Running Records

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What is it?

A running record is a method of assessing reading that can be done quickly and frequently. It is an individually conducted formative assessment, which is ongoing and curriculum based. It provides a graphic representation of a student's oral reading, identifying patterns of effective and ineffective strategy use. This method was developed by Marie Clay, the originator of Reading Recovery, and is similar to miscue analysis, developed by Kenneth Goodman.

Through a running record, teachers can obtain:

Running records can be used to:

  • Document reading progress over time

  • Help teachers decide what students need to learn

  • Match students to appropriate books

Running records are different from informal reading inventories in that running records do not use a specified text. Teachers don't need to photocopy reading passages before students are assessed. This makes the running record not only a little more spontaneous but also a little more challenging.

Why is it important?

Running records help teachers measure students' progress, plan for future instruction, provide a way for students to understand their progress, and communicate progress to parents and the school community.

Assessments should measure what teachers teach and what students learn. Such assessments help teachers to discover what is working and what is needed in the teaching-learning interactions (Farr 1992).

Farr also describes assessment information as helpful only when it is used to help children better understand their own literacy development.

Expert teachers use knowledge about their students – their backgrounds, strengths, and weaknesses – to create lessons that connect new subject matter to students' experiences (Westerman 1991).

When should it be taught?

Running records are meant to be ongoing assessments and should be administered early in the year – and repeated often throughout the year – to monitor reading progress. These assessments are valuable because they not only give the teacher an opportunity to learn more about the needs and strengths of individual students but also provide time to interact with individual students. In addition, the results of these assessments are invaluable when communicating with parents about individual students.

As helpful as these diagnostic assessments can be, unless a teacher is fortunate enough to have a full-time instructional aide in the classroom, it is often challenging to find time to fit these mini-tests into an already jam-packed schedule. Here are a few ideas for squeezing these assessments into a busy classroom:

  1. Sneak in a few minutes during silent reading.

    Ideally, you are already reading alongside your students during this time rather than using it to catch up on other paperwork. While it is not recommended that all of the time allocated for silent reading be used for assessing students, it might be possible to steal a few minutes to complete one or two assessments before and after school while still allowing time to model silent reading for your students.

  2. Use before and after school.

    There always seem to be those one or two students who arrive at school 10 minutes early or stay a few minutes after dismissal. These few minutes could be used to complete a diagnostic or two.

  3. Become a center.

    If your classroom uses centers during reading workshop or mathematics instruction, you can fit in a few individualized assessments during this time. Again, it is probably unwise to use the entire center time to complete assessments, but even 15 minutes can be useful.

  4. Work with a partner.

    Some teachers find it very helpful to work with a partner to facilitate the assessment process. One teacher supervises both classes for a short period of time, perhaps 45 minutes, while the other teacher pulls students out individually to conduct assessments. The key to making this plan work is for students to have engaging tasks to work on in the large group.

Ideally, school administrators will help reorganize schedules to facilitate the assessment process, but it never hurts to have some ideas on completing these assessments on your own. If planned for in advance, these diagnostics will be opportunities that you and your students look forward to participating in.

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