When to Do Running Records and How to Find the Time - Simply Skilled Teaching

When to Do Running Records and How to Find the Time

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“How do I know when to do running records, and how do I find the time to do them with each of my students?” Ever asked yourself those questions? These days it’s always about finding the time, isn’t it? I get it! Teachers’ days are driven by schedules, planners and clocks. We teach our hearts out and then try to hang on until summer, when time moves just a bit slower.

It’s fun watching kiddos as they learn to tell time and make friends with it. Quarter hours and half hours are cool new concepts to them! They haven’t yet developed the ‘love/hate’ relationship with time that some adults have!

When it comes to the question of when to do running records, as well as how to complete them, time is of the essence.  So let’s jump in and look at some helpful tips on how we can make time for these important monitoring assessments.

Make the Most of Guided Reading Time

Your Guided Reading block is the most obvious chunk of time you have available to complete a running record. Use that time wisely! When you introduce a new book, always plan to administer running records with at least one student in each of your Guided Reading groups during day one. A brand new and unfamiliar text ensures the student will do a “cold read.” This gives you a better opportunity to see a true picture of their use of strategies as well as to accurately gauge their independent reading level.

Be Creative in Deciding When to Do Running Records

  • During Guided Reading
    Guided Reading is a great time for conducting quick running records. As the children in a small group are whisper reading, choose one or two students and lean in close to monitor their reading. You can do informal, on-the-spot running records using just a sticky note and pen, or you use preprinted running records that accompany reading texts. (Check out my Simply Skilled products on TPT! You’ll find Guided Reading curriculum bundles that include leveled texts, DETAILED step-by-step 3-day lesson plans, running records for each text, and much more!)
  • During Morning Work Time
    Running records do not have to be exclusively restricted to your Guided Reading block. There are other times throughout the day when you can incorporate them. Morning work time can also be an ideal opportunity to do running records assessments.
  • Other Opportunities Throughout the Day
    The flexibility of a running record makes it easy to administer informally and “on-the-fly” when needed. So get creative and learn to use other small chunks of time, such as the 10-15 minutes prior to a school assembly.

Do Running Records at Appropriate Intervals

To properly monitor continued reading progress, you should reassess with appropriate frequency. A baseline running record should be completed on each student early in the year (ideally, by the end of the 2nd week of school). Then follow-up by administering several running records on each student throughout the course of the year.

When you consider when to do running records, it’s important to decide on the frequency of reassessment for students of various levels. Emergent readers and those needing strategic intervention should be assessed frequently, to help you keep close tabs on their reading progress. In contrast, you can stretch out the time between assessments for your advanced and fluent readers. The frequency may vary, but here’s a general rule-of-thumb:

  • Emergent Readers (aa-C)
    Beginning readers who are still learning the basics of reading and decoding should be assessed more often than students who are further along in fluency and reading comprehension. These students should be assessed every 2-3 weeks.
  • Readers Needing Strategic Intervention
    A struggling student should undergo a progress monitoring assessment every 2 to 4 weeks. A running record can keep you informed on their progress and reveal the effectiveness of intervention strategies you may be using.
  • Early Readers (Levels D-G/H)
    Early readers can be assessed every 3 to 5 weeks.
  • Transitional Readers (Level I-M)
    Transitional readers should be assessed every 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Fluent Readers (N-Z)
    Higher level readers who have attained reading fluency should undergo 3 benchmark assessments per year. You may, however, want to conduct additional running records for progress monitoring every 6-8 weeks. (Fit these in when you can do a “cold read” during Day 1 Instruction.)

Take the time to Analyze the Data

Running records are a quick and effective way to assess your students’ reading progress. Now that you have a better handle on when to do running records, it’s important to remember the importance of carefully analysis of the results.

Here’s a quick review of some of the essential information you’ll gain when you do running records:

  • Baseline Reading Level
  • Do running records with each of your students within the first couple of weeks of the school year. The first running record you conduct with a student will help you establish a baseline and accurately gauge their instructional reading level.
  • Accuracy Rate
    A running record is a quick and effective way to evaluate a child’s reading accuracy. Observe and note the student’s omissions, miscues, substitutions and self-corrections as they read. Subtract the number of errors made from the number of running words in the text; then divide that by the number of running words.
  • Fluency Rate
    To determine the student’s fluency rate, give them an unfamiliar text (at their approximate instructional level) and timing them as they read aloud. Count the number of read words and multiply that by 60. Divide that total by the number of seconds it took the student to read the passage.
  • Self-Corrections
    Note the number of times the child catches their own error and self-corrects. Annotate self-corrections by drawing a line above miscues and writing in the miscue, followed by a check mark or slash and the letters “SC.” Self-corrections do not count as errors within a running records assessment.
  • Use of Meaning, Structure and Visual Cueing Systems (MSV)
    Analysis of a child’s use of MSV cues can reveal where they need additional help or strategic intervention. For an in-depth, nuts-and-bolts explanation of MSV cues, see my previous post, 5 Great Tips for Understanding MSV Cueing Systems in Running Records.
  • Need for Level Advancement
    Running Records analysis can reveal when a student has progressed to a higher reading level. Guided Reading small groups allow you to shift students when they are ready to advance. Timing is key here, also! Make the most of the time your students spend in Guided Reading by ensuring they’re leveled and grouped appropriately!
  • Effectiveness of Instructional Strategies
    Use the data you gain from running records to inform your reading instruction as well as to differentiate it for individual students. Take the time to consider changes or modifications that are needed to help you become a better teacher.

Practice Makes Perfect!

I hope this information on when to do running records will be helpful to you as you monitor your students’ reading progress. As I shared at the beginning of this post, when it comes to running records, time is of the essence. The time you invest in administering running records can pay big dividends when it comes to your students’ reading growth and fluency. And when it comes to doing running records, practice makes perfect! So make time in your schedule to practice and become familiar with this important assessment tool. You’ll be glad you did!


I am so excited to share the news that my Guided Reading That Works Professional Development Workshop is now available! This is the ultimate online, self-paced professional development workshop for busy teachers like you. If you want to ensure your Guided Reading groups are rigorous, engaging and effective, without scrambling to fit everything in, check out Guided Reading That Works

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Anna DiGilio

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I'm Anna DiGilio

Hi, I'm Anna! I was a primary teacher for over twenty-three years, wife of a firefighter, mother of twin teenage boys, obsessed with being creative and helping teachers and love my Saturday morning quiet cup of coffee!
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Hi, I'm Anna! I was a primary teacher for over twenty-three years, wife of a firefighter, mother of twin teenage boys, obsessed with being creative and helping teachers and love my Saturday morning quiet cup of coffee!
Thanks for stopping by!

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