Let Students Explore on a Writing RAFT

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Lisa CoatesSeeing the 6-word Autobiography posted recently (http://blog.ed.gov/page/2/) reminded me about a writing strategy that I love to use.  I was introduced to the idea several years ago, when Hanover County (VA) Public Schools, as part of their literacy initiative, chose Project CRISS (CReating Independence through Student-Owned Strategies) as a method to encourage our students to become more involved and excited about their learning. 

As part of this, I use a RAFT strategy (Santa,1988) that employs writing-to-learn activities to enhance understanding of informational text. Instead of writing a traditional essay explaining a concept learned, students demonstrate their understanding in a nontraditional format that encourages creative thinking and motivates students to reflect on their reading in unusual ways.  RAFT is an acronym that stands for:

  •  Role of the writer: What is the writer’s role: reporter, observer, eyewitness, object, number,etc.?
  • Audience: Who will be reading the writing: the teacher, other students, a parent, editor, people in the community, etc.?
  • Format: What is the best way to present this writing: in a letter, an article, a report, a poem, an advertisement, e-mail, etc.?
  •  Topic: Who or what is the subject of this writing: a famous scientist, a prehistoric cave dweller, a character from literature, a chemical element or physical object, etc.?

As a middle school special education teacher, I have found that my students can be reluctant writers, but RAFT writing provides them with choices and fosters creativity, while encouraging students to write across the curriculum. 

I also like the RAFT strategy because it builds critical thinking and addresses a variety of learning styles.

How to build a RAFT:

  1. Think about the concepts or process that you want students to learn as they read a selected passage. Consider how writing in a fun way may enhance students’ understanding of the topic. 
  2. Brainstorm possible roles students could assume in their writing.
  3. Decide who the audience would be as well as the format for writing.
  4. After students have finished reading, identify the role, audience, format and topic (RAFT) for the writing. Assign the same role for all students, or let them choose from several different roles.


RAFT Examples for Math

Role Audience Format Topic
Zero Whole numbers Campaign speech Importance of the number 0
Scale factor Architect Directions for a blueprint Scale drawings
Percent Student Tip sheet Mental ways to calculate percents
Repeating decimal Customers Petition Rules for divisibility
Prime number Rational numbers Instructions How to read a graph
Parts of a graph TV audience Script Laws of exponents
Exponent Jury Instructions to the jury Perfect, abundant, deficient, amicable numbers
One Whole numbers Advice column Role of variables
Variable Equations Letter Comparing volume measurements
Container Self Diary Explain differences of triangles
Acute triangle Obtuse triangle Letter Argue the importance of functions

Lisa Coates
Lisa teaches at Liberty Middle School in Ashland, Virginia.  She is a Classroom Teacher Ambassador Fellow.