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A Simple Strategy for Constructed Responses

Does your child have difficulty with writing a constructed response? Many times kids aren’t quite sure where to start or what to do. Kids that struggle academically may write a brief or incomplete answer. Here’s a simple strategy to help kids remember the important parts of a well-written response. This strategy can be particularly helpful to those who struggle academically.

RACE is a mnemonic device that stands for:

R- Restate the question

A- Answer the question

C- Cite the evidence

E- Explain your citation

Here's a quick explanation of each part of the constructed response:

Restate the Question

Many kids (especially those who struggle) will start their answer with a question word. Be sure to take time to practice restating the question properly. Restating the question helps kids focus on a specific answer. It also helps kids start their answer, a huge stumbling block to many reluctant writers.

Answer the Question

Encourage students to go back to the passage and reread or skim to find the answer to the question. Even if the answer is not directly stated in the text, students should be able to find examples or evidence that helps point them in the right direction.

Cite the Evidence

This is the "prove it" part of the answer. If students can prove their answer with evidence from the text, then there is a decent chance they answered the question correctly. You might ask, "How do you know?" or "What did the author say to make you think that way?" or, "What evidence in the text tells you your answer is correct?" Let kids copy directly from the text if necessary - it takes a bit of the pressure off of wondering how to state the answer in their own words.

You can also give them a sentence starter like:

The text said...

The author states...

On line 6, the article stated...

Explain your Citation

Finally, students should explain how the citation proves the answer. You can give students sentence starters for this part of the strategy, too: This shows that... This proves how...

Teaching Tips

Color-coding can be a very effective strategy to help students make sure they have included each part of their RACE answer. Use the colors on the poster and have students underline the question in blue, the answer (when possible) in green, and the citation in red.

Students can even color-code their answers the same way they color code the text by underlining the different parts of the RACE answer. Make sure they underline the explanation in yellow (this would not have been underlined in the text).

Practice each part of the RACE answer individually before expecting students to construct a complete answer using every part of the RACE strategy. Be sure to spend ample time practicing how to re-state a question, talk about what it looks like to find a specific answer in the text, and how to prove the answer by restating the textual evidence. The most difficult part can often be explaining the citation. It may be beneficial to have kids verbally state why they chose a particular answer before having them try to write it on paper.

Don't feel like you need to practice RACE responses for every question your student encounters. Take the time to lay a strong foundation and move at a pace that is best for your child. He'll be writing solid constructed responses in no time!


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