What is a running record?

A running record is a record of errors, or miscues, that readers make as they are reading. Running Records were developed as a way for teachers to quickly and easily assess their students’ reading behaviours “on the run”, so to speak. Running Records capture what the reader did and said while reading. They capture how readers are putting together what they know in order to read. They allow teachers to describe how children are working on text. They allow teachers to hear how children read – fluent, phrased, word by word, acknowledging punctuation, or on the run.

Why do running records?

Running Records are intended to:

  • Ascertain a child’s instructional book level (IBL)
  • Monitor ongoing student progress in reading
  • Find out which particular skills and strategies students are using
  • Establish specific needs of the children
  • Group together children with similar needs for reading instruction
  • Choose books at an appropriate level for your students

Reading “miscues” are “windows into the reading process”. They can give you a clear picture of the cueing systems that each student knows how to use and which systems they need to learn. Having this kind of information about your students is invaluable when planning your next teaching steps and when working with individuals and small groups.

It is essential that we ascertain the child’s “instructional” reading level as it is at this level that the child can learn.

When you are asked to provide a child’s reading level it is the INSTRUCTIONAL LEVEL which is required.

Giving a running record

  1. Sit the child beside you and explain that you want them to read this book independently.
  2. Read the title of the book.
  3. Do a book orientation (BO) – give a brief synopsis of the story line, introducing characters. Don’t give the solution to the conflict. (Note* – record “S”  (seen) at top if child has read book before)
  4. Use a record form or blank sheet of paper to mark reading behaviour and to record miscues. (Optimal at least 100 words)
  5. When a child stops during reading, it is important that you allow enough time for her to work on a problem before you supply the word. It is also important that you don’t wait so long that they lose the meaning of the story while trying to solve the unknown word.
  6. Use a standardised system to record the reading – words read correctly, substitutions, omissions, deletions, self-corrections etc.
  7. REMEMBER – RECORD NOW, TEACH LATER. To achieve objectivity in records of reading behaviour it is necessary for teachers to be recorder of the behaviour and not a stimulus of behaviour. All comments, teaching points, helpful replies, leading questions and pointing guides have to be dispensed with entirely during a running record.
  8. It is important to record how the reading “sounded” – staccato, phrased, fluent (mostly, sometimes, little).
  9. Do a brief book response – make a brief comment about the story à shows child you have been listening.

How often should a running record be given?

  • Running records are taken with the greatest frequency at the earlier stages of reading.
  • Children not progressing at the expected rate should be assessed even more frequently than the schedule suggested below.
Reader  Levels  Frequency 
 Emergent Readers Levels
0 – 9
every 4 weeks
 Upper emergent readers Levels
10 – 14
every 4 – 6 weeks
 Early fluent readers Levels
15 – 20
every 6 weeks
 Fluent readers Levels 21+ every 8 weeks

Analyzing a running record

Self-correction (SC) occurs when a child realizes his or her error and corrects it.Errors (E) are tallied during the reading whenever a child does any of the following:

  • substitutes another word for a word in the text
  • omits a word
  • inserts a word
  • has to be told a word by the person administering the running record

The most common miscue is the substitution of another word for the one that is in the text.

To understand what miscues reveal about the reading process, you need to know something about the cueing systems:

  1. Meaning (semantic) cues – the child takes his or her cue to make sense of the text by thinking about the story background, information from pictures or the meaning of a sentence. These cues assist in the reading of a word or phrase.
  2. Visual (graphophonic) cues – applying what is known letter-sound correspondences to decode words. The child looks at the letter in a word and the word itself. They use visual information when he or she studies the beginning sound, word length, familiar word chunks, etc
  3. Syntactic (sentence structure) cues – applying what is known about how our language goes together to identify words. Implicit knowledge of structure helps the reader know if what he or she reads sound correct.

Checking for comprehension

  1. If self-correction rate (SCR) on the Instructional book is less than 1:3, children are self-monitoring their own reading
  2. Have the students retell the story in their own words. They could describe:
    • characters,
    • main idea,
    • sequence of events,
    • setting,
    • plot problem
  3. For a quicker and more objective comprehension\ check, use comprehension questions that ask a combination of literal and inferential questions.

Running records conventions

Reading Behaviour Conventions Counted as an error
Accurate Reading ü No
Repetition R No
Self-correction SC No
Try that again TTA No
Pauses P No
Substitution ———– Yes
Omission Yes
Insertion/addition  - or ^ Yes
Appeal/told  A/T Yes
Spelt/Individual sounds BOAT / b-o-a-t Yes
Teacher prompts, “Have a go” TP No


  1. Contractions count as one error.
  2. Multiple unsuccessful attempts at a word are counted as one error.
  3. Repeated errors with proper nouns count as an error the first time only.
  4. Each insertion counts as an error therefore you can have more errors than text.
  5. Skipped line – each word counts as an error or say, “Try That Again. (TTA)
  6. Pronunciation differences are not counted as errors.
  7. Skipped page – either get them to read it or subtract the number of words on that page from the total number of words to be read.

Running records calculations

Error Rate

Error rate is expressed as a ratio and is calculated by using the following formula:
Total words / Total errors = Error rate


99 / 8 = 12.38, or 12 rounded to nearest whole number
The ratio is expressed as 1:12.This means that for each error made, the student read approximately 12 words correctly.

Accuracy Rate

Accuracy rate is expressed as a percentage. You can calculate the accuracy rate using the following formula:
(Total words read – Total errors) / Total words read x 100 = Accuracy rate


(99 – 8) / 99 x 100 = Accuracy rate
91/99 x 100 = Accuracy rate
.919 x 100 = 91.9%, or 92% rounded to the nearest whole number

Self-Correction Rate

Self-correction rate is expressed as a ratio and is calculated by using the following formula:
(Number of errors + Number of self corrections) / Number of self corrections = Self-correction rate


(8 + 3) / 3 = Self-correction rate
11 / 3 = 3.666, or 4 rounded to the nearest whole number

The self-correction rate is expressed as 1:4. This means that the student corrects approximately 1 out of every 4 errors.

If a student is self-correcting at a rate of 1:4 or less, this indicates that she/he is self-monitoring her/his reading.

Error Rate Percent Accuracy Reading Level
1:200 99.9 EASY
1:100 99
1:50 98
1:35 97
1:25 96
1:20 95
1:14 93
1:12.5 92
1:11.75 91
1:10 90
1:8 87.5
1:7 85.5
1:6 83
1:5 80
1:4 75
1:3 60
1:2 50