What Difference Would a “Warm” Running Record Make in Your Guided Reading Groups?

Managing guided reading groups often generates a multitude of questions about flexibility: How do I know which children go in which group? Which books do I use in a particular level? How do I know when my students are ready for the next level? One tool often used in answering these questions is a record of reading behavior.  This record of reading behavior (also called a “running record”—a term coined by Marie Clay) is a record of a student’s oral reading of a text, coded and scored to analyze the kinds of information used or not used by a reader as they work to make meaning during reading. Many teachers only know reading records in the context of a “cold” read, usually used for placement in a text level. A “cold” read is a text that hasn’t been read before by the student. But using text that has already been used in guided reading—a “warm” read, can provide the kind of information that supports teachers to manage small groups in a flexible way. A “warm” reading record is taken after guided reading, either directly after the lesson with one of the students in the guided reading group, later on the same or following day, or sometime over the next few days after the student has reread the text during independent time. A teacher uses similar questions to those discussed during the guided reading lesson to assess comprehension. Because the text has been used with students in a guided reading setting, a “warm” running record illustrates things a “cold” record can’t.  We learn what students took from the particular guided reading lesson—what ideas they understood from the text and from the accompanying discussion with others in the group, and any feedback on their strategy use they received from the teacher during the lesson. These ideas are key in managing small groups—knowing if the group and reading work match the needs of individual learners. If students have reread the text during independent reading time, we may also see evidence of how they have solidified their learning.  Sometimes students leave guided reading lessons still working out meaning. Sometimes they are working through challenging phrasing or vocabulary. And sometimes they may still be uncovering layers of meaning that didn’t come up during the guided reading lesson. All of these understandings may be observed on a “warm” reading record.  This information determines if students are in the best group and best text possible, or if it is time to adjust the group members or to move on to more challenging texts—all important ideas in managing guided reading groups. To manage small groups with the flexibility required for guided reading, “warm” reading records are essential tools for use by the classroom teacher.