What is RAFT?



Raft is a unique approach to creative writing that helps students to understand and remember all the components of a paper. RAFT is an acronym, which stands for Role, Audience, Format, and Topic. There are many examples of RAFT assignments and ideas available online.


Role:

A figure the student wishes to emulate in the paper. This represents the point of view of the writer and can be a person, animal, object, or idea.

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Audience:

Whom the author is writing to. This can greatly influence the style of the writing, and may include more than one audience member. Like the “Role”, the audience doesn’t necessarily have to be human.

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Format:

How the material is presented. This can vary from things such as a letter, journal entry, recipe, or lyrics.

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Topic:

What the author is writing about. For student assignments, this may be related to a social issue, scientific research, math problem, etc.

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Why are RAFT assignments useful/ differentiated learning?



RAFT assignments encourage students to think critically, as well as be creative in their approach to a subject. Students have to consider different perspectives and how they can accurately represent those points of view. It allows students to think outside of conventional paper writing, and avoid the usual essay format.

These kinds of formats also encourage students to use higher order thinking strategies, as there are many things to consider such as how an audience might respond to a certain statement. The students can also be creative in how they portray their role and address their topic. It allows for more freedom of expression, and students can challenge themselves to incorporate numerous elements to their writing.

RAFT can be used cross-curricular, and not just for English language arts. If a student struggles with a certain concept in math, they can try and gain a new perspective by acting out the role of the concept. For example, if a student has trouble remembering the function of the multiplication symbol, they can create a story where that symbol is the main character. This type of role-playing encourages students to explore topics on a deeper level, and can be used as a knowledge and comprehension tool.

RAFT assignments are extremely valuable tools for differentiated learning. If a student is a strong creative thinker, but struggles in other areas, a RAFT could be an alternative assignment for that student. By encouraging students to use their strengths and apply these strengths to different subject areas, students are given the opportunity to experience success and gain a better understanding of the material being discussed.

The papers can also be a group project so that students who struggle with the topic have others to collaborate with and share the workload with. This could be a great opportunity for those who struggle with social skills to learn how to interact and cooperate with others.

RAFTS could also be a great alternative for those who don’t learn through traditional note taking, or who don’t find schoolwork to be challenging enough. If students are engaged in a project that they have personally constructed and chosen, they will feel more responsibility and ownership over what they produce. If students get to choose how they want to present their material, they will be more inclined to follow through on it than if it were an assigned reading or notes that were handed out during lectures.

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RAFT EXAMPLES:



There are many examples of RAFT that can be used to help students formulate their plans.


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How to write a RAFT Assignment




Step one:

Explain to the students that all writers must consider various elements before beginning a writing assignment. These include the role, audience, format, and topic. Tell students that they are going to structure their writing around these elements. (It may be helpful to display the elements on chart paper or a bulletin board for future reference).

Step two:

Display a completed RAFTs example on the overhead, and discuss the key elements as a class.

Step three:

Demonstrate, model, and "think aloud" another sample RAFTs exercise with the aid of the class. Brainstorm additional topic ideas, and write down the suggestions listing roles, audiences, formats, and strong verbs associated with each topic. Perhaps do this in the form of a web on the board to accommodate visual learning styles.

Step four:

Assign students to small, heterogeneous groups of four or five or pairs and have them "put their heads together" to write about a chosen topic with one RAFTs assignment between them.

Step five:

Circulate among the groups to provide assistance as needed. Then have the groups share their completed assignments with the class.

Step six:

After students become more proficient in developing this style of writing, have them generate RAFTs assignments of their own based on current topics studied in class.


How Can I Adapt It?


• This strategy is great for differentiation; teachers (and students) can develop any number of possible RAFTs based on the same text that can be adjusted for skill level and rigor.
• The RAFTs strategy can be used as a prewriting strategy and/or as a strategy for helping students prepare for a small or large group discussion.

Assessment


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What are you assessing?


- Accuracy (how correct is your information? Is it fully supported by the text and/or history?)
- Perspective (do you stay in role? How effective are you at performing your role and convincing your audience?)
- Focus (Do you stay to assigned format? Do you fully satisfy the chosen topic with numerous details and examples?)
- Mechanics (does your writing contain a minimal amount of mechanical errors?)
- Benchmark (How is the overall quality of your work compared with both past work and ever increasing expectations of better work?)


How to write an assessment


Decide what you need your students to take away from the lesson/assignment and how will you know they have done so. They need to know their Role, any historical knowledge or facts about that role and they need to have enough knowledge to convincingly play the role. They need to have put the writing in the appropriate Format so it is important that they know the difference between a story and an essay, for instance. Finally they need to have researched topic to the best of their capacity. All of these elements must be there, in addition to the basic mechanics of writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.)


Assessment examples


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Or, teachers may personalize a rubric here .


How teachers can asses their own instruction of RAFT assignments?


A good method might be an exit slip. Have children name two or three things they know about a RAFT that they did not previously know; one thing they have a better understanding of than before about writing in this format and one question about the RAFT format.


Research that Supports the Use of RAFT Assignments:


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Although research surrounding the use of RAFT assignments specifically is limited, it can be maintained that RAFT assignments are extremely valuable because they are a form of differentiated instruction. RAFTs give students multiple opportunities to demonstrate learning, and challenge teachers to be flexible to accommodate multiple learner needs. RAFT assignments ask students to think in ways slightly more complex than their initial thought processes. The RAFT becomes a tool that leads to higher level thinking; the idea of providing a student with help or scaffolding until they are able to complete a task independently is supported by Lev Vygotsky’s theories on the Zone of Proximal Development. Essentially, students develop more enriched learning experiences because they continually expand their current level of mastery. The effectiveness of differentiated instruction has been echoed more recently by classroom research conducted by Fisher (1980 in Tomlinson, 2000). According to these findings, management is more effective and students are more engaged in learning when differentiated instruction is used.

Three Lesson Plans that Demonstrate the Use of this Strategy:


Grade 1 Math:



Grade 4 Science:



Grade 11 English:




Resources:



Dare to Differentiate. (2010). RAFT Assignments. Retrieved February 1, 2010, from <http://daretodifferentiate.wikispaces.com/R.A.F.T.+Assignments>

Florida Department of Education. (2008). RAFT. Retrieved February 1, 2010 from <http://forpd.ucf.edu/strategies/RAFT-strategy-Jan09.html>

Hall, T. (2002). Differentiated Instruction. Retrieved February 1, 2010 from <http://www.cast.org/publications/ncac/ncac_diffinstruc.html>

RAFT. (2010). RAFT. Retrieved February 1, 2010, from <http://www.augie.edu/dept/educ/andrews/RAFT.htm>

Saskatoon Public Schools. (2009). Instructional Strategies Online. Retrieved February 1, 2010 from <http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/de/pd/instr/strats/raft/index.html>

Vandervanter, N. (1982). Strategies for Reading Comprehension. Retrieved February 1, 2010 from <http://www.readingquest.org/strat/raft.html>