What do you think when you see the word assessment? This was a question asked a year ago in my ELED 356 (now it is known as ELED 333) Teaching Literacy in the Primary Grades. Most of the students came up with standardized tests, quizzes, and portfolios. None of us thought of the assessment Dr. Wimmer was going to teach us about that day: running records.
Surprisingly, this new term has a lot to do with assessment. As defined in Dr. Wimmer’s class, “Assessment involves the systematic and purposeful collection of data to inform actions.” Running records do just that: its purposes are to group students for later reading groups, evaluate a child’s reading ability, identify areas needing instruction, and to monitor reading progress. To accomplish these purposes, Dr. Wimmer introduced the concept of assessing what cues are used or neglected, how a child responds when they come across a difficult word, their self-correction behavior, what strategies are used in the reading process (re-reading or looking at pictures to help with meaning making), and finally, the use of running records to assess the difficulty of a text. Details for these purposes are explained below.
First, Dr. Wimmer discussed what the main cues are. There are three main cues: meaning, visual, and syntax. Students make errors while they read based on one or all three of these cues. When a student makes a mistake such as saying “The bat flew out of the big tree” instead of what the book says, “The bat flew out of the tree” they are using the cue of meaning and syntax because the sentence still makes grammatical sense and because trees are known as being big, there is the cue of meaning being used. If a student says something like “The red truck went down the road,” instead of “The red train went down the railroad tracks,” they are using meaning and visual because train and truck look similar. All of these cues were helpful for me to learn so I could understand why and how a student reads the way they do.
Second, running records are given to see how a child reacts to a difficulty during reading; do they appeal to the teacher, do they skip a word, invent a new word, or repeat a word or phrase? However, at times, students will self-correct.
Running records are also given to determine how difficult a text is for a child. There are three levels of reading: independent, instructional, and frustrational. The literacy class defined independent reading level as: a student can read and comprehend a text with 95-100% accuracy. For instructional level a student must read a text with 90-94% accuracy, and frustrational level is anything below 90%. No student should be in a guided reading group where he or she is reading at a frustrational level; all children should read books within their instructional level, where they get some support but are mostly confident with the books.
I am glad that I learned to administer Running Records from Dr. Wimmer. In fact, now that I am a 4th grade teacher and actually using Running Records, I wish I would have practiced more. So, teacher candidates, practice, practice, practice. Give running records to your friends, siblings, anyone. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
What other questions do you have about running records?