For retrospective miscue.com

There was a time in my life as a teacher that I didn’t consider what students believed about reading or themselves as readers when we read together. What mattered then was only how the students ‘sounded’ as they read, whether they made ‘mistakes’ or not and how ‘fluently’ they read.

Years later, through miscue analysis, I realize how off base I was then.  By understanding miscue analysis I hear the wealth of strengths students reveal about themselves as readers. These include their focus on constructing meaning, their knowledge of grammar and phonics, their prediction and self-correction strategies, etc.  I’ve read with LOTS of readers and have yet to meet one without strengths. Miscue analysis helps me understand where students need support and where I can use strategy lessons to build on their strengths so they read more efficiently and effectively.

Before I first read with a student I always begin with the Burke Reading Interview (BRI) because it gives me insights into the students’ beliefs about reading and themselves as readers. I use this information as I design strategy lessons and retrospective miscue analysis sessions with readers.

The BRI [Burke Reading Interview]  includes questions that probe students’ beliefs of what reading is, how it works, and who they are as readers.

  1. When you’re reading and you come to something you don’t know, what do you do? Do you ever do anything else?
  2. Who is a good reader that you know?
  1. What makes __________________ a good reader?
  1. Do you think _________________ ever comes to something they don’t know?
  1. “Yes”: When ____does come to something s/he doesn’t know, what do you think s/he does? “No”: Suppose ____comes to something s/he doesn’t know. What would s/he do?
  1. What would you do to help someone having difficulty reading?
  1. What would a/your teacher do to help that person?
  1. How did you learn to read?
  1. What would you like to do better as a reader? Do you think you are a good reader? Why?

The same type of question is asked in different ways to more fully flesh out students’ beliefs. I learn what students believe about the reading process, how reading works, and strategies they use from questions 1 5, 6, and 9. Students who identify strategies such as ‘sound it out’, ‘ask you’, or ‘break it into parts’ I know most likely have a more skills-oriented view of reading than meaning-oriented students who respond ‘think about what makes sense’, ‘keep reading’, or ‘skip it and come back later’.  The ‘something’ in question 1 is critical because students’ responses indicate if they believe reading is about words/skills or meaning.

Responses to questions 2, 3, 4, and 5 help me understand students’ beliefs about good readers.  Some students believe good readers ‘know all the words’ and ‘read fast’ while others believe good readers ‘understand what they read’. Questions 6 & 7 give insights into students’ perceptions of instruction while question 8 reveals students’ memories (positive or not) of learning to read.

Questions 9 and 10 are eye-opening!  Often I can guess students’ responses before we get to those questions. I’ve come to value the critical importance of these questions too because I KNOW that students who don’t have positive perceptions of themselves as readers will make little progress until those perceptions change (which is where retrospective miscue analysis and other strategies come in).

The BRI questions are jump off points and not intended to be strictly followed.  I often ask follow up questions to clarify students’ responses and deepen my understandings of them as readers. The BRI has been adapted for older readers [BRI for Older Readers] and bilingual students [BRI in Spanish]. With bilingual interview it’s good to include questions about students’ other language(s) and strategies they use in those languages as well as English.

Please try the BRI and let me know what you learn about your students!  Enjoy!

Prisca Martens  (pmartens@towson.edu)

The Essential RMA:  http://www.retrospectivemiscue.com

Richard C. Owen: http://www.rcowen.com/PB-Indv-ERMA.htm


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Prisca is a Professor in the Department of Elementary Education at Towson University where she teaches courses in reading, literacy, and children's literature.


  1. Exploring the Burke Reading Interview is really useful when teachers first meet their students. Prisca, you have provided information about the BRI that will be most useful for readers with a range of ages and proficiency levels.


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