Professional Development

January 21, 2019

7 Tips for Success with Running Records to Help Readers

Taking running records on all of your students can seem daunting. How do I take a running record on one student with four others at the guided reading table? How do i interpret self-corrections and errors? What do I do with the accuracy rate? These are all questions many teachers have running through their heads!

If you teach a primary grade, you probably know just how important running records are, but you might struggle with how to best use them.  I want to share a few tips for running records a little easier and make them more meaningful. Remember, meaningful running records can really help you move your students forward in reading.

Are you ready to assess during guided reading? Are you uncertain of taking a running record? This blog post shared 7 tips for taking running records in your guided reading groups with elementary students.

1. Take one running record each time you’re at the guided reading table.

For each group you meet with each time, choose one student to take a running record on. So if you meet with three guided reading groups a day, you’ll end up with about 15 running records a week! It also won’t take up any extra time as your students would already be reading with you anyways. You can read more about the structure of my guided reading lessons HERE.

2. Keep a log of running records.

Tracking how often you take a record on each student is a simple way to stay organized and make sure each student consistently gets a record taken. You can also track individual progress through running records. In my Guided Reading Binder, I have a tracking form you can use as well as running record forms. Using a log makes it super easy to see who I have listened to that week.

Keeping a checklist of my running record assessment helped me stay organize. It also helped me make sure that every student was getting a running record at least every two weeks. Assessment is KEY to having targeted instruction.

3. Use a blank form.

Our little readers can do all sorts of things when reading! If you use a running record with printed text, you may have difficulty recording all of the child’s behaviors. Running records are so much more than a right or wrong word. We need to see how each reader arrives at the decision they made when reading. A blank form will give you more room to record what happens during reading, and it’s a little easier to do without looking.

When taking a running record be sure that you mark everything! Using this time to assess your students' guided reading practices is crucial.

4. Keep cheat sheets handy.

In my guided reading binder, I like to keep both a cheat sheet for recording symbols and calculations. This makes it super easy in case there is a symbol that doesn’t get used often. It also makes calculating the accuracy rate and self-correction ratio much easier.

There are a few apps out there that would be helpful, too. You might check out Running Record Toolbox. It’s less than a dollar, has a timer, and does the math for you.

This tool, the running record toolbox, is perfect for making sure that your calculations are accurate after taking a running record during guided reading groups.This tool, the running record toolbox, is perfect for making sure that your calculations are accurate after taking a running record during guided reading groups.

You can also grab a FREE running record coding cheat sheet on my blog in my How to Take a Running Record post.

5. Take the running record on a “warm” reading.

After the student has read a text to themselves two to three times, begin the running record. You can learn a lot from a warm reading record. Did the student take what we discussed before reading and apply it? Did the student understand my teaching point?

Remember not to intervene too much before you take the running record, too. We just want them to have the introduction and a chance to independently practice.

6. Add anecdotal notes for each record.

This could be one to two quick sentences about how the reader behaved, the fluency, and what they did well. Did the child read too fast, too slow, or just right? Did they seem to recognize when they made errors? Does the reader seem to have good directionality and movement while reading? Was the text too difficult? How did you know? What other reading behaviors did you notice? Just try to think of an overall brief summary to make note of for yourself.

When taking a running record, don't forget to write anacedotal notes. This will help make sure that your coaching and instruction during your guided reading groups is targeted.

7. Remember to interpret the errors and self-corrections.

This is the meat and potatoes of the running record! Even though you might be tempted, don’t skip it. It uncovers very important things about the reading process. Once you decide if the errors and corrections were meaning, structural, or visual, you can look at the pattern each child has and tailor your instruction to meet those needs. Take the time to do this part carefully.

When taking a running record, it's important to interpret the errors that students are making. Was it a meaning, visual, or structural error? With this information, you can identify a teaching point.

Running records capture both how well a student reads and the reading behaviors of students. They also help us decide when a student is ready to move up in reading level. If you haven’t tried using them in your classroom, I highly encourage you to try it!

Are you ready to assess during guided reading? Are you uncertain of taking a running record? This blog post shared 7 tips for taking running records in your guided reading groups with elementary students.

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If you still feel confused about taking running records or interpreting them, you would LOVE the Guided Reading Unpacked online course. Not only do we cover everything about writing and implementing guided reading lessons, but I go in-depth on running records, including how to take one, how to interpret, give you helpful printables, and you can watch real-life examples. Go HERE to get on the waitlist, and be the first to know when the course is live and open for registration.

Happy Teaching,



Want to use the latest research to boost your readers during small groups? This FREE guide is packed with engaging ideas to help them grow!

Hi, I'm Amanda

I’m a K-1 teacher who is passionate about making lessons your students love and that are easy to implement for teachers.  Helping teachers like you navigate their way through their literacy block brings me great joy. I am a lifelong learner who loves staying on top of current literacy learning and practices. Here, you’ll find the tools you need to move your K-2 students forward!


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7 Responses

    1. Hi Jennifer! Great question! I would definitely point them out after they have read. This is exactly what my sweet Esther does and I have to point them out. I usually say, “Let’s go back and look at this word carefully. Can you read it again?” and then point out why the word is not what she read it as. I also will say to her after having her re-read something, “Does that sound right to you?” Sometimes she does say yes because she is an ELL and she doesn’t know enough English to identify that the sentence is incorrect as she read it. Hope this helps!

  1. Please forward a copy of the free guided reading resource cards. I am an SSO in a Primary School. Thanks. Karen

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