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Teaching Students to ACE Your Questions

The Common Core State Standards have placed a renewed emphasis on using evidence. Anchor Standard #1 for Reading requires students to “. . . cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.” Likewise, the C3 Framework for social studies has as its third Dimension: Evaluating sources and using evidence, and a Next Generation Science and Engineering Practice is Engaging in Argument from Evidence. What do all of these have in common?

Evidence, Evidence, Evidence.

One simple but powerful technique for getting students to identify supporting evidence is the ACE question-answering strategy.

A: Answer the Question. Through modeling the teacher can demonstrate how to restate the question in the form of an answer and include all parts of the question. For longer questions, students need to understand how to pull out key words for their responses.

C: Cite the Evidence. Students need to provide supporting evidence for their answers. Teachers may establish how much supporting evidence students should provide and how that evidence should be documented for written answers. When working with a single text, students can cite the page number of the evidence. When working with multiple sources, teachers may want the author, text and/or page number.

E: Explain or Evaluate. Here, students can explain the connection between the evidence they cited and their answers or explain inferences made from the evidence. They could extend their ideas to a larger context or another text or evaluate the impact of the answer.

The ACE strategy can be used for answering questions during class discussions or Socratic seminar, on tests or written assignments, reading journals, or exit tickets and can be used in any class. Students should develop the habit of ACEing any questions, which also encourages using complete sentences. In addition, this format slides right into paragraph writing: A becomes the topic sentence, C becomes the supporting details, E extends the meaning or significance. For paragraph writing, I like to use ACES by adding an S (So What?) at the end as this becomes the concluding sentence. Possible So What? statements include the following:

Identify how your answer contributes to the big picture

Show how the evidence demonstrates your understanding on a larger scope

Demonstrate what insight has been gained

Restate your answer in a way that draws a conclusion


Other variations of ACE include 

RACE: R = Restate the question


SPACE: SP = Someone else’s position

SPACE is great for class discussions or Socratic seminar because students must begin by restating what someone else has said and state whether or not they agree with that person. (See also Speaking and Listening Standard #1.) This also lays the foundation for writing argument essays as it requires the student to consider both sides of an argument. By training students to answer short questions using the SPACE strategy, teachers make argument writing painless for their students (and themselves) as each body paragraph follows the SPACE technique.

ACE is a simple strategy that addresses several Common Core standards and leads to big gains in student achievement. Implementing this technique, however, may force teachers to rethink the types of questions they are asking. 



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