RACE for better student answers to questions requiring evidence

If you are looking for a way to help students write better responses to questions about a reading selection, RACE might be the answer.  RACE is a method of responding to questions requiring evidence.  Responding to these kinds of questions is required by Common Core Standards.

RACE stands for four ideas:

  • Restate the information in the question.
  • Answer the question.
  • Cite evidence to support your answer.
  • Explain how the evidence supports your answer.

An example might help you understand this method better. Suppose a high school student has just read from her textbook about the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and the actions of southern states immediately after his election.  Then she is asked to answer this question, citing information from her text:

Did Abraham Lincoln’s election as President of the US lead to the Civil War?

Restate:  Yes, Abraham Lincoln’s election as President of the US did lead to the Civil War.

Answer:  Right after his election, many states seceded and eventually attacked the US.

Cite Evidence:  According to the passage, Lincoln was elected in early November 1860 and took office in March 1861. The legislatures of seven southern states, including South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida and Texas, voted to leave the US during the winter of 1860-1861. They did this because Lincoln had a reputation as anti-slavery. In February 1861 they formed the Confederate States of America. About a month after Lincoln took office, on April 12, 1861, a US fort called Ft. Sumter was attacked by Confederates. After that attack, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina also seceded. Congress declared war on the Confederacy.  Lincoln was President a little more than a month when the Civil War began.

Explain how the evidence supports your answer: Before Lincoln was elected, the US was one country and no states had seceded. Within five months after he was elected, seven states had seceded, and then weeks later, four more states seceded, and Ft. Sumter was attacked.  The Civil War began. Lincoln’s election as president directly led to the Civil War.

Can this method be used with younger children too? Yes. Consider this third grade question:

Are fossils in the rocks on top older than fossils in the rocks on the bottom?

Restate: No, fossils in the rocks on top are not older than the fossils in the rocks on the bottom.

Answer:  Fossils on top are usually formed last and fossils on the bottom are usually formed first.

Cite evidence: Fossils are found in rocks.  These rocks form when layers of mud pile up with shells and bones stuck in the mud. The mud on the bottom becomes hard rock millions of years before the mud on the top does.

Explain how the evidence supports your answer: If you look at the Grand Canyon, the fossils in the rocks down near the river are much older than the fossils in the rocks near the top. That’s because rocks on the bottom and the fossils in them formed first. Rocks on the top and the fossils in them formed  later.

This method of answering questions requiring evidence is being taught in Georgia public schools where I live.

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