Back to school in your ELA classroom can be a wonderful experience, as you get ready to inspire, motivate, and teach your brand new students.
The school year usually brings with it a huge amount of planning and organization on your part after the relaxation of summer vacation.
So let’s get started with looking at one of the potential challenges you will encounter this year: helping your students feel confident writing paragraphs, and taking their response writing up a level!
Students who struggle with writing and students with disabilities can often struggle with integrating textual evidence. It can be tricky as a teacher to help them keep up with the pressures of standardized testing and Common Core curriculum. So, how can you do this?
Let’s look below at a tried and tested strategy that will help all your students feel more confident and more easily able to support their answers with evidence.
What is the RACE Strategy?
During my seven years as a teacher in both general and special education, I learned how important it is to provide scaffolded support to teach reading and writing.
The RACE strategy was developed in the field by educators. The strategy is the perfect way to support written responses that require students to support their answers with evidence from the text. It became popular because it works!
Let’s first look at exactly what the RACE strategy is used for.
What is the RACE Strategy used for? RACE is a mnemonic device that helps students write open-ended constructed responses. This strategy is especially helpful for struggling writers and students with disabilities, but it can also be helpful scaffolding for all students.
The reason the RACE strategy works brilliantly is that it helps your students do what every good writer would always do naturally. Students are given scaffolding and strategies in understanding how to restate questions in complete sentences. This can be quite a difficult concept for some students.
Once the question has been rewritten, then another potential challenge for your students can be citing their evidence, and finally, fully explaining why they arrived at their answer.
RACE provides a simple, easy to follow guide that students can easily remember, enabling them to provide concise and competent writing that deliver answers, arguments, solutions and evidence on their thought process.
Let’s take a look below at RACE stands for, why it is such an important strategy for assisting struggling students and how it build a solid framework on which your students are able to offer clear, well-worded answers.
- R: Restate the question
- A: Answer all parts of the question
- C: Cite the text to provide evidence
- E: Explain your citation
Many students, both able and less able, often struggle to master such skills as:
● Embedding quotations
● Citing text evidence
● Supporting answers with detail
The reason the RACE strategy works brilliantly is that it helps your students do what every good writer would always do naturally.
It’s not always easy for students to answer questions on a formal style. Often, their language tends to be more informal and teaching them the skills to put their thoughts and answers into more formal language can be challenging.
Once this has been achieved, the next step to help them with their short answer response writing, and how to provide evidence to support their answers from the text. This usually requires a degree of comprehension and a good understanding of the passage they are reading.
What If My Students Also Struggle With Reading Comprehension?
Because comprehension can be a challenge, I provide short passages (130-180 words) from which students will be asked to respond with textual evidence. This helps them focus on the skill of writing rather than reading comprehension.
Adding the evidence for their answers from the text can also be difficult for a section of your students. With visual supports and anchor charts, students can easily learn to include phrases like, “according to the text,” and “the author states that…”
Conclusions can also be quite tricky. It is a real skill to be able to sum up your work in a concise way.
Using RACE Is an innovative way of helping your struggling and even advanced students to deliver on the following:
● Answer passage-based, short response questions in a formal style.
● Use clear reasons and evidence from the text
● Provide concise concluding statements
When Can You Use the RACE Strategy?
The RACE strategy is a perfect resource for many age groups and abilities. I have used it with students ranging from 3rd grade to high school. It also works well with homeschooled students as a great way of learning important writing skills required for the ELA test prep, expository essay writing, informational text and any situation where students need to be able to write well-supported answers!
Let’s take a look below at some of the situations where RACE will give your students a head start.
ELA Standardized Tests
The Common Core stresses the importance of supporting your answers with evidence from the text. Students are being asked to write short responses earlier than ever. Students answer multiple-choice questions based on short passages they read, and write responses to open-ended questions based on stories, articles, or poems they listen to or read.
This form of writing is used to convey factual information, rather than fiction or creative writing. It is fundamental the language of learning and understanding the world around us. This kind of writing is used for encyclopedias, how-to-guides on websites or textbook chapters. you’ve ever read an encyclopedia entry, a how-to article on a website, or a chapter in a textbook.
Informational text is nonfiction writing, written with the intention of informing the reader about a specific topic. They are written using special text features that allow the reader to easily find key information and understand the main topic.
Over the last 10 years, it has been widely regarded that there is a connection between the skills of reading AND writing. The move therefore has been to bring both reading and writing together and teach them both at the same time, rather than isolate them as with previous models. Research has demonstrated (Savage J, 1998) that these skills are learned at the same time as part of a joint process – which makes sense. Therefore, combining both reading and writing into a single learning strategy – like the RACE strategy makes sense.
If you have enjoyed learning how the RACE strategy can really help your struggling and even your more able students to reach for the stars in terms of their response writing, take a look at my best-selling resources on the RACE strategy and many other related topics.
Make sure you check out the tons of engaging free resources too, to help you create awesome lesson plans.
If you’re looking to implement the RACE strategy fully into your lesson plans, then be sure to check out my resources here. This will provide you with all the resources you need to start using this strategy in your classroom. Here are just a few comments from previous buyers of this resource:
Great resource, I did this in small group and can see my students using it beyond just the passages in the bundle. They are thinking much more in depth and using great evidence.-Marisela F.
It has been a great help to teach my students how to answer short response questions for our state testing. The RACE strategy is an amazing strategy to use and I loved having this bundle created for me to implement in my classroom. The topics are so engaging that students I feel are more successful at grasping the RACE strategy.-Ashley R.
Love this product. I have been using it for a few years now and use it as a great way to instruct, practice, and use for a quick assessment using the RACE strategy. -Melissa A.-Melisa A.
If you would like even more information, or maybe an informal Zoom session on any of the above, get in touch with me and I will look forward to helping you create captivating writing sessions for all your students.
Savage J. (1998). Teaching reading & writing: Combining skills, strategies, and literature, 2nd ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill).