The Text-Evidence Strategy That Changed My Classroom

Editor's note:  Scope teacher advisor Kim Wagner recently shared a WOWSA classroom success story with us. Her students were struggling with how to use text evidence in their writing. Kim knew she needed to try something different—something that would provide them with lots of practice without becoming tedious. And she found just the thing: a writing strategy called R.A.C.E. (restate the question, answer the question, cite the evidence, explain the evidence). Check out her story below!

 

Scope texts work really well with the R.A.C.E. strategy because they are organized into perfect bite-sized chunks that don’t overwhelm or bore students as they practice the strategy multiple times. For this lesson, I used R.A.C.E. with Scope’s informational text “This Railroad Changed America" from the November issue.

 

What you'll need:
Any Scope text, such as this one

Key skills:
text evidence, key ideas and details, analyzing, synthesizing

Time:
One or two 50-minute class periods, depending on the length of the text

 

Step 1: Prepare questions

Before class, I prepare one question for each section (or every couple of sections) of the article. The questions are the kind of writing prompts that students will encounter on state assessments. They require students to go into the text and find explicit and implicit textual evidence to support their answer. For example:

  • What challenges did the workers on the Transcontinental Railroad have to contend with? (for sections "Convenience and Safety" and "Difficult Conditions")
  • How did the Transcontinental Railroad serve as a unifying symbol to a country torn apart by the Civil War? (for section “A New Day")

 

Step 2: Read as a class

We read and discuss the entire article as a class once. (You can also break students into groups to read the text.) This way students become familiar with the content and will be able to concentrate on the writing strategy later.

 

Step 3: Introduce the R.A.C.E. strategy

I refer to an anchor chart to introduce the R.A.C.E. strategy:

R—Restate the question.

A—Answer the question.

C—Cite evidence to support your answer.

E—Explain how the evidence supports your answer, if needed.

I also show this short video to further reinforce the idea. Then I explain to students that they will practice the strategy after reading each section of the article.

 

Step 4: Model the strategy

I model the R.A.C.E. strategy step-by-step using one of the questions that I prepared. First, I put the question under a document camera (or display it on the board). Next, we re-read the pertinent section of the article and choose evidence (relevant, sufficient, strong) to support our answer. I then show them how to weave that evidence into a smooth, clear sentence. (I’ve found this is the hardest part.) Once we are satisfied with our answer, we double check that we’ve completed each step of the R.A.C.E. strategy.

 

Step 5: Work in groups

Once students are comfortable with the strategy and I have watched them using it, I direct students to another section of the article, give them a question, and have them practice R.A.C.E. in groups or pairs. While they are working, I circulate the room and provide feedback.

 

Step 6: Share the work

Students share their responses under the document camera. (They love this!) As a class, we examine each response and give each group or pair a "star" for something they did well and a "wish" for something they could do next time to make their response even better. Again, we check to make sure each step of the strategy is completed. After teaching this lesson several times, I’ve noticed that this step produces the greatest growth in students’ writing.

 

 

Step 7: Work independently

Students read the rest of the article and practice R.A.C.E. on their own. Again, I circulate and provide immediate feedback and encouragement. By this point, students are comfortable with the strategy and are usually eager to show their work under the document camera. This is a vital step—students get to see many different well-structured responses as well as how they can improve their own answers with a little work.

 

 

Differentiation Tip: Sentence Starters!
If students are struggling with incorporating the evidence they are citing in their answers, provide them with sentence starters. For example:

According to the author Kristin Lewis, . . .
In the article “This Railroad Changed America,” the author states . . .

For example, the text states . . .

 

The first time I tried this strategy I was surprised by how quickly my students’ constructed responses improved and how much more sophisticated their responses were. And, after lots of practice, sharing, and discussion, most of my students were able to apply the R.A.C.E. strategy to new texts. R.A.C.E. can be used not only for constructed responses (such as on Scope quizzes) but also any time a student is asked to answer a question, even orally. And that, of course, is a teacher’s ultimate goal—teaching for transfer!

 

Kim Wagner is a Language Arts teacher at Hendersonville Middle School in Hendersonville, North Carolina. She is also a Scope teacher advisor.

1 Comment
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I started using this strategy this year and it's made a world of difference. Such a little thing makes a huge difference in the quality of their constructed responses. I made fancy RACE posters for a bunch of the teachers here and we've seen great results!