Hi! I hope this blog finds all of you rested and relaxed after a holiday break! As I mentioned on my first blog, I’m a 6th grade Language Arts/Social Studies teacher at McKinleyville Middle School. I love my work, and I feel extremely grateful (most of the time!) that I get to spend my days with bright, funny, inquisitive middle schoolers. I also consider myself very fortunate to currently be working part time for Redwood Writing Project as the Professional Development Coordinator, a job that provides me lots of opportunities to interact with teachers and administrators about effective literacy teaching.
Due to the fact that I have been a teacher for a number of years (23 and counting) I have accumulated a plethora of books and articles about all aspects of teaching, especially related to my passion, early adolescent literacy. That being said, sometimes I get so caught up in new ideas that I forget about the tried and true strategies I’ve used in the past. Does that ever happen to you? Recently, such a strategy from the past has come up in a variety of venues, and I’m taking that as a sign that I need to share it with you and revisit it in my own classroom as well.
The strategy is called R.A.F.T. and recently I saw a great website on which a teacher added an S. on the end. R.A.F.T./R.A.F.T.S. is a writing strategy which asks students to take information that they have gleaned from one source and rethink/rewrite it into an entirely different form. It’s very engaging and fun for kids, and recently I’ve found out it’s actually research based and shown to be effective in helping kids deeply explore content. According to ReadWriteThink (a National Council of Teachers of English website that is WELL worth a long look)
“The more often students write, the more proficient they become as writers. RAFT is a writing strategy that helps students understand their role as a writer and how to effectively communicate their ideas and mission clearly so that the reader can easily understand everything written. Additionally, RAFT helps students focus on the audience they will address, the varied formats for writing, and the topic they’ll be writing about.” Yay!
Here’s how it works. The acronym R.A.F.T./R.A.F.T.S. stands for
Role, Audience, Format, Topic (or Time), and Strong Verb. Again from the ReadWriteThink website:
“RAFT assignments encourage students to uncover their own voices and formats for presenting their ideas about content information they are studying. Students learn to respond to writing prompts that require them to think about various perspectives:
- Role of the Writer: Who are you as the writer? A movie star? The President? A plant?
- Audience: To whom are you writing? A senator? Yourself? A company?
- Format: In what format are you writing? A diary entry? A newspaper? A love letter?
- Topic: What are you writing about?” This is the content piece, often chosen by the teacher.
- Strong Verb: What am I trying to do in this piece of writing? Persuade? Analyze? Advise? Report?
As a teacher, you have many choices with this strategy. For example, you can decide to assign all students the same topic and form but give them choices for the audience and role. After a unit of study on the Iditarod, 6th graders might be asked to write a friendly letter (form) about the Iditarod experience (topic) but they might choose to take the role of a musher (role) writing to his best buddy (audience) or the role of one of the dogs (role) writing to his mother back home (audience.)
A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of charts which show multiple options for each category, depending on the content. Once your kids have experienced R.A.F.T./ R.A.F.T.S., you can even have them create a chart of options. Because the products are so varied, R.A.F.T./ R.A.F.T.S. are both entertaining for students to share, as well as very informative in terms of formative and summative assessment.
One additional resource that is absolutely worth a look is
http://writingfix.com/wac/RAFT.htm. This page of a GREAT website created by the Northern Nevada Writing Project has a series of really cool R.A.F.T.S. building tools. In addition, a number of rubrics for scoring R.A.F.T.S. are included.
For science, check out
For math, look at
For social studies, see
This website also includes a number of additional R.A.F.T.S. lessons for picture books, chapter books, and a myriad of other text and content types.
I hope to try a R.A.F.T.S. activity in my class soon. I can’t wait to hear how you use this fun and engaging writing activity in your classroom!