Cold Read? Warm Read? Hot Read? What does it all mean?

I have been asked more than once about this.  What does it all mean? These readings for students are VERY different.  Each type of reading has a specific reason for doing them, what information we get from them, and when we do them.  Each reading has a value and a place in instruction. I'm hoping this will provide clear answers (and maybe a reference for the future).
Cold Read? Warm Read? Hot Read? Using each type of reading can help teachers create strong, independent readers through lessons, practice, and refinement.

Cold Read

In the world of psychics, a cold read is what the psychic can tell you about your future without having any information from you.  It's the same in the world of reading. What can I glean from what they can do independently?  What do they know?  The introduction is usually scripted and limited to a sentence or two.  We are asked to observe what they can do independently...without instruction.  Are they using strategies?  Is this level a comfortable level for reading; therefore, opening the door for instruction.

A cold read is done infrequently...usually three times a year (beginning, middle, and end of the year).  It is also usually done using a specific Benchmarking system (Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, Rigby, Reading A to Z, Next Step Guided Reading Assessment, Independent Reading Assessment and many more).  Our school uses the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, but I have used others in the past.  The books provided are unpracticed, that is, students are given a book they have never seen before to read and discuss. The accuracy, fluency, and comprehension point to an instructional level.
Cold Read? Warm Read? Hot Read? Using each type of reading can help teachers create strong, independent readers through lessons, practice, and refinement.

Warm Read

A warm read is the reading assessment used most frequently with students.  These assessments can be called running records.  Students at levels A-M or DRA levels 1-28 should expect a running record anywhere from one time a week (below level readers) to one time a month (above level readers). This is an oral assessment of a previously taught and practiced book or a portion of a previously read book.  The running record is typically the day after the book is given.  Students have gotten an introduction, a vocabulary lesson, and practice reading the book in small group instruction.  The students practice independently when they have time (after work is completed or during independent reading time).  Books should not be sent home for practice before a running record.  The running record is used to determine how well the students understood the lessons from the day before, how they use their decoding and comprehension strategies.  Teachers can take note of progress on a particular strategy.

The running record is an integral part of small group instruction.  Each day a running record one student is given a running record at the beginning of the lesson.  When students come to my small group table, I ask one to read the book from the day before and the others can read from their bag of books (the previously 5 books), but not the book from the day before.  After the running record, I introduce the new book for the day.

After the group leaves, you must take the time to analyze the running record.  Analyzing their errors is the perfect way to determine what they need.  It will tell you what skills are weak and what lessons will make them stronger, but that's another post for another day.
Cold Read? Warm Read? Hot Read? Using each type of reading can help teachers create strong, independent readers through lessons, practice, and refinement.

Hot Read

I had a teacher tell me that running records were not useful.  Her students always made 100% and it didn't give her any useful information. My first thought was her students must be leveled incorrectly, but when I continued to question the teacher she explained she only did running records on Fridays.  I was confused.  I continued to question her.  Yep, on Friday she did all the running records from the week.  She had sent the books home for homework, she had required students to read the books to each other, and she had required the books to be read during daily independent reading time. Oh goodness. That's a hot read. She was right, there was no value in THOSE running records, because they weren't geared for instruction.

However, there is a value to a hot read, but it isn't instructional information for reading levels.  BUT, use hot reads for fluency practice.  Once students are familiar with the book, they can practice for expression, inflection, and intonation.

Go Forth and Assess

I hope this post gives you a clear explanation of these readings. Using cold reads, you can determine where instruction should begin.  Using warm reads, you determine student progress at that level.  Using hot reads, you can make the reading fluent.  Each reading has a purpose.

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