Thursday, April 14, 2011

Informal Use of RAFT

One strategy I have found myself using over the last few months is the RAFT writing approach. It has provided me with an alternative to the standard opinion essay. It has also helped me focus on what I want my students to accomplish in their writing. When I draft an assignment I think about the role I want the students to take on, who the audience is supposed to be, the format of the writing and the exact topic. I don't usually present the assignment with the term RAFT, but require all the major components. I used one of these assignments for my ninth grade U.S. History I Honors class after completing a lesson on Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I have provided the assignment below.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton Fires Back

Elizabeth Cady Stanton is tired of hearing her critics mock the women's rights convention at Seneca Falls. She no longer can stand listening to these men ridicule her desire for the right to vote.

Stanton has decided to write an editorial in a newspaper firing back at these men. What do you think she would say?

Write one paragraph (6-7 sentences) that reveals Stanton's feelings towards her critics and her goals for the women's movement. Spelling and grammar will be part of your grade.

Remember - the writer is Stanton and her audience is her critics.

As you can see, the term RAFT is not included, but all the elements are there. Students put themselves in the role of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, their audience is clearly identified as well as the format. The topic is Elizabeth Cady Stanton's goals for the women's rights movement. I did review with the students what an editorial was before sending them out to complete this assignment. It is a short writing assignment, but the paragraphs I received from the students lived up to my expectations. It is an easy way for me to assess my students' understanding of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

I like to have my students try to put themselves in the shoes of the people they are studying. RAFT provides an effective means for doing that. I altered RAFT a bit by using the guidelines to have the students draw a picture. The students had to draw a picture based on how they thought the Native Americans or the Chinese would convey the events of the gold rush. The students role was the Native Americans or the Chinese, their audience was high school students of today, the format was a picture and the topic was treatment of the group during the gold rush. Some of the images were quite impressive, not only for their accuracy, but the sense of brutality that was displayed against these groups as well.


  1. Amy:
    I love your idea about using the RAFT format to have kids draw images or political cartoon. After showing them political cartoons from one perspective, they could create something that demonstrates the other (usually the minority) perspective. It is a great way to ensure that students are able to understand both sides of a key historical debate.

  2. Amy, whether you use the exact terminology of "RAFT" or not, the lesson you describe really gets at the heart of guiding kids to consider perspective in history. The focused set-up on your part likely played a big factor in the quality of the paragraphs you've received!

  3. Amy - this is so great. I actually just went back to a stations project I am doing tomorrow on the Vietnam War and am using this technique! Thanks!