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6 Ways to Make Your Reading Assessments More Effective

When I was a teacher in the classroom, I used to refer to October as “Dark-tober” because I felt lost and unsure of how to support my readers at this point in the year. I did the running records, got the level, and tossed the data into a folder for each student in my file cabinet or on the windowsill. I’d only realize later how much information was in there that I didn’t use.

Now that kids are well into the school year, it’s important for teachers to assess their skills and strategies as they read to determine their “just right” texts. There are many different ways to evaluate your readers — this article focuses specifically on getting the most from your running records. A running record is an efficient way to assess readers frequently. These assessments give you information on fluency, accuracy, and comprehension of a text and highlight your students’ reading behaviors.

Our top tips to help you get the most out of your next round of reading assessments:

Trust Your Intuition As You Assess

It’s easy to get tunnel vision during a running record assessment and forget to observe your student’s fluency and reading behaviors. To get a complete snapshot of your reader, use your gut and think beyond accuracy. 

  • Assess your reader in a quiet space, so you can hear their fluency and how they’re word-solving. 
    • Tip: Recording audio of your readers can be helpful if you need time to go back and review it post-assessment. 
  • Listen to how your reader sounds. Are they paying attention to punctuation? Does it sound like smooth reading? Do they change their voice to express how characters feel?
  • Observe how they use text features, such as pictures and headings, to help build meaning as they read. 
  • If students self-correct an error, record how they figured out the correct word, e.g., flipping a vowel sound.

Pro Post-Assessment Moves

Congratulations! You’ve finished assessing your student. Here are a few pro-moves to prioritize before moving on to the next student. 

    • Confer with your reader: Take the time to end it with a conference where you name 1) a strategy the child uses well and 2) a next step you’ll be working on with them next. Here’s an example:
  • “Melinda, you’re the kind of reader who pays attention to punctuation as they read. I can hear your voice changing whenever you come across a question mark. Doing this helps you, as the reader understand your characters. When I meet with you in the coming weeks, I will show you how readers can use sticky notes to find how characters’ feelings change over time.” 
  • List possible teaching points: Write a quick list of things you might teach on a sticky note after finishing each student’s assessment so you can quickly look for patterns of need.  

Investigate the Miscues 

As you review the errors your student made during the assessment, notice patterns across their miscues. Do they need a reminder to pay attention to word endings? Are they relying too heavily on only one cueing system? 

    • If the running record shows your reader has a firm grasp of one particular cueing system,affirm that strength, and compliment your reader! Example of a strong visual cue: 
  • “Dahlia, you’re paying close attention to the beginning and end of each word before you read it aloud — this helps you read accurately.”
  • If a student isn’t using a particular cueing system, you’ll need to determine how you can provide additional scaffolding and instruction. 

Flagging Important Fluency Clues

Noting your reader’s ability to read at a steady rate with phrasing and expression is essential. 

When reading aloud, fluent readers read in phrases and add intonation, such as changing their voice to fit punctuation. Here are a few things to flag as you review their running record: 

  • How many words can they “scoop up” in a phrase? Does their reading sound smooth or robotic?
  • Where did their pacing slow down? Was it due to word solving?
  • What happened when they came to a punctuation mark? Did they run right through it? Which punctuation marks seem to confuse them?

Codify Comprehension Responses  

In the same way you dig into miscues, look for patterns in your student comprehension responses. The first thing to pay attention to is the question type your student struggled with:

  • Retell
  • Factual 
  • Inferential 

For primary-grade readers, accuracy will impact comprehension. Another struggle is providing textual evidence for answers. This will help you determine how you can provide additional scaffolding and instruction. 

Creating A Post-Assessment Game Plan 

Once you’ve internalized your new reading data, it’s time to get the ball rolling with a game plan. You’ll have a clearer understanding of the trends across your class, so you then need to decide when you’ll introduce supportive instruction and strategies.

We suggest creating a document listing your students, their current reading level, and what strategies would benefit them. This document will help you make some essential instructional decisions. 

  • If you notice most of your students need support with a specific skill or strategy, plan for a mini-lesson during your reading workshop. You’ll need to go into your unit plan and make adjustments to ensure you can teach this strategy.
  • Look for ways to organize your students into small groups based on strategy needs and level. You can pull these students during independent reading and intervene by modeling and practicing each strategy. 
  • You also have the opportunity to support your students during 1-to-1 conferring. Come ready to name, model, and practice the strategy with your student. Ideally, you’ll give them a notecard or sticky note with strategies to use and remember as they read. 

Here are additional resources to help you plan:

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