How to use RACES to strengthen your students' writing | Mentoring in the Middle

How to use RACES to strengthen your students' writing

Teachers and students can be helped by using the RACE writing strategy to produce high-quality responses to questions with solid text-dependent analysis.

You've seen it before.  A student - okay - maybe a couple of students - look at you with that wide-eyed-deer-in-headlights look and say "I don't know what to do!"  Or they push the paper away and stare out the window.  

Text Dependent Analysis.  

It can be so hard.

What does RACES mean in writing?

R=  Restate the prompt
A= Answer the question in your own words
C= Cite text evidence or examples
E=  Explain and give details
S= Summarize what you wrote

But some kids just can't get past GO.  And you know once they do, they'll be fine.

But right now?
They're stuck.

What's a teacher to do?  I created these, with some help from released items from several different states.

What are some important RACES tips?

  •  "R" is usually combined with "A."  
    • You restate the prompt and answer the question in the first sentence.
  • "A" means that you must answer ALL parts of the question, not just some
  • "C" means that you need to provide examples from the passage
  • "E" means that you need to explain how the example you cited supports their answer
  • "S" means that you summarize what you wrote in a sentence or two
What do you focus on at first?
  1. MODEL, MODEL, MODEL - assume your students know little about this process unless your entire school is using this as a model.  
  2. Your students grow in understanding and what didn't make sense last year may make sense this year.  Allow for changes in understanding. 
  3. EXPLAIN what restate and cite and evidence mean
  4. Teach the steps one or two at a time.  It's a lot to make sense of!
  5. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE - all parts, all year long
  6. The biggest challenges for my students were restating and explaining
  7. Color-coding parts of responses can help
    Learn from my mistakes!
    I used examples that I found on the internet and from Teachers Pay Teachers.  None of them were wrong, but they just didn't look anything like what my students needed to know.

    For example, I used short passages that had who, what, why, or when questions.  All of the passages had those kinds of questions.  

    But when I looked at release items from my state tests, there were no questions.  They were all statements.  My students weren't sure what to do!

    Two things I did that helped:
    1. We needed to work on restating the prompt.  So I took released items from several states, copied the prompt, and had students work just on that.  They didn't need to have read the passage.  They just needed to figure out how to get started.  
      • You can find the FREE link to those here when you join my email list.
    A note:  I taught in Pennsylvania and the state got very particular about how students responded to the prompt.  "I think" or "I know" were no longer acceptable.  They wanted no evidence of a student's opinion, only text evidence.

    Your state may or may not be similar.  Make sure you are teaching your students how they need to respond to state prompts.  In either case, their writing will also be strengthened for all the times when state testing is not involved!

        2.  I made a detailed RACES form for my students with sentence stems to help them.  It might help your students, too!  You can get that FREE copy here.

    I hope these help strengthen your student's responses to text-dependent analysis.

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