people reading on benches

Ongoing assessment for reading

By Jeanne Gunther

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Cuing systems are the self-extending systems students use to act upon text in order to make sense of it. These systems may be used independently or in conjunction with one another. When you administer running records, you can analyze cuing systems for both errors and self-corrections.

What can be confusing when thinking about cuing systems in terms of errors and error analysis is that a teacher must think about what methods the student is using that are positively helping him or her to navigate the text. A teacher should ask, “What is working for this child in this case?” By recognizing and supporting cuing systems that the child is already using successfully, you can help him or her read more effectively in the future.

Identifying cuing systems

If the student makes an error while reading, the teacher would begin by writing the letters M (for meaning), S (for syntax), and V (for visual) in the column for errors on the running records sheet.

example of running record

The teacher must now analyze the error by identifying which type or types of cuing systems the student used.

  • Meaning: Did the meaning of the text have an impact on the child’s reading? Pictures and information taken from them are considered meaning cues.
  • Syntax: Did the child read the sentence in a grammatical and linguistically reasonable manner? In other words, does it make sense as a sentence in English? If there was a substitution, for example, did he or she substitute a proper part of speech?
  • Visual: This is also called graphophonic information. What did the word look like? Did the student look at the word and make an attempt based on how it appears? Did he or she use a beginning or ending letter? A cluster of letters?

For example, suppose the printed text next to a picture of a horse reads “I like my horse” and the student reads “I like my pony.” The teacher can clearly see the picture of the horse on the page. She decides that this cue is probably being used, since they pitcure could actually be seen as a pony. This is a meaning cue, and so she circles the M.

Next, the teacher would observe that the sentence “I like my pony” makes sense in English. Pony and horse are both nouns and can be substituted without sounding out of place while reading. She therefore circles the S.

Finally, the teacher notes that the only letter that horse and pony have in common is o. The teacher does not feel in the child has attended to the visual information within the word and does not circle the V.

example of running record

In this case, the child was using two cuing systems together: meaning and syntax. Now suppose the child went back and corrected this error, reading, “I like my horse.” The teacher would now write the letters M, S, and V in the SC (self-correction) column next to the line of text on the running records sheet, right next to the MSV in the E column. The teacher would now circle the V, as this (visual) was the cuing system that helped the student realize that something was wrong with the reading and was the method used for self-correction. Using one cueing system to “check” the choice made by another cueing system is called cross-checking.

example of running record