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Running Records: A Snapshot Assessment

Assess Oral Reading Fluency and Reading Comprehension in Two Minutes or Less Using Running Records

Sample RRRunning records are an excellent assessment tool for determining student reading levels. Running records work well because they allow teachers to observe a student’s reading behaviors in real time.  Running records require students to orally read 100 words from a specific text.  It is best if the text is semi – familiar to the student, meaning they have either read the text or have had the text read aloud to them.   As a result or using a familiar text and a running record, teachers are able to make to make instructional decisions on the spot in order to deliver highly targeted instruction.  Running records will provide you with a snapshot of a student’s ability to comprehend a text as well as their level of oral reading fluency.

When readers engage with text, they employ three cuing systems to make meaning of the text. Through observing a child’s use of these systems, teachers can determine what type of instruction is needed in order to differentiate your instruction.  In short, running records will give you a very clear picture of your students as readers and help you effectively support the reading development of all your students.

Three Cuing Systems Necessary for Effective Reading:

1. Meaning – Does it make sense?

When readers attend to meaning they consider the following:

  • Story Sense
  • Prior Knowledge
  • Text
  • Illustrations

If readers are able to decode words and read fluently with intonation, chances are they are using meaning cues.  A reader cannot use voice inflection if they are not comprehending the text.  In other words, in order for a reader to change his or voice in a way that reflects what is happening in the story, they must attend to the illustrations, and the sequence of events or character description to know whether or not it is appropriate to read the words quickly, slowly, or with inflections.  If a student reads in monotone, it may be a sign that he or she is not making meaning while reading.  As a result, you may want to provide that child with reading comprehension support.

2. Structure – Does it sound right?

When readers attend to structure they consider the following:

  • Natural Language
  • Knowledge of English
  • Grammatical Patterns
  • Language Structures

If readers are able to decode words with high levels of accuracy and read fluently, chances are they have a secure understanding of how our language works.  When children make mistakes while reading, they tend to do one of two things.  They either blow right past the mistake and continue reading or they go back and try the word again.  When readers fail to notice their mistakes, they are exhibiting a failure to make meaning and understand structure.  When children notice their mistakes and try to fix them, they exhibit their ability to attend to the meaning of the text.  In other words. if a child does not know they have made a mistake while reading, they are not comprehending what they are reading and need support in both meaning and structure.  But, if a child goes back and tries words again, chances are they will benefit from support that builds vocabulary, phonetic awareness.

3. Visual – Does it look right?

When readers attend to visual cues they consider the following:

  • Sounds and Symbols
  • Analogies
  • Print Conventions (directionality, words/spaces, letters, beginnings/endings, punctuation)

Again, if readers are able to decode words with high levels of accuracy and read fluently, chances are they have a secure understanding of how our language works and what it looks like when printed on a page.  If readers make mistakes while reading, and are unable to self correct their mistakes, chances are they need additional support making connections between new words and words they already know in order to improve oral reading fluency and accuracy.  If readers are unable to determine whether or not the words they say when reading look right, you might try providing them with additional phonics and word study support. offers running record assessments for all of the books in the lesson plan library.  Become a member and gain instant access to these valuable assessment tools for free.

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