Wednesday, November 28, 2012

RAFT for Writing

Good writers understand that the perspective of the author, the audience to whom s/he is writing, and the form the writing takes are each as critical as the message they’re trying to convey. Adjusting writing in these ways can be a tricky concept for some students to internalize, however, especially if they have little experience beyond the famous five-paragraph essay. This is where RAFT comes in. RAFT is an acronym to help young writers remember these four important considerations when planning and executing a piece of writing:

R – role (who are you as a writer?)

A – audience (to whom are you writing?)

F – format (what’s the most effective format for the message you want to convey?)

T – topic (what information are you conveying in your writing?)

This simple, powerful writing procedure was developed by Dr. Carol Santa and her colleagues Lynn Havens and B.Valdez in 1994 and has since become something of a staple technique in the classrooms of many savvy teachers. Not only does RAFT help students remember the different considerations they should keep in mind when writing, it has huge potential for fun, creative writing assignments, particularly across disciplines. A history teacher could ask students to select the role of a colonist (details about the identity of colonist would be up to the student) and write some sort of communiqué in the format of the students’ choice to King George. A math teacher could ask students to write journal entries from the perspective of an athlete, which include different word problems as the athlete charts his/her nutrition, training, and competitive performance. A science teacher could ask students to take on the role of a negatively charged ion and compose a love letter to a positively charged ion.

The ideas behind RAFT are basic enough that parents or tutors can implement them at home even if a child has not learned the method in the classroom. Simply teach your student the acronym and then have fun planning different pieces of writing together by filling in the four categories. The more guided practice children experience, the more success they will experience using RAFT independently.

Write on!

For more information about RAFT as it was originally proposed, see Santa, C., Havens, L., & Valdes, B. (2004). Project CRISS: Creating Independence through Student-owned Strategies. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.

Photo: Creative Commons by dotmatchbox

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