Summative Assessments: Miscue Analysis

Authentic assessments help us observe indicators that children comprehend messages, have good reading habits, and are interested in stories or books.

One of the most authentic ways to assess how well a child reads is by observing them reading.  Observing how children read is sometimes called miscue analysis, running record, or an oral reading test (ORT).

  1.  What is miscue analysis?

When we listen to kids read aloud, we can notice in an intentional way where they make mistakes (miscues).  This tells us what kids might be struggling with as they start to read on their own.  We get to see how often kids miscue, hesitate, self-correct, or ask for clarification…or how often they just breeze right past words they don’t understand.  This can be very helpful in knowing how to guide students to better reading habits.


2. Who is this assessment for?   

This test is for non-fluent readers  with some limited reading ability:   not true beginners, not the most advanced readers…only “just starting to read on my own” and intermediate students can use this. Beginners decoding word-by-word at a very slow rate may find this test more stressful than it’s worth, and if children miss more than 5 words in a row, they stop the test.  Advanced, very fluent readers will not benefit from this assessment because they’re already fluent and other tests can look at deeper comprehension of text.


3.  What does miscue analysis assess? 

Miscue analysis is primarily used to indicate how fluently children read, often timing correct (and incorrect) words per minute.   Teachers can also get an idea of how much students comprehend by noting where students struggle (miscue) as they read.


4.  What is fluency?

Fluency is not “speed.”

Fluency is:

1. accuracy (the number of miscues/words attempted),

2. automaticity (the number of words attempted),

3. prosody (the “voice” or expression children give a text) –We can infer how interested they are & how well they understand.

The most obvious sign that a student is a fluent reader is when they simply reads at the same speed he would talk.  Around 100 words per minute is typically considered a “fluent reader.” Students reading this fluently are ready to start reading more narrowly for deeper comprehension in a subject they are interested in.  I would move them to my content-based instruction class.


5.  How do I give this assessment?

The simple way:

Take antidotal notes or use this rubric of what you generally observed, or perhaps this excellent reading fluency rubric from Tim Rasinski.

Observe how children self-select text at or near their ability level (as always encourage children to put it down and get a new one if they think it’s hard) and make sure texts are something new they’ve never read.

You can optionally gather any of this information:

  • note the type of text the kids choose (this from Fountas and Pinnell is very, very simple and easy to use)
  • ask kids to read for exactly 60 seconds; count the exact words per minute
  • make simple tallies for words they struggle to read correctly  (you can put the last two items in a chart for your administrators)

The harder, more formal way: 

More formal documentation of miscues makes the test more reliable, but this is extra work, so should be done only if absolutely necessary.

Just watch the first two minutes and notice how she reads the same text and checks each correct word as he reads, and notes any mistakes/miscues.  Children can just read for one minute if you prefer, but if they struggle, stop immediately.

The text was chosen for the student and is leveled for easy comparison.  In English, there are many choices for leveled texts, just talk to your librarian.    Reading A-Z has a set of leveled texts in English and multiple languages.  You can also use your own text with these simple text analysis tools.

Be aware no one number can tell us absolutely how hard or easy a text is: amount of visual support, level of student interest, etc. factor in.  That’s why I prefer “the simple way” to make generalizations about the books students actually choose: this is information I can use to track their reading habits (which are more interesting to me than their exact Lexile).


6.  When do I give this assessment?

A couple of times a year, this assessment can document growth, as well as help you make summative decisions about who is and is not ready for FVR and where to place children.  When it is not graded, it doesn’t feel like a test, so there is limited text anxiety or bias against struggling learners.


Published by

Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

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