Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Running Records and ELLs: Miscue Analysis

Recently I was asked about how best to use running records with ELLs. As we know from the literacy field, running records give us a "snapshot" of a child's reading behaviors. They also help us determine a student's instructional reading level.

There are several things I'd like to encourage you to keep in mind with regards to ELLs and running records.

TIP #1 - Provide sufficient processing time. It is critically important to provide students with enough processing time to comprehend the text and formulate their responses to your questions.

TIP #2 – Go beyond simply recording the miscues. Seek to understand why the student is doing what he is doing. Keep these ideas in mind:
  • Is the social-cultural context of the story unfamiliar to your student?
  • Look for evidence of linguistic borrowing, semantic extensions or other forms of linguistic creativity.  This can give a teacher valuable information about how the student uses both of their languages to understand text.  In turn, this can impact instruction in a powerful way.  
  • Consider the semantic/meaning system to be a strength that the child will rely on to monitor his reading. For example, does the inserted word make sense in the sentence?
  • Typically the syntactical/structural system would be the least reliable for an ELL since his syntactical system is still developing in English.  We can observe this development in a child's oral and written language. Often we first observe it in oral language.   Because an ELL is developing his structural system, it is not helpful to ask "does it sound right?" when referring to structural errors; his system is typically not strong enough to confirm or disconfirm a correct structure.
  • When looking at miscues, we know that ELLs may drop inflectional endings (i.e. –ed, -s, -ing).  We want to avoid an overemphasis on the visual system.  We want a child to integrate multiple sources of information. Sometimes it is difficult to discern if a child is "not looking" (for example, at word endings) or if what the child has read aloud is a reflection of his stage in language development.  At this point, it is important to ask:  "What have I noticed in this child's oral language?  Does he have control over this type of ending or is this still developing?"
  • Keep in mind that students use their cueing systems differently in different languages. This former Reading Recovery teacher turned blogger shares her thoughts here.  
TIP #3- Anticipate how you will document mispronunciations that are unique to English language learners. English language learners should not be automatically penalized for mispronouncing a word. Consider the suggestions from another blogger here. Naturally the background knowledge that a student has with regards to phonics in their native language may affect their oral reading in English. Decide ahead of time how you will document mispronunciations.

TIP#4-Learn more about the structure of your students' native languages and how they impact their developing literacy skills. I highly recommend reading Bilingual Means Two (free to download here and then check out Teaching for Biliteracy  - . Together they provide a wonderful context for the book Learner English, which is a great reference for understanding linguistic interference between English and other languages.
Thanks to Audrey in Wisconsin for posing this question.

Interested in reading more about running records?  Click here for some  tips on the comprehension component of a running record.

Written by: Tammy King


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