How to Use An Informal Running Record To Inform Instruction

Updated: Oct 30


Running Records provide so much valuable information in such a short amount of time.

I know that when someone says "running records" teachers are immediately overwhelmed! That's due to the boxed systems that use running records as their foundation. (my personal opinion)

When school districts require teachers to conduct running records from "The Box", it becomes just another paperwork task to be completed. I've seen it happen in many school districts that I've worked with. Then, the value of the reading experience with individual readers is lost. (again my personal opinion....that I feel very strongly about)

Running records were not meant to be 'boxed up", standardized and marketed! One more time for the people in the back..."Running records were not meant to be "boxed up", standardized and marketed!" I firmly believe that Marie Clay never intended for that to happen! (again my personal opinion). If she did, she would have created a boxed program.

True Running Record Story

Believe it or not, I was at a new campus in a new school district where a teacher was doing a running record from the "boxed up system" outside of the “Running Record Testing Window” dictated by the school district. The principal visited her classroom for a walk-through observation and the teacher was questioned as to why she was assessing a student with a running record when it wasn’t within the district’s designated testing window! This was marked against her on her walkthrough evaluation form.

I WAS SHOCKED! Really…this is where we are now? That’s just sad! This teacher was administering an AUTHENTIC running record to assess her student’s reading growth and her progress monitoring decision was questioned based on a "district mandated running record testing window" --dates on a calendar.


Now she had to do AUTHENTIC running records “on the sly” so she wouldn’t get “busted”! Honestly, she didn't do many running records after that to assess her readers. She was too stressed and overwhelmed because she didn't want another mark against her on her evaluation.


True story!! It’s sad, but true!

Readers progress ALL THE TIME

Readers progress ALL THE TIME.


I don't know about you, but my readers didn't progress on a specific and dictated timeline created by the school district.


My readers didn't progress based on a "boxed program's" prescriptive guidelines.


My readers progressed based on the needs they had and their individual response to the instruction I provided within my classroom instruction, small group instruction and individual conferences.


My readers progressed at their own rate. Some readers took little bitty baby steps and others took giant leaps and bounds within a school year. BUT it was ALL progress no matter how small. Sometimes those 'boxed programs' and district guidelines don't account for that growth. That task was on me!


It was my job and responsibility to assess my readers' needs on a daily basis and track their development--even if it was conducting a running record outside the "running record testing window".


Don't let running records overwhelm you

Running records can be done quickly on any piece of text at any time.

An informal running record will show how a student is using the processing systems to make meaning in his/her self-selected independent reading text or a quick text chosen by the teacher.

Use an informal running record to determine how a reader deals with difficulties within an independent text.

Follow up with a quick comprehension check to see how the reader is understanding the text read so far.

Use an informal running record to determine the kinds of word work a student may be needing. Use a set of informal running records from all your readers to determine high-frequency words they may need to have on the classroom word wall.

Use an informal running record to determine a general sense of a reader's fluency & rate.

Use an informal running record to look at how a reader uses all the processing systems to make meaning from text. Use the records to determine what comprehension work the student is trying out independently and comprehension work the student may need in the near future. Build instruction around those determinations.

Using the 100 Word Box Form

The one-hundred-word box is a ready-to-use informal running record form that provides a quick and simple way to know when a student has reached the 100-word mark making the calculations and computations more automatic. No special calculators or charts or math equations needed!

As the student reads the text, the teacher will place tick marks (check marks) in each box for words pronounced correctly and mark the errors in the corresponding box using the error marking system that your school district uses.

Using this form, when students read 100 words their oral accuracy percentage is the same as the number of words read correctly.

Errors can be quickly reviewed and analyzed on the spot to show if students are using Meaning, Structure and/or Visual cues as they read, as well as, to note their general fluency and strategies used at points of difficulty.

The comprehension matrix provides a quick marking system for both fiction and nonfiction texts. It is broken down into categories of Thinking WITHIN the text, BEYOND the text and ABOUT the text. An open-ended question or statement is provided for each category.

Teachers that have used this form have stated that this form gets easier with time. As they have used it they developed a system for making it effective in their classroom for note-taking and progress monitoring.

It takes about 5 minutes with one child and provides an abundance of valuable information for instructional decision making.

This form can be placed in a student’s Literacy Assessment Portfolio to document their progress.

Informal running records can be taken on any text at any time and on any scrap piece of paper!

Running records provide valuable information to guide instruction and conferring.


Take a look at the data that was collected above and the list of instructional items that this reader needs to work on next.

There is real value in running records--formal and informal!


Don't let those school district standards and expectations to use "the box" at a few times during the year get you down and feel like you are just trying to "knock out those running records before the district deadline"!



Reading is a process!

Building successful readers is a process!

Every reader progresses differently!

Every teacher needs easy access to a set of tools to track your readers progress.




Until next time...




#conferring #progressmonitoring #assessment #runningrecords

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