Written By Janet M. Cozine- The Craig School LS/MS Director
One of the most commonly used reading and writing strategies at The Craig School is R.A.C.E., a design that helps our students support their written responses with evidence from the text.
The acronym is posted almost everywhere at Craig. Readily seeing the mnemonic helps students remember which steps, and in which order to write a constructed response.
We start the R.A.C.E. strategy in reading classes as early as fourth grade, understanding that our emerging readers may only get as far as R (restating the question) and A (answering the question). It’s not always easy for students to answer questions in a formal style. Often their language tends to be more informal, so explicitly teaching the skills of putting thoughts and answers into more formal writing early on will position the students for middle school and the next step to R.A.C.E. the C (citing evidence from the text).
Students are taught to highlight the question words to be used in Restate. When answering the questions teachers are pointing out the connection to Project Read Written Expression as well. The more opportunities the students have to recognize the interrelationships of the strategies the greater the chance for generalization.
In sixth grade, we pull the instruction of Restate and Answer into Science and Social Studies classes. Teacher modeling is still required, but we are now looking for the skill of Restate and Answer the question to become more automatic. When students are ready, Citing the source is introduced in all of the content areas tying in Project Read Report Form, to support where examples and details are found in the text. Scanning for information can be challenging so we start simply, giving the page number to find the evidence and then scaffolding from there. The students are then taught to underline the evidence from the text that supports their answers. This will prepare them for the hardest part of RACE - E - explain. Students need to be taught to explain their evidence without just restating. We present simple sentence stems that help supports their explanation. The stems will eventually be removed once the students understand how to show why the textual evidence matters. We use the detective analogy. A detective collects a lot of the evidence and then has to explain how each piece of evidence proves his case.
The process of using R.A.C.E. is woven throughout the Craig curriculum and throughout the student’s years at Craig. It becomes more sophisticated as time goes on and requires lots and lots of practice. With that practice, we have found that our students learn to do what every good writer does.