"Down and Dirty" Miscue Analysis
Whole language is based on the theory that readers predict, interact,
and confirm while they are reading. They use letter-sound, syntax,
"and semantic (meaning) cues to make those predictions in order
to understand what they are reading. The miscue analysis measures
their ability to use these cue sys- tems and strategies. This information
allows the instructor to develop strategy lessons appropriate for
the individual reader.
For example, a reader may score 85 percent acceptability for letter-sound
cues and 20 percent grammatical acceptability .The same reader may
be good at using letter-sound cues to predict, but not good at using
meaning cues. This reader leaves nonsense words in the passage or
substitutes one word for another even though it makes no sense and
obscure the meaning of the passage. This reader might be given strategy
lessons that would strengthen her/his usage of syntax cues, as well
as ones that would strengthen semantic strategies.
Be aware that the miscue analysis is not a skills test. It evaluates
the efficiency of the strategies that a reader uses and it indicates
where help is needed. With that in mind, the following notes outline
how to do a miscue analysis:
1. A complete text--one that is slightly challenging to the reader
and takes approximately 15 minutes to read
2. A copy of the text that you can mark on
3. A tape recorder and tape
4. Miscue analysis form ( see copy of form by B. Sherman &J.
DeLawter, c. 1977, appendix 13)
Make sure the tape recorder is working. Start the tape. First,
have the reader read the entire text. Keep your comments supportive,
but do not supply words; suggest that s/he "go on, " or
"skip it. " After s/he has finished reading, ask for a
retelling. Do not give any prompts. When the reader finishes retelling
the story , you can then ask direct questions, such as, Who were
the characters? How would you describe that character? What do you
think the author was trying to tell us? Finally, turn off the tape,
thank the reader and tell her/him s/he may go.
Now listen to the tape, marking each miscue as you go. Number
them. For this "down and dirty" miscue analysis, stop
marking at miscue number 25. (In a full miscue analysis, you would
mark them all.) However, listen to the entire tape once to get an
idea of the reader's dialect, repeated miscues, and to see how many
non-word miscues appear .*
The miscues to be marked are:
1) If the reader guesses phonetically and there is no such word,
write the phonetic representation above the word.
2) If a word is replaced, write in the replacement.
3) If the word is omitted, circle it.
4) If a word is inserted, put a caret in the place where it was
5) If the miscue is corrected by the reader , underline the miscue
and draw a line in front of it, placing a circled " C "
Once you have marked the text, you are now ready to fill in the
miscue analysis form. Look at each miscue individually for high
or low letter-sound relationship, then grammatical acceptability
and whether or not the miscue changes the meaning of the sentence
(sections II-IV). If there is no meaning change, then the miscue
is automatically a strong miscue and gets marked within the pattern
section (V) as " strength. " If there is a complete change
in meaning, it is automatically a weak miscue and gets marked as
such. If there is an attempt to correct the miscue and it is grammatically
acceptable, there is "some strength " to the miscue and
it should be marked as such.
Determine the percentages for each grouping. What you are looking
at is the efficiency with which the reader uses each cue system.
Now listen to the retelling. For each element of the retelling
(eg., character identification), the reader can receive a given
number of points (section VI). Use your judgement. How many characters
were identified? How accurate was the description of each character?
How many of the events of the story did the reader recall? Did the
reader remember the order of events? Did the reader understand the
plot? Did s/he know what the message or moral was? And finally,
did s/he bring her/his own experience into the retelling? Add up
Section VII is important too. Repeated miscues, such as quotation
marks, or-ing or -ed endings, may indicate a particular problem.
Completing the bar graph summary (VIII) will tell you where the
reader's strengths and weaknesses are. For example, if the reader
gets an 85 percent for sound-letter relationships and a 10 percent
for meaning, then the reader may need to learn that the passage
must make sense. This reader may also not know that s!he can correct
By reading the graph and understanding the patterns, individual
reading strategy lessons can be developed for that individual reader's
needs. For further help in looking at Miscue Analysis, The Whole
Language Evaluation Book, by Goodman, Goodman & Hood (Heinemann)
is helpful. For help in developing strategy lessons please refer
to Whole Language Strategies for Secondary Students, edited
by Gilles, Bixby, Crowley, Crenshaw, Henrichs, Reynolds & Pyle.
(Richard C. Owens).
* Non-word miscues: this one is especially tale telling, for it
indicates that the only real strategy the reader is using is a letter-sound
strategy and that other strate- gies need to be developed.
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Originally published in Adventures in Assessment,
Volume 1 (November 1991),
SABES/World Education, Boston, MA, Copyright 2003.
Funding support for the publication of this document
on the Web provided in part by the Ohio State Literacy Resource
Center as part of the LINCS
Assessment Special Collection.