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Running Records

The Importance of Running Records

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Guided Reading is such an awesome way to help readers make progress. However, you need to be sure to assess your readers on a regular basis. This can be best done via running records, during your small groups. The main reason for this is to adjust your teaching based on each reader’s needs. Running records are an excellent informal, formative assessment that you can add into your weekly routine. 

Running records can provide you with insight on what types of words readers are frequently having difficulties with while reading. They can also give you an idea of your student’s fluency. Running records will also show you if a student is working at the best instructional level with you, or if they should move on. 

Best Time to do Running Records

Benchmark testing is meant to provide you with a specific reading level for each reader, typically three times a year. However, between fall, winter and spring, a lot can change for a reader. During the in between time, you will want to use running records to progress monitor all your readers. This is best done in the first few minutes of Guided Reading groups. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to listen to one reader complete a running record. 

Once your groups are initially established, you can set up a rotation for students in each group to read aloud to you during the beginning of Guided Reading groups. While one student is reading to you, the rest of the group can be warming up with previous texts. This can take anywhere from 1-3 minutes, but shouldn’t take any longer. If a reader isn’t done yet, I recommend stopping where that reader is at 3 minutes in. You will still have enough information to understand that reader better. 

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Cold or Warm Read

You can do running records either way- with a new text (cold) or a previously read text (warm). However, I personally usually recommend a warm read when progress monitoring your students. The reasoning for this is simply so that readers go into the read with a little confidence. It’s not that they’ve practiced the text over and over, but are at least familiar with it. Often just using a book or text from earlier in the week will provide you with a good amount of information about each reader. 

A cold read works well when you’re starting from scratch in regard to figuring out a reading level for a student. It also works well if you realize that the current instructional level is not accurate and the student needs to move on. A cold read will help you see which level is more appropriate for that student. 

Your Running Record Focus

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The three main things you want to get out of a running record are:

  • A score for that reading level (frustational, instructional, independent)
  • Observational notes about the reader
  • A goal related to their errors/self corrects
These three things can be used to provide a new focus for the reader in small groups. Guiding your instruction, you can use these to tailor your lessons to each reader. These all will lead to a more productive small group session with each reader in mind. As a result of focusing on these, your readers will be more likely to move forward in their reading abilities. 

A Closer Look

Keep these in mind, as you’re completing running records:

  • Running records don’t have to be neat! 
  • You can use checkmarks, or you can skip them for longer texts. 
  • Mark up the text as students read (errors and self corrections).
  • Go back and review the errors and self corrects, later on. 
  • Think about the reading level as you write your observational notes. What should a reader at that level be doing?
  • Do a quick follow up with the reader, once the running record is complete. Discuss something you noticed that was impressive and one quick idea for improvement. Then, come back to the reader later on once you’ve had more time to review the running record. Have the reader come up with a goal with you, for next time. 
Just remember, running records can be super helpful to you and your readers. While they may take a little time to set up, they are so worth the effort! 


I’ve got a freebie (shown below) that will help you out with running records. The freebie includes a binder cover, observational note pages and celebration notes for home. Grab the freebie here!

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Ready Made Running Records

If you’re looking for ready made running records, check out my Guided Reading passages packs here. Each leveled passage comes with a running record. These will help you feel prepared to regularly assess your readers, in between benchmark testing. You’ll also likely find that you and your students actually like doing running records. It’s a chance for readers to show off what they can do!

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Aylin Claahsen

Aylin Claahsen

Providing resources and support to engage all readers.

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Hi, I'm Aylin!

I’m so happy you’re here! I’m a certified reading specialist who loves talking all things literacy. I have a huge passion for providing resources and support to engage all readers!


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