Teacher Guide: Running Records


As a teacher you know that assessment is key to effective instruction.

Running records are excellent assessment tools for on the spot observation of oral reading fluency. And when combined with a comprehension assessment, the running record makes it easy to determine student reading levels and make instructional decisions on the spot.

Each of the Super Packs featured in the Resource Library come complete with a paired running record. Each running record allows you to assess student use of the 3 cueing systems in order to determine how you can best support your students.

3 Cueing Systems Used by Effective Readers

When readers engage with a text, they employ three cueing 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 what your students need to work on to improve their 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 do not comprehend 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 a monotone voice, 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:

  1. They both blow right past the mistake and continue reading
  2. 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 do not comprehend 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 and phonemic awareness.

3. Visual – Does it look right?

When readers attend to visual clues, they consider the following:

  • Sounds and Symbols
  • Analogies
  • Conventions of Print (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.


  1. I work with 5-8th, in an urban setting. My students don’t do any of the above and all are way behind grade level. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Norine,
      Thanks for getting in touch. Without knowing exactly where your students are at, it’s hard to give you a step by step guide to support your instruction. But I am a firm believer in the importance of modeling and repetition. You might try using a gradual release model (to, with, and by / I do, we do, you do):

      • Day 1: Start by selecting one strategy, show students how to use the strategy, discuss why it works
      • Day 2: Model how to use the strategy again, only this time invite the students to help you use the strategy, discuss why it works and how they can start to use the strategy independently (you may need to practice for several days in a row).
      • Last:Invite students to model how to use the strategy. This will help them take ownership over the strategy. Continue to follow up until you see students using the strategy consistently. Be sure to take the time to name and notice when students use the strategy.

      If you’d like more information about this, you might check out this article from Reading Rockets: http://bit.ly/2cYyNJl

      I hope that helps!

  2. Do you have any blog posts or guides for how these resources could be used for remote instruction? I am teaching 2nd grade, all remote. Specifically, I’m wondering how to do assessments such as running records remotely. Any tips on this or other ways to use any of your resources remotely?

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