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Exactly how a running record is constructed varies by the specific purpose for which it will be used and the program for which it is used. However, there are some similarities across methods. First, a child reads a selected book or passage aloud. The teacher or tutor has a copy of the words, typed out on a different piece of paper, or uses a blank sheet of paper and consults the text later. As the child reads, the adult makes a mark for each correctly-read word. However, if the child makes a mistake, the adult might circle the word, write down the type of error, or even write down what incorrect word was said. After the child is finished reading, the adult calculates the percentage of words read correctly and how often the child self-corrected an error. The adult will conduct a miscue analysis sometimes during and always after the reading is completed. The analysis is always done in a Reading Recovery lesson to inform planning for the next lesson. This information can then be used as described above.
A running record is one method of assessing a child's reading level by examining both accuracy and the types of errors made. It is most often utilized as part of a Reading Recovery session in school or any education centre. A running record gives the teacher an indication of whether material currently being read is too easy or too difficult for the child, and it serves as an indicator of the areas where a child's reading can improve— for example, if a child frequently makes word substitutions that begin with the same letter as the printed word, the teacher will know to focus on getting the child to look beyond the first letter of a word.
A running record can also be used for subjects besides reading.