A Writing Strategy For History Classes

Writing skills are central to a good social studies curriculum. Students need to be able to share their ideas through writing in order to impact their immediate communities, nation, and world. Many history educators struggle with writing assignments because they do not have a central and consistent writing approach. The writing approach that I used in my U.S. History classes was the RACE writing strategy. This strategy was also used by the Language Arts department in my school and the school administration suggested that all teachers use it; therefore, using the strategy allowed students to consistently practice and improve upon their writing.

What is RACE?

RACE stands for: Restate, Answer, Cite, and Explain. 

Restate-when students are given a question or prompt, they need to restate it in the beginning of their response.

Answer-students will give an answer after they have restated the question or prompt.

 Cite-students will cite evidence to support their answer. Evidence can be a paraphrase, observation, or a direct quote. Students must state specifically where the evidence came from.

 Explain-students will explain how their evidence proves their answer is correct.

Videos that Explain RACE

I created videos that explain the RACE strategy. Each video focuses on a different aspect of RACE while analyzing a moment during the American Revolution.

Restate and Answer practice over the Boston Massacre

Citing evidence practice over the American rebellion

Explain practice over the battles of Lexington and Concord

Example Writing Using RACE

Using the Columbus Day materials provided by Stanford History Education Group I will demonstrate the RACE writing strategy.

First,

the student will read the primary sources and prompt. The primary source comes from an excerpt of President Benjamin Harrison’s proclamation of Columbus Day as a national holiday in 1892. The prompt is below;

Click on photo to be taken to lesson plan.

 

Question: Which one of the facts below might help explain why Benjamin Harrison declared a holiday to honor Christopher Columbus? (Columbus was an Italian Catholic.) 

  1. Columbus enslaved people he encountered on his voyages but refused to baptize them because Catholic law prohibited the enslavement of Christians. 
  2. Benjamin Harrison was running for re-election in 1892 and millions of Catholic immigrants could vote. 
  3. Although Harrison’s proclamation only called for a holiday in 1892, the United States has celebrated Columbus Day every year since 1934. 
  4. Columbus not only made four voyages to the Americas, but also served twice as governor of Hispaniola, which is now the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Example RACE Response

Fact #2 helps explain why Harrison declared a holiday to honor Columbus because Benjamin Harrison was running for re-election in 1892 and he wanted to get elected by using the Catholic immigrant vote. The question stated that Columbus was an Italian Catholic, and President Harrison made connections to religion a lot in his speech. For example, Harrison said, “In the churches and in the other places of assembly of the people, let there be expressions of gratitude to Divine Providence for the devout faith of the discoverer, and for the Divine care and guidance which has directed our history and so abundantly blessed our people.” I think Harrison is making these connections to religion and Columbus because he wants Catholic immigrants to feel proud of Columbus and see that Harrison is the one making that pride happen.

Fact #2 helps explain why Harrison declared a holiday to honor Columbus because Benjamin Harrison was running for re-election in 1892 and he wanted to get elected by using the Catholic immigrant vote. The question stated that Columbus was an Italian Catholic, and President Harrison made connections to religion a lot in his speech. For example, Harrison said, “In the churches and in the other places of assembly of the people, let there be expressions of gratitude to Divine Providence for the devout faith of the discoverer, and for the Divine care and guidance which has directed our history and so abundantly blessed our people.” I think Harrison is making these connections to religion and Columbus because he wants Catholic immigrants to feel proud of Columbus and see that Harrison is the one making that pride happen.

Fact #2 helps explain why Harrison declared a holiday to honor Columbus because Benjamin Harrison was running for re-election in 1892 and he wanted to get elected by using the Catholic immigrant vote. The question stated that Columbus was an Italian Catholic, and President Harrison made connections to religion a lot in his speech. For example, Harrison said, “In the churches and in the other places of assembly of the people, let there be expressions of gratitude to Divine Providence for the devout faith of the discoverer, and for the Divine care and guidance which has directed our history and so abundantly blessed our people.” I think Harrison is making these connections to religion and Columbus because he wants Catholic immigrants to feel proud of Columbus and see that Harrison is the one making that pride happen.

Fact #2 helps explain why Harrison declared a holiday to honor Columbus because Benjamin Harrison was running for re-election in 1892 and he wanted to get elected by using the Catholic immigrant vote. The question stated that Columbus was an Italian Catholic, and President Harrison made connections to religion a lot in his speech. For example, Harrison said, “In the churches and in the other places of assembly of the people, let there be expressions of gratitude to Divine Providence for the devout faith of the discoverer, and for the Divine care and guidance which has directed our history and so abundantly blessed our people.” I think Harrison is making these connections to religion and Columbus because he wants Catholic immigrants to feel proud of Columbus and see that Harrison is the one making that pride happen.

The above paragraph does an excellent job using the RACE strategy and has clear moments of using evidence and connecting that evidence to the original answer.

“Students need to be able to share their ideas through writing in order to impact their immediate communities, nation, and world.”

Others Ways To Use RACE

The RACE writing strategy is powerful because it focuses on the elements that history teachers should love, namely critical thinking and evidence. Students could complete guided reading assignments using the RACE strategy, or have discussions using online platforms like Google Classroom and Youtube. Imagine it, students could be asked to find each other’s evidence and explanations, and then be asked to challenge one another based on that evidence and those explanations. Another suggestion is to let students highlight their RACE writing to show that they understand where each piece of the strategy should go. RACE can also be used in essay writing. Students can be asked to show several different places where they incorporated the RACE writing strategy into their essays.

If you are worried your district will not let you use the RACE strategy, read the article “A Teachers Power Over Curriculum.”

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