Dear Marie Clay (part 3)

When I read picture books with little ones, I always do a picture walk. We talk about what we see. I give them words that match the pictures. I ask what that word is in their language. I want to know what they notice and what they don’t. I might not point out everything because I want them to make their own discoveries, but I do give them some tools to make the text accessible to them.

That seems to be what your directions for Running Records tell me to do. You never said that Running Records should be done on a cold read.

Would it shock you to hear that when we do Running Records for benchmarking or progress monitoring (I’ll leave that description for another post, but if you are truly curious and can’t wait, click here), we cannot assist our students with a picture walk?

We can walk them through a level A book, but not books leveled B or above. We are directed to hand the book to the student and advise them to look at the pictures.

No vocabulary support. No extra noticing. Nothing.

We are disrespecting our little readers. We are hanging them out to dry.

When a student is reading a Level A, B or C book (and often other levels), they are using strategies to help them figure out the words and often the strategies have little to do with phonics and phonemic awareness. They might use picture clues (oh, that’s a picture of a giraffe, so one of these words must be giraffe) or schema (I’ve been to a zoo and I know that giraffes are tall and have skinny, long necks. That word probably is giraffe).

My own kinders haven’t yet learned that the letter G sometimes makes the same sound that the letter J makes. And many of them have never seen either a goat or a giraffe. Or they might know that in Spanish, that animal in the picture is called a jirafa, and unlike some people reading this post, they know that jirafa starts with the same sound as hat.

So when they see a picture of a giraffe, they might read the sentence below the picture

I see a giraffe.


I see a goat.


I see a jirafa.


I see… ummm…

Each one is an error that will pull down the results of their “test.”

Each one says something different about their reading behaviors and THAT was most important thing for you.

But, oh, yeah, we’re not looking at reading behaviors. We’re looking at levels. And teacher efficacy.

Oh, Marie. Your brilliant way of helping us pay attention to our students’ reading behaviors has been reduced to this.


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