How To Use Running Records

It’s that time of year…the back to school crazies are starting to settle down and we are almost ready to start guided reading groups!  If you are like me, you *love* the day that you can get small groups started and trust that your kids are ready to work in stations independently while you meet with a guided reading group.  It’s pretty much the stuff angelic choruses are made of! 🙂

I’ve already blogged about how I get organized, set up and ready for guided reading.  So let’s talk about tracking data in guided reading groups.

Data is a hot topic these days in the education world.  And I definitely understand that there is too much pressure on us where data collecting is concerned…too much of our time is spent assessing and gathering data.  I totally get it.  But good, solid data is what real teaching is all about.  You know, the kind of data that you want to collect because it’s actually useful and drives your instruction?

I’ve always been a number nerd teacher.  I love data–data that I choose to collect because I need it to be a better teacher and help my kids grow!  One of my favorite pieces of data collection is a running record!

Here are the most common questions I get on doing running records in the classroom.

What Is a Running Record Anyway?

A running record is a way to record exactly how a child reads a text.  Running Records are used for every single formal reading assessment I can think of right now (Fountas and Pinnell, DRA, BEBOPS…)  There are formal recordings for a running record which I learned in college and I’m sure you did as well.  But, practically, I use what works for me on a daily basis.   My short hand for running records looks something like this…

How Often Do You Do A Running Record?

Everyone has different views of a running record…I know many teachers that do running records every Friday in place of guided reading groups or once a week, or once a month.  But in my classroom, I do a running record every time I read with a child in guided reading.

Why do a running record every single time?  The first reason is because I’m just a creature of habit and I more likely to forget or put it off if it’s not part of my regular guided reading routine. Another reason is because the more data the better when it comes to how a child reads.  And the last reason I do a running record every time I meet with a child is because it helps me focus while I’m listening.  If I’m just watching and listening to a child read, I’m more likely to daydream or get distracted by kids off task in stations… (just keeping it real, ya’ll!)  So recording while I’m listening helps me focus on that one child for that brief moment in time!

My goal is to do a running record with every child in a guided reading group every time I meet with them.  Reality is that doesn’t always happen.  Interruptions come, but I would say 90% of the time I’m able to complete a running record on each kid during each group.

When Do You Fit In Running Records?

Like I said, running records are just a part of my guided reading routine.  When it’s time to read independently, I stagger start my kids’ reading.  That means the sweetie sitting in chair 1 starts first.  I’ll say something like, “James, you may start reading,” and write the title of the book on his running record card while he starts reading.

The reason I take the time to write the title on the card then instead of doing it ahead of time is it just seems to give me the right amount of time to space out my kids’ reading.  Then, I have the kiddo in chair 3 start reading following the same pattern.   Then, chair 5.  Then, chair 2, then 4, then 6.

The reason I stagger start my kids’ reading is to keep them from listening to their next door neighbor and copying how they read or those neighbors reading together!  Most of the time, that works pretty well!

Once I have everyone reading independently (which takes less than a minute to start everyone), I go back to the first person I started with (chair 1) and listen to that firstie read and I do a running record on the index card.  Typically, I listen to at least 2 pages of text (give or take some depending on the reading level) before moving on to another kid.

How Do You Organize Your Running Records?

I have a 3 ring binder I use for guided reading.  Each group has a corresponding colored plastic tab folder.  Inside the pocket I store each of the running record index cards for the kids in that group.

This simple, 5 minute preparation, makes sure that all of the index cards I need for a reading group are easy to reach when I meet with them.  I can also keep the next book we are reading in that pocket too.

Once the index card is full, I move it to my running records box.  I got this index card holder years ago.  I love it because it is magnetic and sticks to my teacher desk behind my small groups table.  I just hot glued some ribbon to it and added a label to make it a little more attractive!

The box has number cards 1-25 and I file full running record cards behind my kids’ classroom number.  That way I have all of the running records for the year on a kid in one place–perfect for bringing to RTI meetings or showing parents at conferences!

What Do You Do With All Those Records?

The first thing I love about having all the running records in one place and doing them on each book is I have a record of every book each kid read.  So when it’s time to collect guided readers back at the end of each quarter, I can easily see what books each kid has.  In the past, when I sent guided readers home, I would highlight the title of the book once it was returned to school and then highlight the date beside the book on my card when the book was I collected the book back.  That makes it easy to see where the book should be so I can track it down better!

{And yes, I do different stories in different colors…mainly just because it’s easier to see the difference between the stories.  If I always do records in the same color, they just start blending together!}

The other thing I do with all those running records is study them.  Every night.

Okay, I’m just kidding! 🙂  Honestly, it’s really an in-the-moment data analysis.  I jot down any notes on the card that I don’t record (like fluency problems, pacing, etc) and I just do a quick glance at the record to look for patterns before moving to the next kid.

Did he miss mostly sight words?
Did she have problems sounding out words with blends?
Is he just making up a word that follows the beginning sound without reading through the word?

Then, I can plan my instruction for the next time we meet.  I usually do an “ugly plan” in the moment on a sticky note on that groups tab folder (so I won’t forget!!)

And later, when I have some quiet time, I can go back and adjust my weekly plans for guided reading groups (find the lesson plan templates in my guided reading packet).  For example, if most of my kiddos had miscues with reading all the way through a word, we need to revisit our What Good Readers Do anchor charts (get them here) and do some skill work with reading through words.

I will always be a big fan of running records.  No matter how laborious data collection gets, some data is worth my time to collect!

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