The RAFT strategy in education (Santa, 1988) is an effective tool for activating prior knowledge and differentiating writing in a variety of content areas. This strategy requires the writer to assume a specific role, address an intended audience, follow a certain format, and adhere to a chosen topic. Since students have an enormous amount of choice, the RAFT strategy for any classroom subject is an ideal vehicle for students to demonstrate their deep understanding of complex ideas and concepts.
The RAFT strategy begins with an easy to remember acronym that explains the components of the writing.
Role Who are you as the writer?
Audience Who are you writing for?
Format What format will the writing take?
Topic + strong verb What is your topic for the piece? What is the purpose?
The strong verb listed with the topic is an option that some teachers choose to employ. You can have students choose a verb such as formulate, design, persuade, convince, critique, apply, or convince to provide further definition for the writer.
Although the four components work together in harmony to help the writer develop the piece, they each have individual qualities central to the quality of the writing.
This component challenges the students to adopt a point of view different from their own. This analytical thinking can be a challenge to move outside of themselves and their formed opinions. Some of the most powerful RAFT writing comes when a student writes from a completely opposite view of his own. You can also assign students to take the role of a historical figure, a person currently in the public eye, or someone in a specific occupation.
Whether we like it or not most student writing is written for a single audience, the teacher. The RAFT differentiation strategy gives students the opportunity to craft a piece for a specific, intended audience. You can be as creative as you want about the audience. They could write for a group of students, decision makers such as a city council, or a certain group in history.
The format of the piece allows the student to stretch their writing into different genres and forms. Students could craft a number of formats including an essay, a persuasive letter, an advertisement, an advice column, a journal entry, or a news release.
The content is simply what the student will be writing about. When planning the RAFT activities you may find it helpful to start from this point. Once you determine what the topic is, which is often most closely related to the subject area, you can plan the other components.
It is important to remember that the RAFT strategy in education is a great tool for engaging knowledge and thinking about many different subject areas. Since the components can be designed to fit every content area, the possibilities for the strategy's use are limitless.
The most important thing to remember with this differentiation strategy is that you can adapt it to best fit the needs of your classroom and your students. There's no right or wrong, just the guidelines for a solid strategy that allows your students to have a different perspective on their own writing.
There are a variety of online resources available if you would like more information about the RAFT strategy in education, including:
Writing Fix - sample RAFTs, RAFT generator, rubrics, and useful forms
Read, Write, Think - professional development model, sample RAFTs, strategy in practice
RAFT Writing - PowerPoint presentations, technology integration ideas, templates, and sample RAFTs.
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