Running Records 101: The History & How to Score, Code, & Analyze

Learning how to code errors and self-corrections, learning the formulas to calculate the accuracy and self-correction rates and learning how to analyze errors and self-corrections are all a part of running records.  The plethora of running record information available on the Internet can be overwhelming to sift through.  The inconsistencies between the information provided by different sources can make it confusing to know which information is accurate.  In this post, I would like to make your search less overwhelming and confusing by providing you with accurate credible information on running records gathered from reliable resources.

It is important for teachers to be well trained in administering a running record with integrity to keep the tool a reliable and valid measure (Kaye & VanDyke, p. 7).  Two important parts to running record training are learning how to “take quality running records” and learning theory that supports teachers with interpreting behaviors using a “theory of complex processing” (Clay, p. 45).

Who created running records?

Running records were created by developmental psychologist, developer of Reading Recovery, and early literacy expert Marie Clay.  Therefore, any information regarding running records authored by Marie Clay is a trusted and preferred source.running records clay

What are running records?

A running record is a formative assessment done one-on-one with a student while they are reading a text.  Running records are a quick authentic way to see what readers are doing while they actually read.  Running records allow teachers to gather information about the reading behaviors observed while reading a text and then plan for future instruction.

Traditionally, students have been viewed through the lens of a test that provides a score for how well they do with phonemes, letters, and words.  A running record provides us with a different lens for viewing a reader focusing on how the child interacts with the text and their change in reading behaviors over time.

A running record provides the teacher with a score of reading accuracy, an analysis of a reader’s errors and self-corrections, and anecdotal notes on how the reader sounds when reading.  Beyond this information, running records allow teachers to sharpen their “observational powers” and their “understanding of the reading process” (Fountas & Pinnell, p. 258).

Running records enable teachers to “capture detailed evidence” to use with monitoring the progress of their students and make it possible for teachers to see how their teaching has impacted the student’s ability to process text (Clay, p. 82).

How are running records coded?

There are many different coding reference sheets available online and they do not always provide the same information.  Teachers should be consistent when coding running records.  Consistent coding makes it easier to collaborate with other teachers as you analyze the running record.  Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell use the same running record coding as Reading Recovery teachers and are a trusted source for running record information.

Coding and Scoring Error at a Glance Sheet

How are running records scored?

(Running Words – errors / Running Words)100 =Accuracy Rate

(errors + self-corrections) /self-corrections = Self-correction Rate

Example:  RW = 118, E = 5, SC = 2

Accuracy:  118 – 5 = 113

113/118 = .957 (round up)

.96 x 100 = 96%

The student read 96% of the words accurately.

Self-Correction:  5 + 2 = 7

7/2 = 3.5 (round up to 4)


The student self-corrected 1 error out of every 4 errors.

Running record accuracy rates should not be thought of in terms of “pass” or “fail”.  The purpose of the accuracy rate is to give insight into whether the book read was in the hard, instructional, or easy range and supports teachers in choosing appropriate texts to use when instructing a particular student.

  • Easy – 95-100% word accuracy
  • Instructional – 90-94% word accuracy
  • Hard – below 90% word accuracy

Teachers aim to work within a student’s instructional range.  Within the instructional range teachers can provide the student with just the right amount of support for successful reading and also allow for opportunities for a student to problem solve on their own or as close to independently as possible.  Allowing for these problem-solving opportunities will lead the student to become a strategic efficient reader who can read with independence.

How are running records analyzed?

Scoring the running record is the easy part.  Analyzing the running record is a more complex but vital step.  The teacher’s analysis shows “what the reader is noticing, what is easy, what is confusing,” and can be used to inform future teaching by providing evidence used to target specific reading behaviors (Clay, p. 46).

Three Cueing Systems


Analyzing an error:

During the analysis, the teacher examines how the child used or neglected the three cueing systems:  meaning, structure, and visual information.

Read up to the point of error and decide what source(s) of information the child used:

Example 1:

Text:  She goes to the store.

Student read:  She goed to the store.

The student:

  • used meaning because “the girl goed” matches what is happening in the story.  The girl is going somewhere.
  • used much of the visual information.
  • neglected language structure because “goed” does not sound right.

Example 2: 

Text:  She goes to the store. (a store is in the picture)

Student read:  She goes to the sea.

The student:

  • used visual information (first letter).
  • used their oral language to read a sentence that sounded right.
  • neglected the meaning of the story because what they read does not match what the story is about.

Example 3:

Text:  She goes to the store.

Student read:  She goes to the market.

The student:

  • used meaning and structure because the sentence read matches what is happening in the story and it sounds grammatically correct.
  • neglected visual information as the words “store” and “market” do not look visually similar.

Analyzing self-corrections:

An analysis of self-corrections allows the teacher to see how the child is doing with monitoring their reading and what information they are using when searching in any attempts to self-correct.

Start by first analyzing the error then decide what sources of information the student used to correct the error.

After analyzing the errors and self-corrections teachers then write a summary statement on how the child processes text (information used and neglected in errors and self-corrections) to help guide future teaching.   

Example of scored & analyzed running record:

running record


page 2

“Look,” said (student’s name).

“I can see purple leaves

in the fall.  Can you?”

page 3

“Yes,” said mom.

I can see red leaves

in the fall.”

Where can I find more information on analyzing?

Analyzing running records is a complex task that can always be improved and revisited.  Here are some resources for deepening the analysis of running records.

Clemson University – Additional Analysis of Running records (includes videos and transcripts)

Ohio State University – Running Record Analysis (YouTube video)

The Steps to Analyzing a Running Record

runningrecord analysis

What else might you add to the Running Record?

Once you are able to code your running record fluently there are other important reading behaviors to note on your running record to use in further analysis.

  • How the child handles print directionality.
  • What the child is doing with their hands or eyes.
    • pointing one-to-one
    • breaking words apart with finger
    • taking eyes off text
  • How the child sounds
    • reads punctuation
    • reads with appropriate expression and intonation
    • reads using meaningful phrases
  • Comments the child makes about the story
    • Is the story making sense to the child?

It is easy to get into the rut of administering running records because we are supposed to.  Sometimes the analysis of running records is neglected due to lack of time.  It is important to understand the value of running records.  Running records are a powerful planning tool that will, in the long run, save you time because you will be providing informed teaching.

It is wise to collaborate with colleagues when unsure during the analysis of a running record.  Even if we disagree with our colleague about the analysis the conversation keeps us tentative, open-minded, and flexible in our decision making.  It is also helpful for schools to have review sessions at least annually to ensure that the scoring, coding, and analyzing are being conducted with consistency.

To keep running records a reliable and valid tool for your school be sure to use reliable sources to guide you in your practice.

Click here if you would like to read more about why running records are important formative assessments.



Clay, Marie.  Change Over Time In Children’s Literacy Development.  Portsmouth:  Heinemann, 2001. Print.

Fountas, Irene C. and Pinnell, Gay Su. Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2017. Print

Kaye, Elizabeth K. and VanDyke, Janice. “Interpreting Running Records:
Reexamining Common Practices.” Journal of Reading Recovery. Spring (2012): 5-21. Print.



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