A Writing Strategy That Works

I’m Emma Oliver, a teacher turned curriculum designer who loves to help teachers reach all students. Today I’m sharing how the RACE strategy can help your students develop confidence and skill in writing.   

If you teach writing, you should know about the RACE writing strategy. The RACE strategy is a brilliant way to teach your students how to properly cite a source in response to a question.

RACE is a mnemonic device that stands for Re-state the question, Answer the question, Cite the text, and Explain.

This strategy helps kids learn how to build a strong argument. Citing a text is something kids will need to do throughout school, starting in elementary school and for the rest of their academic and professional lives.

Young people aren’t born knowing how to write well. However, with the right tools and support, all students can become strong writers.

RACE Strategy for Writing

How to Begin Teaching the RACE Strategy

Like many skills, the RACE strategy is a great fit for the “I do, we do, you do” method of teaching.

I begin teaching this strategy by modeling a RACE response for my students. You can use any text and any question, as long as the answer to your question can be supported by evidence from the text. Fiction and nonfiction passages are both fair game. 

Next, I gradually release more responsibility to my students. I introduce them to a passage and a question, and together we write a clear, evidence-based answer, following all of the steps of the RACE strategy. I like to use a short reading passage at this stage, so students can focus on writing rather than reading. Additionally, an anchor chart can make a big difference while students are still getting the hang of it.

Finally, I will allow my students to practice independently. Since the RACE strategy is so straightforward, it is fast and easy to provide feedback. I find that kids can improve their writing very quickly when they begin using the RACE strategy.

Why do kids like the RACE strategy?

Putting those first few words on the page is sometimes the hardest. If your students are like mine, they can often struggle to begin a writing assignment. The RACE strategy takes out the guesswork of the first sentence.

This writing strategy quickly builds confidence and a sense of mastery. My students who struggle the most with writing are usually the ones who appreciate this strategy the most.

I was so glad to see one of my students drawing RACE strategy checkmark boxes on his worksheet one day. I hadn’t directed him to do it, but he did it himself to stay on track. I believe that eventually, he will be able to respond to questions naturally. At that time, the RACE strategy was exactly what he needed.

I’m constantly hearing from teachers how the RACE strategy has improved writing in the classroom. It is a great way to prepare for standardized tests. The RACE strategy is also a great way to prepare students for persuasive essay writing. 

The RACE strategy and special education

One reason the RACE strategy is popular in special education is that it is an easily measurable way to demonstrate a well-written paragraph. It lends itself to IEP goals and data tracking for this reason.

Did the student restate the question? Did they answer the question? Did they cite the text? Did they explain how the quotation supports their opinion? These are all yes or no questions. It’s easy to hold kids accountable. Feedback becomes crystal clear.

Furthermore, the RACE strategy is a great way to build structure and routine into writing. This helps kids with executive functioning difficulties. I encourage teachers to display the steps of the strategy on an anchor chart in the classroom. This visual cue will help kids memorize the steps. Soon, they will be able to follow the steps in order without these scaffolds.

Another routine my kids enjoyed was our Friday RACE strategy passage and prompt. They came to expect it at the beginning of an ELA period on Fridays. We would read a short passage together, then students would answer a text-based question on their own. They also loved sharing their responses aloud.  

Want to try the RACE strategy in your classroom? I recommend starting with a short passage before moving on to longer ones. You can find a free passage and prompt here for third grade and here for grades 4-6.

About the Author

Emma Oliver is a teacher turned curriculum designer who loves to help teachers reach all students.You can find more ways to engage your students in all things reading and writing at readrelevant.com. You can also find her resources at her Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

Getting our kids to write and love writing is so important! You may also like this post about 10 Fun Writing Activities for Kids.

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