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How to Write Amazing Reading Responses with RACES

Teaching students to write a written response about their reading is very important.  It can also be a CHALLENGE.  Am I right?  Some of the challenges I have encountered include:

  • responses that do not answer the question being asked
  • responses that answer only part of a question
  • responses with an answer, but no text evidence to support it

This used to drive me crazy, but not anymore!  I implemented the RACES strategy with my students this year and it has made a HUGE difference. Variations of this strategy (RACE, ACE, RACER, etc.) have been around forever.

I like RACES the best. It is a really easy way to organize written responses. The acronym RACES stands for the five parts needed to write the answer.

This is an important part of the process. Students need to understand what they are being asked before they can write an answer. Many questions that students will be asked to answer are not even questions. For that reason, I teach my students to analyze the question. Analyzing the question includes three steps: read the question or prompt, underline the key words, and restate the question as a statement. Here is an example:

R – At the end of the chapter, the main character was feeling…

Next, students answer the question. If there is more than one part to the question students will need to answer ALL parts of the question. Example:

R – At the end of the chapter, the main character was feeling…

A – The main character was feeling excited.

The answers to the first two steps leads to the topic sentence for the written response:  At the end of the chapter the main character was feeling excited.

Using evidence from the text to support thinking is so important. The evidence offers proof to support the way the question was answered. I ask my students to cite at least two pieces of evidence unless the question asks for something more specific. Sentence starters can be helpful.  Here are some examples:

According to the text…

The author stated…

This is where students put it all together by explaining how the evidence supports their thinking. I encourage my students to elaborate or stretch out their writing here, too.  Sentence starters are helpful for this part.  Here’s a few examples: 

This makes me think…

This explains…

I teach my students to end a written response with a concluding sentence.  An easy way to do this is to refer to the topic sentence and reword it to conclude the answer.  Here is an example:

All in all the character was very excited at the end of the chapter.  

In My Classroom

I introduce RACES at the start of the school year and usually review the strategy in the spring for test-taking purposes. (They create their own RACES organizer when we practice for this purpose.)  

We read Wonder by R.J. Palacio at the start of the school year. The book offers many different topics to discuss.  To review RACES I posed the following question:  Why did Miranda pretend to be sick on opening night?

The students did a fantastic job!  Here is a sample:

I created some resources that I would LOVE to share with you.  Click here to try out a 3-page freebie. The freebie includes two pages that can be used to introduce the strategy to students. The pages can fit into writing notebooks or folders.  

If you like the freebie you might want to check out my other RACES resource, too!  It includes many additional templates and articles to use with your students. You can find that resource here

I love using this strategy with my students. What is your favorite strategy?

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Teachers Love

These are great and my student loves them! These Boom Cards are perfect for my students to provide extra assignments to continue reinforcing the skills they are working on in their general ed class (virtually). I wish I had the skills to create them myself!
Stephanie R.

Volume Boom Cards
Stress-Free Teaching
2020-09-22T20:19:10-04:00
These are great and my student loves them! These Boom Cards are perfect for my students to provide extra assignments to continue reinforcing the skills they are working on in their general ed class (virtually). I wish I had the skills to create them myself! Stephanie R. Volume Boom Cards

Teachers Love

I love the way the graphic organizers are scaffolded so that students work on each step of a RACES answer. I'm a tutor who works with students with language LDs and this approach has been fantastic for them. Having the editable graphic organizers makes it easy for me to keep creating new and different pages for students who need to extra practice on a particular part of the RACES answer. Thank you so much!
Kate M.

Stress-Free Teaching
2020-09-22T20:24:32-04:00
I love the way the graphic organizers are scaffolded so that students work on each step of a RACES answer. I'm a tutor who works with students with language LDs and this approach has been fantastic for them. Having the editable graphic organizers makes it easy for me to keep creating new and different pages for students who need to extra practice on a particular part of the RACES answer. Thank you so much! Kate M. RACES Writing Strategy for Written Responses

Teachers Love

These are AMAZING!! Highly engaging for my students, constantly spiraling, and also gives me the information I need to see what we need to work on. Thank you so much!!
Kristi R.

Stress-Free Teaching
2020-09-22T20:25:15-04:00
These are AMAZING!! Highly engaging for my students, constantly spiraling, and also gives me the information I need to see what we need to work on. Thank you so much!! Kristi R. 5th Grade Math Spiral Review

Teachers Love

Amazing resource! Students loved working on this to show their parents during fall conferences. Their faces lit up as they went through the slides and read aloud their goals for the trimester and what they were proud of.
Jessica S.

Student Led Conference Digital Portfolio
Stress-Free Teaching
2020-09-24T19:42:58-04:00
Amazing resource! Students loved working on this to show their parents during fall conferences. Their faces lit up as they went through the slides and read aloud their goals for the trimester and what they were proud of. Jessica S. Student Led Conference Digital Portfolio
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Stress-Free Teaching