Maintaining Records & Reports as a Reading Instructor

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

All teachers rely upon paperwork to portray the position of student learning. This lesson discusses how to use records and reports to improve your role as a reading instructor.

The Role of Records and Reports

The job of a reading instructor is no simple task. This subject centers on helping students develop fluency in reading and writing, which are lifelong skills developed over time. Knowing how each student's skills grow throughout the year is essential.

Records and reports are data and evidence of student learning, and can be used to track said learning. These can come in a variety of types, including student work, teacher observation, and fluency assessments. Some may showcase reading skills, while others focus more on writing, speaking, and/or listening. Each record or report should have clear, useful information that is easy to analyze. There are three main areas in which records and reports can be used: instruction, assessment and communication.

Records for Instruction

The first use for records and reports is for instruction, or the transfer of knowledge from one person to another. As teachers, we are responsible for that transfer, but how it comes about is up to us. All great teachers adapt their instruction to best suit the needs of their students.

This is where records and reports come into play. How do you know if the instruction you have planned truly promotes learning? To determine this, analyze the data and evidence. One way is to keep written records, or notes on what you see going on in class. Record how certain group activities work for specific material, or the direction class discussions take. Analyze these notes, see what works best, and adapt your instruction accordingly.

It is important to note that written observations do come with limits. They are great for an overall evaluation, but they can be lacking when dealing with specific students. It may be that the class as a whole thrives with a certain style of instruction, but a handful of students within that class do not. Thus, you need to carefully analyze these records and possibly take into account other types of records when making decisions about your instruction.

Records for Assessment

The second use is for assessment, which is the evaluation of the students' ability. In the educational system, this is mostly done with grades (i.e., A is the best grade a student can earn, and F is the worst). No matter the grading guidelines, records and reports should be used to support student assessment.

Keeping records of students' development in reading and writing will allow you to assign an accurate grade for each grading period. Records can consist of graded work samples, like exams, quizzes, or essays, or other reports on fluency.

A curriculum-based measurement (CBM) is an assessment for reading fluency. To use it, select a passage at grade level of about 600 words. Have the student read the passage aloud for two minutes while noting any miscues, which are any mistakes or hesitations. Subtract the number of miscues from the total number of words the student read to find how many words were read correctly. Use this data to compare to other fluent readers at grade level and to record any concerns. A CBM can be used each grading period to see what progress the student is making.

As with all types of records and reports, there are limitations. For instance, if a student completes a CBM twice a quarter, he or she will naturally improve just by seeing the same type of report over and over. Additionally, there is much debate on whether assigning letter grades can really express how much a student has learned in the course of the year. Does getting an A necessarily mean the student has mastered all the skills at that grade level? Maybe…but maybe not. The best strategy is to use a variety of records and reports when making assessment decisions.

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