The Purpose
How to use a running record to guide your daily instruction begins with remembering the purpose of this assessment tool.
A running record is used to assess your students' reading abilities and find their strengths and weaknesses. You don't need a beautifully typed copy of the leveled book's text or well-constructed comprehension questions to do this reading assessment. You are a professional, and you can assess your students' reading development easily and quickly with running records every week.
When your students begin reading a leveled book for the first time, you can do a running record with a blank piece of notebook paper and a copy of the same book your student is reading. Again, you DO NOT need to mark the students results on a copy of the text, you can do it on a blank sheet of paper. (This may take practice, but after a couple times, you will be an expert at these running record short cuts. You will soon know how to use running records for instruction and to waste little class or plan time on them.)
As your student reads the text, you write the page number he is reading on your sheet of paper. Then you make a check mark for every correct word he reads. For every incorrect word he reads or skips, you write down what he says. Usually, if you are working with a struggling reader, you will be able to keep up with the student's reading pace, especially if it is the first time he read the book. If he has good fluency but terrible comprehension, then remind him to slow down or use a tape recorder to capture anything you might miss.
You only need to keep track of 100 words when you are doing quick running record assessments. If you want to do more, try to keep them in multiples of 100 as it is easier to analyze the results. Ask him comprehension questions when he finishes and make notes if you feel he understood the story or not.
When the student is finished reading, you can ask him to read it to a buddy or a stuffed animal, and you can summarize his results to figure out how to use running record results. Use the book to figure out his missed words. For example, if page 8 said, "The boy took his dog to the store;" and on the running record results, you have check marks for every word except the last word when your student said, "storm." Then you know that the student was reading a word that was close phonetically but not semantically. Now look for patterns. Was this an isolated mistake or did he do it often?
You can also look at the percentage of words that your student read correctly. If your student read with 95% (or higher) accuracy, then maybe he is ready to read the next level of books. If he struggled and read with below 90% accuracy, then this level may be too difficult for him.
With these quick running records, you can assess your students' reading development every week instead of waiting for enough class time for an official test such as the DRA or DIBELS.