How to Teach the RACE Writing Strategy - Caffeine Queen Teacher
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How to Teach the RACE Writing Strategy

Many teachers and students use the RACES or RACE writing strategy to answer questions thoroughly as they cite and support answers with text evidence from the reading.

WHAT IS THE RACE/RACES WRITING RESPONSE STRATEGY?

Students and teachers rely on the RACE/RACES written response strategy for a good reason. It’s a simple method for teaching students how to answer text-based questions. RACE/RACES helps students remember the key components of a quality response as they answer questions about a passage, story, or any text.

Many students aren’t sure how to begin when faced with writing out answers about what they’ve read. This easy-to-use method gives students confidence. Moreover, it’s a concrete strategy they can use in all subject areas.

student using RACE to answer a text-based question

 

WHY SHOULD TEACHERS USE RACE/RACES?

Students struggle to write complete answers to text-based questions on tests, quizzes, assignments, and high-stakes tests. RACE/RACES is a step-by-step formula that can be used across all subject areas, leading to increased confidence.

All students benefit from explicit writing instruction. However, reluctant writers require direct instruction on what to write and how to write it. In addition, they should practice regularly to improve their skills.

The RACE/RACES strategy helps students organize their thinking and writing. Through each step, such as citing text evidence and extending their answers, students add details. As a result, students learn essential skills as they practice writing complete, thorough, and clear responses.

 

What do the letters in RACE/RACES mean?

First, you need to choose either RACE or RACES for your instruction. RACE/RACES are acronyms that stand for the following writing strategies:

 

RACE:

R – Restate the question

A – Answer the question

C – Cite the text evidence

E – Explain and extend the evidence

 

RACES:

R – Restate the question

A – Answer the question

C – Cite the text evidence

E – Explain and extend the evidence

S – Summarize your answer

classroom RACES bulletin board idea for successfully teaching writing to students

The R in RACE/RACES means “Restate the question.”

Restating the question becomes the topic sentence for the student’s answer. Each letter of RACE/RACES doesn’t have to be a complete sentence on its own. The R is often combined with the A in the same sentence. Remember – writing is individualized, and there’s more than one way of doing it.

 

The A stands for “Answer the question.”

Students provide the answer to the question in their own words. Unfortunately, many students resist taking the time to refer back to the text. I stress to my students that they need to look back in the reading to find the answer, even if they think they already know it.

Additionally, students need to make sure they answer all parts of the question. Unfortunately, students often answer only part of the question, causing them to lose points.

 

The C stands for “Cite the text evidence.”

First, students must understand what “cite” means. I often link “cite” to the word “sight” and connect it to looking back in the reading and seeing the answer with their eyes. Building that connection may help some students remember the meaning, especially if “cite” is a new word for them.

I also tell my students this step is where they need to use words and ideas straight from the text. In a follow-up lesson, older students should quote the text using quotation marks, which teachers should directly teach. Younger students can tell what the text says without directly quoting the text.

All students benefit from practicing with sentence starters (also called sentence stems). Sentence starters are the beginnings of sentences that allow students to fill in the blanks with the text evidence. Students (especially struggling students) find them very helpful for this step of the writing process.

Some examples are:

“The text states ___”

“The author explains ___”

There are many good sentence starters for students to choose from. They should use the ones they’re most comfortable with, and that come most naturally. (If you’re looking for a set that you can display in your classroom, see the section at the end for links to matching sentence starter sets!)

 

The E stands for “Explain and extend the evidence.”

Lots of e’s! This step directs students to expand on their answers. They should explain the answer and text evidence using their own words. They should also provide examples to clarify their explanations.

 

The S (if you choose to use it) stands for “Summarize your answer.”

Like a summary/closing sentence in paragraph writing, this works as a restatement of the topic sentence. It concludes the response.

RACE or RACES writing strategy bulletin board idea for class

How do I teach the RACE/RACES method?

As with any instruction, there there are many right ways of teaching a topic. You know your students best, so you can choose and adjust your teaching to their needs. Below are some general guidelines to keep in mind.

