R.A.C.E.S. – An Excellent Academic Writing Framework for ELLs

RACES Academic Writing Framework for ELLs 2

Duration: 15-20 minutes

Type: Individual / Partners

What you will need for R.A.C.E.S.

  1. A question that requires students to analyze a text
  2.  Sentence stems for a proper response
  3. Lined paper
  4. A deck of playing cards (Optional)
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Overview of R.A.C.E.S.

This is a wonderful activity to help students structure their writing, but writing can still be a challenge. I got this activity from  Jody Nolf a year or so ago and started adding it into many of the resources in the ESL Curriculum Membership. Jody was not the first to come up with this idea, but she has developed a lot of resources that you can use with it on her site. You can find those resources here ->

I was also recently inspired by an excellent webinar of hers which you can check out below where she provides excellent suggestions for how to set up this activity to be both effective and engaging.

The R.A.C.E.S. stands for:

R = Restate  –  Students need to restate the question in their answer.

A = Answer  –  Students need to answer the question, but not by simply copying something from the text. I was reminded by Jody Nolf that this answer needs to come from the student. The student will cite text evidence next.

C = Cite  –  Students cite evidence from the text for the answer provided above. They can quote an author directly here or describe a specific event that happened in the text.

E = Explain/Expound  –  Students now explain how the evidence they provided from the text supports the answer they wrote above.

S = Summarize  –  Students now put it all together, summarizing their conclusions in their own words. 

Jody Nolf’s Excellent Webinar


How to organize R.A.C.E.S.

Step 1. Question and Example Response 

This activity works well when you students are required to respond to a text by answering a question that requires some thought to answer. It shouldn’t be possible just to simply lift the answer from the text.


  • What do you think is the author’s opinion on…
  • Compare and contrast two characters in a story.
  • Do you agree with…

Scaffolds: You will also likely want to prepare some an example response as well as a sentence stem framework students can use until they get the hang of creating responses themselves.

Note: You can let students give it a go and then provide your scaffolds as needed to those students who are struggling.

Step 2. Students Respond either individually or in small groups.

There are a number of ways you can set this up:

  • Students discuss with a partner then respond individually
  • Students get in small groups to discuss and write a response together
  • Different groups tackle different parts of the response.

Jody Nolf’s Engaging Activity Idea

Jody Nolf has some great ideas about this in her webinar.

She uses playing cards. 

A playing card correlates to a particular part of the R.A.C.E.S. response. For instance, Ace = Restate the Question, King = Answer the Question, Queen = Cite Text Evidence, etc. After putting students in small groups, you have a couple of options:

Option 1: You can give each group one card and that groups works together to complete that part of the R.A.C.E.S response. i.e. Group 1 gets the Queen so they provide text evidence. Students come together at the end to put the entire response together as a class.

Option 2: You can give each person in a group a card so that each person in a group is responsible for one part of the R.A.C.E.S. response. i.e. Tan gets a King so he is responsible for the Answer part of the response.

If you haven’t already, watch her webinar on this. She does a much better job explaining it and provides some wonderful examples. You can find more resources from Jody by visiting her ESL Teaching Hero Spotlight here.

Benefits of R.A.C.E.S.

  • This activity requires little preparation. 
  • Students get a solid framework for responding academically to questions.
  • Everyone student is participating and few students are waiting around. 

Have you tried this activity? How did it go? Leave your comments below!

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