Running Records of Text Reading and Miscue Analysis at the Intermediate Level

A Running Record (or modified miscue analysis) is when a student reads out loud and the teacher records every error made on a duplicate copy of the text. It is an important assessment tool for several reasons:

  • First, it allows the teacher to identify an appropriate reading level for the student.
  • Second, it reveals how well a student is self-monitoring their reading.
  • Finally, it identifies which reading strategies a student is using (or not using).

Running Records allow teachers to run an assessment-driven, differentiated program that targets the specific needs of their students.


Miscue Analysis

  • Miscues are more than just “oral reading errors”, but a way to understand children’s existing reading strategies and to help students learn more effective new strategies.

Running Records

  • A Running Record is a teacher simplification to run a miscue analysis in the busy reality of the classroom (Clay, 1985). PM Benchmarks is an example of a commercial resource that offers a graduated program of reading texts to use for running records. Although primarily designed and used with young children, a running record can provide important information for the Intermediate teacher.

Informal Reading Inventories

  • Robb (2000) argues that running records are appropriate for students “who are at the emergent and beginning stages of reading” or read with poor fluency, but recommends using a reading inventory to complete a modified miscue analyis of intermediate students’ oral reading.
  • Informal Reading Inventories are similar to running records. They consist of graded word lists (to determine sight vocabulary – Word Recognition) and graded story passages (to determine literal and inferential comprehension – Comprehension.)

Informal Reading Inventories are typically given to all students in the fall and again in the Spring if possible to note growth and change (Cohen & Wiener, 2003). In comparison, Running Records are administered more frequently to guide instruction.

Psychologist Lev Vygotsky (Mind in Society, 1978) coined the term “zone of proximal development” as the level of difficulty between what a learner can do independently and what they can do with support.

  • Students working below the zone will not learn as much because the work is too easy.
  • Students working above the zone will not benefit as much because the text is too hard. “When the text is too hard, comprehension is simply impossible.” (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996b, p156)
  • Students working in the zone will experience the most growth because they are working at the cutting edge of their zone of learning. (Au, Carroll & Scheu, 1997)

The goal is to have students reading in the zone. A running record / miscue analysis allows us to identify what level students are reading at in order to have students reading texts that are just right.

Running Records allows teachers to make data-based decisions to guide whole-class instruction (using modeled or shared reading), small-group instruction (guided reading), and to ensure students are reading appropriately challenging texts during independent reading.Miscue analysis allows you to run a targeted and differentiated program:

  1. Identify particular difficulties that a student might be having. (Assessment for Learning)
  2. Aid in the creation of homogeneous guided reading groups. (Differentiated instruction)
  3. Monitor the progress of a student.
  4. Allow different students to move at different speeds. (Differentiated growth)
  5. Provides assessment and evaluation data for reporting purposes.


Both the teacher and the student have a copy of a levelled text. As the student reads out loud, the teacher makes notes on their copy of the text. Every error is recorded and a standardized set of conventions are used to record miscues. Questions are usually asked at the end to gauge comprehension. A miscue analysis should take about 10 minutes. (See appendix for instructions.)

Text samples are typically between 100 to 200 words. It is suggested that a student read from several different levels of texts: an easy text (95-100% correct), an instructional text (90-94% correct), and a hard text (80-89% correct). These three samples can provide insights into a students’ strengths (using easier texts) and weaknesses (using more difficult texts) (Clay, 1985).

A miscue analysis can determine the level of text the student should be reading, whether they are self-monitoring when they read, and they kinds of decoding strategies they use.

1. Identify an appropriate reading level (Accuracy Rate)
2. Identify how well a student is self monitoring while reading (Self Correction Rate)
3. Identify which reading strategies a student is using (or not using)


  • The challenge in the intermediate classroom is to build time during the literacy block to do a running record / miscue analysis. Students need to be trained to do other things to buy the teacher time to do miscue analysis or guided reading groups.
  • A larger challenge is finding resources that can be used at the intermediate level. PM benchmarks can be used for students who are significantly below grade level, however, teachers may end up making their own running record texts by selecting 100-200 words from a levelled text. Finding high-interest levelled texts for intermediate students is a challenge.
  • Finally, there is a learning curve associated with using this assessment tool. Accuracy in catching errors will improve over time. Clay notes that “as your ear becomes tuned-in to reading behaviours and you gain control over the recording conventions, your records will become more and more reliable.” (Clay 1993, p.24 as cited in Cohen & Wiener, 2003, p 127)

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