How to Teach Constructed Response Using the RACE Strategy
Constructed response questions can be scary at first. Scary to teach and scary to write! Using the RACE Strategy will help ensure students get this skill right, every time!
I mean, when you compare writing a constructed response to answering a multiple-choice question, well, there really is no contest.
Constructed Response makes multiple-choice questions seem so simple to complete.
Since we know that students need to be able to write constructed responses, I was so happy when I was introduced to the RACE strategy.
It took the fright out of teaching constructed responses for text evidence.
The RACE Strategy gave me a step-by-step template to teach my students precisely what to do.
Even though writing constructed responses are still challenging, when you teach your students the RACE strategy and give them lots of opportunities for practice, your students will master it!
What is the RACE Strategy?
So, just what is the RACE strategy? RACE is an acronym that helps students remember which steps and in which order to write a constructed response.
R = Restate the Question
The first step is to change the question into a statement.
This is also known as restating the question.
Students need to remove the question word like who, what, when, where, or why and then restate the keywords.
For example, if the question was, “Why did Jill decide to give her mother a jewelry box?” the answer would start this way, “Jill decided to give her mother a jewelry box because.”
A = Answer the Question
After restating the question, the second step is to finish the sentence and answer the question.
Students may use their knowledge and inferences from the text to identify the answer.
Here are a few tips for this.
1) Students must answer the specific question being asked.
2) Students also need to answer every part of the question. Sometimes questions have more than one part.
3) They need to list the character’s name before using a pronoun like he/she/they.
C = Cite Text Evidence
Citing evidence is the tricky part.
First, kids need to find relevant evidence to support their answer.
Then, they must write it correctly using a sentence stem
According to the text…
- The author stated…
- In the second paragraph…
- The author mentioned…
- On the third page…
- The text stated…
- Based on the text…
To teach this skill, I make an anchor chart with the question stems and put them up when we start to work on citing evidence.
Once kids memorize a few question stems, this part of the RACE strategy goes much more smoothly.
I make sure students know to quote the text exactly as it is written and use quotation marks correctly too.
E = Explain What it Means
The last part of the Constructed Response is where kids tell how their text evidence proves their point.
Again, some simple sentence starters help kids stay on track here.
Here are a few examples of sentence starters that help students begin to Explain:
- This shows
- This proves
- This is a good example of
- This means that
When I teach the RACE strategy, I give the kids an overview of a completed constructed response example, so they can see where we’re going.
Then, I break it down into separate parts and teach each one before putting it all together.
By the time kids reach my fourth or fifth-grade class, most students at my school have had teachers who have required them to answer a question using a restatement.
Students aren’t doing constructed responses yet, but most are fairly comfortable with restating a question.
Because of this, I might spend a few days teaching or reviewing the restating and answering part.
I teach the Restating and Answering together since they usually form one sentence.
Then, I move to Citing text evidence, which takes much longer to teach.
The Explaining part goes pretty quickly after that.
Once I’ve taught all of the components, it’s time for students to practice putting it all together.
To do this, we read a short text as a class.
It might be a Scholastic News article, a page from Chicken Soup for the Soul, or a passage I’ve created.
Finally, I model (with their input) a Constructed Response using a RACE template from The Teacher Next Door’s Text Evidence Differentiated Unit
I project it on the smartboard so everyone can see it.
The next day, we repeat this with a different passage in pairs.
When students are finished, we go over it together to compare notes when they’re finished. After that, it is time to work on it independently.
A few notes…
- Make sure to start teaching the RACE strategy early in the year, so there’s plenty of time to practice. If you teach this strategy right before standardized testing, it will not be very effective.
- Start with short passages. One page is ideal. Giving students practice with shorter texts will help them gain confidence for the longer texts in the future. Baby steps, right?
- You’ll want students to write constructed responses repeatedly, but NOT for every passage they read.
- Constructed responses are somewhat of a chore, even with an excellent strategy like RACE.
- I try not to burn kids out on any one thing so that they dread it. It would be like asking them to write a five-paragraph essay each day. No one wants to do that. So, my advice is to give them a good foundation for how to write them and then sprinkle them in now and then throughout the year. Spiral practice is key!
You can apply the RACE Strategy to any set of materials that you have on hand. However, The Teacher Next Door knows how time consuming it can be to search for standards-aligned and grade level appropriate materials.
To save you time, The Teacher Next Door has created a Text Evidence Differentiated Unit with everything you need for students to master this skill!
The Text Evidence Differentiated Unit contains:
- 10 color coding passages
- 8 practice passages
- 3 sets of text evidence games (with 32 task cards in each set)
- Posters for the entire RACE Strategy
The entire unit is differentiated for you! Each passage comes in three different levels, and the three games are differentiated too!
If you’d like to read more about how to teach text evidence, we have another post you may want to read :