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8 Reading Tools You MUST Use to Uncover Your Readers' NEEDS

Updated: Sep 7, 2022

When understanding what your readers need to gain, progress monitoring becomes a daily routine. You need a toolkit of progress monitoring tools at your disposal that is easy to use and gets the job done.

Progress monitoring reading progress isn’t determined by a multiple-choice test or a computerized assessment.

Determining a students’ reading progress is so much more than just numbers on a standardized reading test.

Determining a students’ reading progress is so much more than moving their student id# to the Meets Expectations or Exceeds Expectations category on a data wall or score report.

Determining a students’ reading progress is about...

  • knowing where the student is right now

  • setting a reasonable goal for improvement

  • engaging in specific instructional actions to work at achieving that goal.

When that goal is achieved, set another reasonable goal and the process starts over.

Your readers are giving you a myriad of data every day during independent reading, small group instruction and within those individual conferences.

  • Your readers are utilizing engagement tools such as think sheets, post-it notes and graphic organizers during independent reading on which they write quick responses and reactions to text.

  • Your readers have probably written longer responses to reading.

  • You have probably observed your readers as they engaged in independent reading work to determine their behaviors and attitudes towards reading.

  • You have conducted running records (formal and/or informal) for each of your readers. You listen to your readers read.

  • You listen to your readers engage in conversations and discussions about the text.

  • You track your readers’ levels in reading. While this is not important for your readers to know, you probably keep a tracking chart to see how their reading level increases over time.

  • You are conferring with your readers about strategies and skills and how they are applying those within their independent reading.

  • Your readers have probably shared with you their reading interests and reflected on their own reading progress and development.

All of these reading interactions with text are



RICHER than any standardized test or multiple-choice passage!


8 Progress Monitoring Tools you MUST use to

uncover your readers’ needs


Stop and Jots

When students are reading independently, they need to stop and jot their thinking. This gives you a little window into their brain and how it is processing the text.

These little reactions to text provide you with data on which comprehension strategies and skills the reader is relying on.

You will be able to see if the reader is thinking along the surface of the text or thinking at a deeper level.

Stop and Jots can be written on post-it notes, think sheets or inside the reader's notebook. Whenever your readers are writing their reactions to a text, they are providing you with the richest data imaginable about their reading development and progress.

Reading Interest Surveys and Reflections

When you have students engage in reading interest surveys and written reflections about reading, you are gaining a sense of where the reader spends their time. You can discover their favorite genres, authors and types of text. You will be able to see what kinds of reading experiences the readers have had over time—negative or positive. Reading behaviors and barriers will present themselves in this type of data collection. Over time you can get a snapshot of how your readers’ behaviors have changed and evolved.

Written Responses

Students can take their quick reactions to text (stop and jots) and write more about what they were thinking in their Readers' Notebooks. This practice will give you a window into how deep the reader's thinking is going. From this, you can determine the next steps to help take the reader deeper into the text for longer analysis writing.

When students write long about an open-ended reading prompt, the depth of their thinking about the text will be evident. You will be able to see which comprehension strategies and skills the readers rely on giving you a sense of what strategies and skills you need to nudge them into using more consistently.

Engagement Inventories

Observing readers as they work is not just an activity to do at the beginning of the school year. Observing readers as they engage in independent reading work should happen several times throughout the year. Watching students’ attitudes and behaviors toward reading work will provide a picture of how readers engage and disengage in reading.

Running Records

Running records are not something you do because you are required by your district and then file away until the next testing window.

This assessment doesn't always have to be formal from those purchased boxes that are way more involved than Marie Clay ever intended. It would seem I have a strong opinion on THOSE boxes!

In my honest opinion, Running Records have become a dirty word to teachers because so much emphasis is put on COMPLETING the records for each child to track their data. That's not what was intended.

Running records are supposed to give the teacher a window into the readers' heads so that specific instructional actions can be taken to help the reader work through their reading struggles.

Running records can be formal when appropriate for the level of reader you are working with OR running records can be informal to grab a quick glance into the readers' head as he or she reads.

(see the informal reading record and comprehension check example below)

  • Running records are meant to be used as a full view of each of your readers.

  • Running records show you what readers do when they reach a point of difficulty.

  • Running records show you what systems readers rely on for figuring out words.

  • Running records show you what systems readers rely on for making meaning.

  • Running records show you what systems your readers are NOT using to make meaning.

  • Running records show you what systems your readers are NOT using to figure out words.

  • Running records show you how your readers’ fluency is developing.

With all of this rich information, you can make specific instructional decisions based solely on THE READER and not a test score!

Accountable Talk

There is rich data in noting how readers engage in discussions and conversations. You will notice and understand how your readers build on other ideas presented in the discussions. You will notice how readers support the ideas they share.

Providing students with discussion stems & a discussion rubric will nudge your readers into supporting their reading thinking with evidence from the text.

Tracking Charts

It is not important for readers to know their reading level. The numerical or alphabetical level of a reader is only important for the teacher to know. There shouldn’t be any stress or stigma placed on readers because of the letter or number that is their reading level.

With that said…

When tracking a reading level on a chart, you will see the rate of progression your readers are having. This may determine individual conferring points or even small group combinations.

Conferring Notes

Individual conferring is ESSENTIAL to the success of readers. When teachers take time to work one on one for just a few minutes, so much is learned about readers. Tracking those conferences on conferring forms is necessary to develop a profile of each reader.

With this profile, you will be able to determine where your reader is right now and where that reader needs to go next.

When readers are initiating and participating in their own reading conferences, they are taking ownership of their own reading goals. Observing the role your readers take in the individual conferences will show what kinds of thinking your readers are doing and the progress they are making.


So just how do I evaluate all those student reading artifacts?

When you are looking over a reading artifact from your students, you have to have a few questions in mind. You have to determine just what you are looking for. When you determine your “endgame” for that particular reading work, the job of analyzing it becomes so much easier.

So how can you sift through all those pieces of data to uncover what your readers need?

Within your arsenal of progress monitoring tools for reading, you may keep an ongoing audit form. That’s what I like to call it! It sounds really official, but it’s just a simple chart to create a quick snapshot of your class and individual readers.

An individual student form that includes each progress monitoring tool is used to track your observations and reflections about each of your students to determine their areas of strength and areas for improvement. This could be kept in a literacy portfolio for quick access when attending those data meetings with campus and district administration.

A classroom form creates a quick snapshot of the readers in your classroom. This snapshot will drive your lesson planning and conversations with your readers.

When understanding what your readers need to gain, progress monitoring becomes a daily routine.

You need a toolkit of progress monitoring tools at your disposal that is easy to use and gets the job of monitoring reading progress done.

Until next time...

The tools pictured above can be purchased right here & on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Use the links below.

Buy it right here👇

Grab it on Teachers Pay Teachers right here 👇👇👇



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