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How to Assess Students with Science of Reading Aligned Decodable Running Records

Teacher using a decodable running record with a student.

You know that assessing with leveled readers is just not giving you the information you need to help your students, but what is a teacher to do? The answer is to use decodable running records.

Some folks are suggesting that running records are not a helpful assessment tool and teachers should not bother administering them. We disagree and caution educators to resist the temptation to dismiss this tool completely. Decodable running records can provide a wealth of information if you know what to look for.

What’s the difference between using leveled running records and decodable running records?

The difference lies in what type of information you are looking for and how you analyze the running record. Leveled reading running records, in general, analyze ‘reading behaviors’ to determine whether the student is using meaning, syntax, or visual cues. Science has disproven this approach to reading and, thanks to science, we now know the brain learns to read by connecting phonemes to graphemes. As Mark Seidenberg explains in his blog “The best “cue” to a word is the word itself. ”

On the other hand, the use of decodable running records help teachers determine whether students are responding to explicit phonics instruction and if they can successfully apply that understanding to CONNECTED text.

Tell me more about using controlled text to analyze students’ reading progress.

If you are following a structured literacy format and you are incorporating systematic phonics instruction into your daily reading lessons, then controlled texts is an essential part of assessment.

Controlled refers to the types of words in the text. A controlled text is a decodable text. That means students have been taught the phonics patterns found within the text. This type of assessment is particularly helpful because it reveals whether the student is responding to direct instruction.

Be sure to administer decodable running records that contain previously taught phonics patterns. This will help you determine whether your students have mastered specific phonics patterns or whether they need further instruction.

Seven reasons to use decodable running records.

  1. They are aligned with the science of reading.
  2. They will help you to determine whether students are responding to instruction.
  3. Proper analysis of decodable running records will provide the teacher with instructional next steps.
  4. These assessment tools can be used in conjunction with phonemic awareness assessments and phonics assessments and provide the teacher with a more comprehensive understanding of their students’ strengths and weaknesses.
  5. To quote Mark Seidenberg again, “Being able to read and understand words quickly and accurately is the basic foundation for reading, which enables the development of more advanced forms of literacy.” Using decodable running records frees up a student’s cognitive energy and allows the teacher to evaluate comprehension as well.
  6. Teachers can analyze for automaticity, phrasing, and prosody while using decodable running records.
  7. This assessment tool can be used to convey measurable data about a student’s reading progress at conferences and/ or child study team meetings.

What information can decodable running records provide?

There is a LOT of information that the proper assessment tool can provide. Phonics and phonemic assessments are incredibly useful and necessary. However, they typically measure skills in isolation and do not provide information about comprehension.

Decodable running records take assessment to the next level. We have developed a set of 18 closed syllable decodable running records (more syllable types are in the works!). Each one aligns with our FREE phonics scope and sequence.

picture of our K-2 Scope and Sequence
Click on the image to get your FREE Scope and Sequence!
Image of Decodable Running Records
Click on the image to get this SOR-aligned resource.

These running records are designed to help teachers analyze beginning and struggling readers’ understanding of phonics. They ALSO include fluency and comprehension measures to move beyond the analysis of phonics skills in isolation.  

Each set includes two passages to determine a student’s mastery of the designated skill.

CVC decodable running record

This resource includes a comprehensive guideline for analyzing that includes suggestions for next instructional steps.

page 1 of the guidelines for analyzing resource

We also designed a reporting document for use during conferences and meetings.

Sample of a completed teacher's recording document

Ready to move beyond the closed syllable?

Set 2 of our Running Records are also available in our TPT store.

Decodable Running Record Set 2

Want to know more about foundational assessments?

We’ve written several posts about assessing students in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.

Let us Help you as you navigate the roadways of the science of reading

Connect with us on Instagram and send us a DM with any questions you might have.


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