As teachers conduct running records, the initial goal is often to see if readers are ready to move into the next level. While using running records to track student movement and insure that students are matched to just right books is crucial to the success of any reading workshop, perhaps the most important information provided by running records is the analysis of the student’s reading process. In turn, this analysis informs the instructional plans made for a student.
Once readers have become proficient, they are able to use reading strategies efficiently and flexibly. A proficient reader is able to use the three sources of information found in texts in a balanced way. That is, proficient readers use knowledge of what is happening in the text (meaning), knowledge of the language and grammatical patterns of the book (structure), and visual information (words and word parts). Beginning readers, on the other hand, are learning to monitor, search for information, and self-correct using the three sources of information provided in text. Beginning readers often over-rely on one or two sources, while under-utilizing a third source. It is our responsibility as reading teachers to determine which sources of information students are using and provide students with opportunities and support to coordinate the use of all three sources.
Through miscue and comprehension question analysis, running records provide teachers with the opportunity to see patterns in students’ reading process. It is especially helpful to see what students will do when confronted with texts at their instructional, rather than independent, levels. When students miscue or struggle with comprehension, teachers can identify areas for support. Below, is an excerpt from an informal running record taken when a student, Laleyah, was reading an instructional level text. Her miscues show that she uses visual information, looking at word parts and reading words that look somewhat like the words in the text, as a source of information. However, these miscues also show that she is not using meaning and structure as sources for information. For example, she substituted crowling, a made-up word, for crawling. By looking across a series of miscues, teachers can identify patterns and then set instructional goals for students.
With deliberate and explicit instruction and practice, readers will progress and become more and more proficient so that they are able to tackle increasingly complex texts. Of course, as readers progress, running records on higher level texts need to be conducted in order to identify new instructional goals.
Running Records by Marie Clay, 2000
When Readers Struggle: Teaching that Works by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, 2009