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New Writing Strategy for All Elementary School Students at Binns

Writing collage

September 28, 2021 -- The energy level in Karen Weitz’s second grade classroom at Binns Elementary School is over the top. The teacher is working the room like a game show host, and the students are engaged. Hands are flying up as Weitz bounces around the room, firing off questions. 

“How did you get to school today?” Weitz asks. “Remember how to answer. Get rid of the question word, that’s right, how, and restate. One student answers, “My mom drove me to school today.” 

“Excellent,” Weitz responds. “Who else?” she asks.

Student writingKaren Weitz was not teaching a lesson on school transportation but rather a new writing strategy that Binns Elementary has implemented across all grade levels. It’s called RACES, and the acronym is short for the following: 

R- Restate the question
A- Answer the question 
C- Cite all evidence with examples 
E- Explain 
S- Summarize your information 

“At Binns, we were looking for a writing strategy that we could implement across all grade levels, kindergarten through grade five,” said Principal Joel Grant. “We needed to start with our kindergarteners thinking about writing. It’s never too early to think about how to write. Once those fundamentals are developed, words become sentences.”

The writing strategy is multi-sensory. A hip music video explains the process, and the strategy has been branded to look like a hand. The idea is each of your five fingers represents one of the writing tasks. The thumb is “R” for restating the question and so on.

“The appeal of this new writing strategy is it grows with the student as they progress to the next grade level,” said Grant. “The repetition from grade to grade is key because the students become familiar with it and know what to expect.” 

In Ms. Ely’s fifth grade class, students read aloud with the teacher about what makes German Shepherds amazing. “Why does the author think German Shepherds are amazing,” asks Tonya Ely? “Focus on the R part, restating, then answer the question, cite the evidence or examples, and then summarize. When you are finished writing, please pass your papers forward.” 

Another school in the District, Oakland Park Alternative, uses this same writing strategy. That’s why Principal Grant thought it might be something good to try at his school. 

“Oakland Park saw progress on student testing after implementing this writing strategy,” said Grant. “We are similar in size and make-up with Oakland Park. The principal at Oakland Park sent over some of his staff to share best practices with the teachers and staff here at Binns.

The two schools collaborated on the new writing strategy right before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the District into remote learning. 

“Initially, we found some success before we went to remote learning,” said Grant. “Now that we are back to five days a week, in-person learning, we’ve re-energized the writing strategy. I’m looking forward to seeing the data at the end of this school year and the improvements our students make.” 

In the meantime, step into any classroom at Binns, and you will hear teachers, no matter the grade, talking about the writing strategy. There are pictures about it on many classroom walls, and you can even read about the writing strategy in the latest parent newsletter. At Binns, the approach is all-in when it comes to improving how well students write.