Oral Reading Records

Oral Reading Records use a standard recording and scoring procedure to objectively record what a student said and did while orally reading continuous texts. The initial assessment is diagnostic and should be given at the beginning of the year so that small groups will support and improve students’ reading abilities. After the initial assessment, running records should be repeated every several weeks, depending on students’ reading skill levels, to assess student progress. Higher achieving students can be retested once per quarter; on level or just below students should be reassessed every 6–8 weeks; and students working below grade level should be tested every 4–6 weeks.

A running record assesses what a student knows and understands about the reading process. It also captures thinking, as demonstrated through reading behaviors such as the use of structural and visual cues. A running record records what a student says when asked to read a text of about 100 words. The reading performance is used to measure decoding skills and to tell you if a given reading level is too easy, too hard, or just right for a student. During the assessment, the classroom teacher must pay attention to reading fluency, intonation, phrasing, and responses to prompts, as well as the number of errors,  miscues and the self-correction rate. A running record is a valuable tool for assessing what a student is able to do, the text level at which a student is ready to learn, and how much a student has grown since the previous running record.

Running records can measure many things; it is imperative that they measure accuracy rate and comprehension. The accuracy rate is a measure of how accurately a student reads aloud, and a comprehension score measures how well a student understands the text, including comprehension questions. An accuracy percentage of 90–94 percent and a comprehension rate of between 80 and 94 percent is indicative of a student’s instructional level, the level at which small group instruction is most effective.

Because the goal of differentiated guided reading groups instruction is to help students improve the effectiveness of their reading, it is essential that students are frequently reassessed for accuracy rate and comprehension, as described above. Students grow at different rates, so group membership is flexible. Maintaining running records for all students ensures that instruction is individualized and that effective, efficient reading development takes place.

Oral Reading Record sheets for each Engage Literacy title are provided at the back of the Teacher's Resource books. 

What is the purpose of an Oral Reading Record?

  • An Oral Reading Record provides a diagnostic assessment of a child's reading ability.
  • An Oral Reading Record looks at the strategies a child uses to read and is a useful tool for informing planning.
  • An Oral Reading Record informs you if a book is suitable for a child's reading level.


  • Select a book that the child is familiar with.
  • Explain to the child that you are going to listen to them read aloud because you want to learn more about their reading.
  • Introduce the book to the child by looking at the front cover and the title page.
  • When you are ready, ask the child to start reading.

Making an Oral Reading Record

  • Using the reading symbols outlined below, mark the text on your Oral Reading Record as the child reads. Record a mark above each word. Use the first two columns on the right to keep a tally of the number of errors and self-corrections.
  • Refer to the reading strategies outlined below, and note the reading strategies used in the final column.

Reading Symbols

No errors Errors
  • Check mark  = correct word
  • R = repeated word 
  • Sc = self-corrects
  • 0 = omitted word
  • ˆ  = inserted word (write the inserted word above the text)
  • T = told word (if the child attempts the word, write the attempt over the word and record it as an error unless the child manages to say the word correctly)

Reading Strategies

  • Ph = phonic the child tried to sound out the problem word
  • G = graphic the child suggested a word that looks similar to the problem word 
  • S = syntactic the child suggested a grammatically sensible word
  • C = contextual the child suggested a sensible substitution within the context of the whole text

Interpreting the Oral Reading Record

Count up the total number of errors (do not include self-corrections) and calculate the accuracy rate using the formula outlined below:
(Number of words read accurately) ÷ (The total number of words) x 100

So for example, if a child read 114 words correctly in a 126-word book, the accuracy rate would be:
(114 ÷ 126) x 100 = 90.5%

A reading accuracy rate of 95% or above indicates that the book is at a comfortable level for the child to read independently. A reading accuracy rate of between 90% and 95% signifies that the text is appropriate for use during a guided reading lesson. Below 90% indicates that the text is too difficult.

Notes made during the Oral Reading Record should indicate which strategies the child is using to read. If the child is relying heavily on one strategy, he or she may need support using other strategies.

Oral Running Records Demonstration

How to Give a Benchmark Assessment

When giving a Benchmark Assessment, teachers need to make sure they work through each of the steps shown below.

What to do
  1. Select a text at an appropriate level for the student. Explain to the student that as he or she reads aloud you will be writing down what he or she is doing while reading.
  2. Sit next to the student so that you can see the text and observe the student’s eye and finger movements as he or she reads the text.
  3. Read the introduction to the student, and then invite the student to read the text.
  4. As the student reads the text, mark the text in the Oral Reading Record section of the Benchmark Assessment sheet. 
  5. If the student is reading too fast for you to accurately record his or her behavior, ask him or her to pause while you catch up.
  6. Intervene as little as possible and use only the conventions as recommended.
  7. Score the student’s fluency using the Fluency Scoring Key.
  8. Ask the student the Comprehension Questions and record his or her score.
  9. After the student has completed all elements of the Benchmark Assessment, score and analyze the Oral Reading Record and complete the Summary of Assessment.
  10. Analyze the Summary of Assessment and plan for future teaching.