5 Ways a Running Record Informs Guided Reading Instruction - Simply Skilled Teaching

5 Ways a Running Record Informs Guided Reading Instruction

5 Ways a Running Record...

When you take the time and effort to administer a running record with one of your students, you want to be sure you and your student get the most benefit from the information it provides.

That’s why it’s so important for you to analyze all that data and use it to inform your instruction.

Which brings us to… lesson planning…and lesson planning…and more lesson planning… We’re teachers, right? It’s just what we do! I know it takes work to administer assessments, evaluate the results and use them to help inform our instruction and plan our lessons. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just sit at our desks and sprinkle a handful of magic pixie dust to generate phenomenal lesson plans?

We all know that’s not how it happens!

With this post, I want to help you understand how to use running records analysis to inform your instruction, scaffold your students and help you plan Guided Reading lessons for rigorous small group instruction. With frequent assessment, careful analysis of the results, and differentiated instruction that is informed by those results, your students can thrive and grow as readers!

It’s not magic pixie dust, but I think it will help!

1.       Know the Score: Use Accuracy and Fluency Rates from a Running Record to Help Determine Instructional Reading Level

When a running record concludes, you’ll evaluate the student’s accuracy and fluency rates and use those scores to help you determine if the text was at the appropriate instructional level. A score of 89% or below would reveal the text was too difficult and may be considered to be at the student’s frustration level. A text at this level would not be appropriate for that student to read during Guided Reading instruction. In the case of a difficult or frustrating text, you may want to stop the assessment and repeat it later using a more appropriate instructional text.

Use running records data to ensure your kiddos are in the right groups and are reading the correct leveled texts during Guided Reading!

2.       Check for Comprehension: Ask for an Oral Retelling

Reading fluency is a great goal, but it must be paired with comprehension. In addition to teaching them to read, we’ve got to make sure our kiddos understand what they’re reading! To do that you’ll follow-up the oral reading portion of the running record with an evaluation of the student’s reading comprehension. Ask a few basic questions regarding storyline, main characters and setting.  You might also ask the student to explain how they liked the ending, and why.

Just a few quick questions and a brief, one-to-one time of listening to your student can reveal a great deal. As you evaluate the student’s oral retelling, try to determine if their answers reflect a need to work on a particular comprehension skill, such as Main Idea; Sequencing; or Character and Setting. If so, use that information to help you plan the comprehension strategies you’ll focus on during upcoming lessons. I share more about teaching reading comprehension in this blog post, so check it out to learn more!

The oral retelling portion of a running record can help you see where your focus should be when teaching reading comprehension strategies.

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3.  Examine the Errors in the Running Record: Use Miscue Analysis to See What Cueing Systems Need Emphasis or Review

Take a close look at the student’s miscues and self-corrections as you evaluate the running record, and make note of the totals at the bottom of each of the three cueing system columns. (For a detailed, step-by-step explanation of how to evaluate a running record for MSV cues, see my previous post). 

As you review the MSV totals, does one column dominate? Are there any columns showing zero usage? This information can highlight a number of issues, such as a student’s over-reliance on one particular cueing system. As you review and analyze the data, you’ll see what needs to be emphasized or reinforced as you provide one-to-one, scaffolded instruction with this student. Address these issues with brief, direct teaching immediately after the running record concludes. Then follow-up as needed with additional scaffolding and instruction during upcoming lessons.

For instance: “Great job, Nate! I can tell you’re really looking at the letters on the page to help you figure out how to read difficult words. Keep that up, but don’t forget to also think about the words in the story and really look at the pictures on the page. That can help you figure out the meaning. Also, remember to think about how a word sounds. If you’re trying to read a new word but it just doesn’t sound right in the sentence, that means you need to look closer. Think about the decoding strategies we’ve talked about. We’ll work on that in our next Guided Reading lesson.”

Make careful notes during a running record, and use them to guide your differentiated instructional strategy during the next Guided Reading lesson and those that follow.

4.       Identify the Patterns:  Compare the Running Records of Multiple Students to Determine Which Strategies Need Reinforcement or Review

You’ll become a successful teacher by learning from your students. As you evaluate multiple running records and identify patterns, you’ll gain insights into your students’ struggles and growth. They may also tell you a lot about yourself and your teaching strategies. Analyze and compare the data carefully, and listen to what the results are telling you! Take a hard look, and be willing to try some different strategies and activities if students aren’t responding to a particular approach. Check out my recent blog post on Guided Reading resources that engage and excite for some great resources and fun activities to liven up your small group and reinforce the skills you are teaching.

Compare data for multiple students and use results to inform your teaching and improve individual and whole-class instruction.

5.    Repeat the Process! After the Baseline Running Record, Conduct Ongoing Follow-Up Assessments and Use the Results to Track Student Progress

Once you’ve completed a baseline running record for a student, keep it up! Follow-up assessments should be completed for comparison throughout the school year. As the students in a Guided Reading groups whisper-read,  complete a quick running record with one or two students to check their progress.

Frequent comparison of ongoing running record analysis helps you scaffold and track the progress of a student who is experiencing difficulty. It also allows you to advance those who are ready to move to a higher level group.

I’m excited to share with you these essential principles you can use to administer running records with your students. Assessments aren’t the most exciting or fun aspect of a teaching career, but the payoff is well worth it. Determine to get comfortable with administering running records! Learn to analyze and evaluate the data and use it to inform your Guided Reading instruction. You’ll love how your students advance in their reading levels and develop into students who read to learn. And it’s all done without one sprinkle of pixie dust!

Finally, if you have questions about Guided Reading or small group instruction in general, be sure to share them! I’ll try to answer as many questions as I can in my “Ask Anna” Video series!  In the meantime, have a great day with those kiddos, and happy teaching! ‘Bye for now, xoxo, Anna

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Anna DiGilio


I'm Anna DiGilio

Hi, I'm Anna! I was a primary teacher for over twenty-three years, wife of a firefighter, mother of twin teenage boys, obsessed with being creative and helping teachers and love my Saturday morning quiet cup of coffee!
Thanks for stopping by!



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Hi, I'm Anna! I was a primary teacher for over twenty-three years, wife of a firefighter, mother of twin teenage boys, obsessed with being creative and helping teachers and love my Saturday morning quiet cup of coffee!
Thanks for stopping by!

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