1. Choose the right text for the RACE/RACES strategy

Of course, choosing the right text depends entirely on your students. Students can apply the RACE/RACES strategy to any text, so you have many options. But I can offer you the following tips for successful instruction.

Begin with a simple reading comprehension paragraph. It must be simple enough for students to understand yet meaty enough to contain details. We want to keep the focus on answering the question rather than understanding the text. For this purpose, I’ve found it best to begin with a basic passage on an interesting topic.

Eventually, as students practice and improve their skills, you can challenge them with more complex text.

2. Differentiate for students and their needs

Differentiating is fairly easy and straightforward when using RACE/RACES. 

During the introduction phase or for struggling students and special education students, choose passages that are familiar in some way to your students. For example, you might select a previously studied topic or a text that students have already read.

image of student using the RACE method to answer a text-based question during class

3. Use different types of reading materials

We know the importance of exposing our students to a wide variety of reading materials. RACE/RACES can be used for all types of reading. So, as students become accustomed to the RACE/RACES strategy, you can choose any genre or type of reading material and feel confident it will work well.

You may also differentiate by choosing several passages of varying levels for different ability levels in your classroom.

When it’s time to add variety and challenge to the texts, here are some suggestions:

  • Vary the text length
  • Vary the genre – fiction, nonfiction, persuasion, expository, etc.
  • Vary the complexity
  • Vary the question types
  • Use paired passages

4. Teach important words and terms

Teachers should instruct students on the meanings of the important terms, such as “cite,” “extend,” and “explain,” many times in multiple ways.

  • Explain the important terms and methods as you “think aloud.”
  • Use the terms frequently each day as you teach. Students learn new terms and vocabulary best when they hear it often in a natural way. 

5. Use color-coding to highlight

As you’re working through the steps of RACE/RACES, be sure to highlight and underline text as you color-code each step using different colors. Then, continue the modeling and think-alouds for as long as students need.

RACE or RACES writing strategy lesson and bulletin board set cover from Teachers Pay Teachers

RACE or RACES in Boho style

6. Offer visuals for easy reference

Hang visual references in your classroom and encourage students to refer to them. Posters make great visual representations hanging in the classroom. Anchor charts can be developed as a class or in small groups. Students can be given the RACE/RACES bookmarks as references taped to notebooks or even desks. Students may benefit from receiving multiple copies of the bookmark references to be kept in notebooks at school and home.

7. Think about pacing and reviewing

You can teach one step per day, two steps, or more. The pace depends on the age and ability level of your students.

The RACE/RACES strategy must be modeled and practiced many times.  The practice should occur as a group, together at first, then students can be gradually released to independence.

A Quick RACE/RACES Recap:

  • Explain important terms and steps as you “think aloud.”
  • Model the steps as the class watches.
  • Begin encouraging students to contribute their own ideas. Students can read passages and develop answers to text-based questions as a large group, small group, and with partners.
  • Transition students to independence after ensuring they understand what’s expected of them.
  • Use important terms daily as you teach. Students will gain a deeper understanding as they hear important words being used naturally and frequently. 

Over time, keep students’ writing skills sharp by spiraling back to practice the RACE/RACES writing technique over and over. The continued practice may not make students’ writing perfect, but it can help make their skills permanent and fresh in their minds.

 

Looking for SENTENCE STARTERS?

If you need some Sentence Starters ready to be printed and hung in your classroom, check out the Sentence Starters sets at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I’ve got several sets for you to choose from.

writing-stems-for-constructed-response-questions

writing-stems-student-reference-cards

 

Want to learn more about citing text evidence?

Your students can successfully cite text evidence as they respond to reading comprehension questions.

This article will guide you step-by-step on how to teach your students to cite text evidence in their reading.

 

Read this article to learn How to Teach Compare and Contrast Essays

 

Try this article to help students write high-quality responses and prepare for tests with Sentence Starters.

 

If you use a PLOT DIAGRAM, this article shows you How to Use the Plot Diagram for Teaching. 

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