Scaffolding Writing

In our district, we use the RACE rubric for writing:

R: Restate the question
A: Answer the question
C: Cite evidence
E: Explain how evidence answers the question

It’s not a bad format for struggling writers, just to give them a starting place and formula to plug their information into. I don’t think it’s a terrible scaffolding tool, however it’s so formulaic that writers that aren’t struggling can’t grow or develop voice. The presenter for the workshop I’m attending this week, the Advanced Placement Summer Institute offered different words for the same type of writing formula:

Intro – which includes context, an interesting statement, or foreshadowing what’s to come.
Claim – the statement that the writer is trying to prove
Evidence – a pithy statement one that contains the most meaning
Commentary – from your own head — explain how your pithy statement proves claim

We started yesterday’s session with interviews. Participants then took comments from those interviews, then built a claim-evidence-commentary paragraph around whatever comment participants saw as pithy. (I didn’t get to participate because I came in late.) I was listening to people read their paragraphs, and I heard the thing that was lacking from RACE paragraphs. Voice.

I write RACE paragraphs and often feel like they’re lacking that tongue-in-cheek type tone that my mother hates.

We brainstormed purpose/use of claim-evidence-commentary way of responding and here’s what we came up with:

  • helps pinpoint ideas
  • for literary analysis – focus on one piece of evidence
  • helps express voice
  • use for rhetorical analysis
  • if every response is framed as an argument, the idea of “claim” works
  • helps refine thinking
  • format not limited to questions

The AP teacher in the midst of participants likes this format. She says that it gets them ready to do the kind of literary analysis students will have to do when they get to the 11th and 12th grade.

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