Using Running Records in the Primary Classroom to Assess Reading Performance

Marie Clay introduced the idea of taking a running record as a child reads orally to document a child’s reading behavior in the early 1980. She demonstrated that having a good understanding of a child’s strengths and areas of struggle could help the reading teacher develop targeted instruction to help the child grow into a strong and capable reader. Today, many primary teachers understand the value of taking running records and use them to benchmark their student’s progress and inform their instruction.

Taking a running record takes practice but with time, you can quickly learn to take a helpful running record. To take a running record, find a book that you believe is written at the student’s independent level that the child has not read before. Some people prefer to make a copy of the text for themselves to mark on while others simply look over the child’s shoulder as s/he reads and make their markings in a line by line fashion on a blank piece of paper. Tell the child that you will be listening to him or her read out loud and making notes about his or her reading on your paper to learn about what s/he does well when reading. As the child reads, make a check mark for each word that is read correctly. For example, if the child read, “The father came home from work.” your paper would have six check marks on the first line indicating that each word was read correctly. If the child is reading too fast, tell him or her to either slow down or to stop while you catch up with your recording.

Reading Error Rate:  To determine the students error rate, count the total words read and divide by the total number of errors the child makes while reading. Round the number to the nearest whole number. The error rate is expressed as a ratio meaning that for each error made, the child reads X words correctly.

Reading Accuracy Level:  To find the child’s accuracy rate to determine if the text is easy enough for independent reading, count the total words read and subtract the total errors and then divide by the total words read and multiply by 100. Books should be in the  95-100% accuracy range for the reader to do well with this book. A book which a reader can read with 90-94% accuracy is at the child’s instructional level. This book can be used in guided reading situations but is too difficult for the child to read alone.  If the child’s accuracy level with the given text is below 90% it is too difficult for this reader and should not be used.

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