Miscue Analysis for Diagnosing Reading Skills

Boy reading book at desk.

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Miscue analysis is a means to use a running record for diagnosis to identify students' specific difficulties. Not only is the running record a way to identify reading rate and reading accuracy, it also is a way to assess reading behaviors and identify reading behaviors that need support.

A miscue analysis is a great way to get some authentic information about a student's reading skills, and a means to identify specific weaknesses.

Many screening tools will give you a "down and dirty" estimate of a child's reading proficiency but provide little usable information for designing appropriate interventions.

The Miscues to Look for During a Miscue Analysis

Correction
A common sign of a competent reader, a correction is a miscue that the student corrects in order to make sense of the word in the sentence. 

Insertion
An insertion is a word(s) added by the child that is not in the text.

Omission
During oral reading, the student omits a word that changes the meaning of the sentence.

Repetition
The student repeats a word or portion of the text.

Reversal
A child will reverse the order of the print or the word. (from instead of form, etc.)

Substitution
Instead of reading the word in the text, a child substitutes a word that may or may not make sense in the passage.

What Do the Miscues Tell You?

Correction
This is good!  We want readers to self-correct.

However, is the reader reading too fast? Is the reader miscorrecting accurate reading? If so, the reader often doesn't see himself as a 'good' reader.

Insertion
Does the inserted word detract from meaning? If not, it may just mean the reader is making sense but also inserts. The reader may also be reading too fast.

If the insertion is something like using finished for finish, this should be addressed.

Omission
When words are omitted, it may mean weaker visual tracking. Determine if the meaning of the passage is affected or not. If not, omissions can also be the result of not focusing or reading too fast. It may also mean the sight vocabulary is weaker.

Repetition
Lots of repetition may indicate that the text is too difficult. Sometimes readers repeat when they're uncertain and will repeat the word(s) to keep the words coming as they regroup. 

Reversal
Watch for altered meaning. Many reversals happen with young readers with high-frequency words. It may also indicate that the student has difficulty with scanning the text, left to right.

Substitutions
Sometimes a child will use a substitution because they don't understand the word being read. Does the substitution make sense in the passage, is it a logical substitution?  If the substitution does not change the meaning, it is often enough to help the child focus on accuracy, because he/she is reading from meaning, the most important skill. 

Creating the Miscue Instrument

It is often helpful to have the text copied so you can make notes directly on the text.

  A double-spaced copy can be helpful. Create a key for each miscue, and be sure to write the substitution or pre-correction above the word that was miscued so you can identify the pattern later. 

Reading A-Z provides assessments with the first books at each reading level that provide both the text (for notes) and columns of each of the miscue types. 

Performing a Miscue Analysis

Miscue analysis is an important diagnostic tool that should be done every 6 to 8 weeks to give a sense if reading interventions are addressing the student's needs.  Making sense of the miscues will help you with the next steps to improve the child's reading. It is worthwhile to have a few questions prepared that let you know about the child's comprehension of the passage read as miscue analysis tends to rely on advising you of the strategies used.

Miscue analysis may seem time-consuming initially, however, the more you do, the easier the process gets.

  • Use unfamiliar text, not something the child knows from memory.
  • A miscue analysis will be inaccurate when administered to an emerging reader, but the information may still be of value.
  • Give the student some choice in the reading selection.
  • You will need a quiet place without interruptions, it can be very handy to record the child which provides you with an opportunity to listen to the passage more than once.
  • Photocopy the selection the student will read, use this to record the miscues.
  • Record each miscue. (Use hyphens for skipped words, record each substitution (ie, went for when), use for insertion and record the word(s), circle omitted words, underline repeated words, you may also want to use // for repeated words.