Schooling Magazine

Building RAFTs for Learning

By Mrsebiology @mrsebiology
I'm big into synthesis.  Just because I say something in class to students take notes over something doesn't mean that any real learning has taken place.  After my students did their Nearpod note check yesterday, they needed a way to put all that goodness about the types of cells and the differences between them together in their brains.  One of the best ways I've found over the years is to have students do this in writing, because it clearly shows what students know and don't know.  
If students can't write about a concept in their own words, they just don't know it.  End of story.
But having students simply write about a topic can be pretty boring, in both product and process.  One of the ways I've found to spice up student writing as evidence of understanding is to use the RAFT strategy.  RAFT stands for Role, Audience, Format, and Topic, and it's a strategy that's been around for a while (I first learned about it way back in 1999 at a conference).  However, I find it's pretty darn effective at getting students engaged in their writing, as well as having students synthesize concepts into a coherent whole.  In other words, it's good at getting the individual "planks" of random science stuff bound together into one coherent "raft."  Below is the RAFT I wrote for my Biology classes yesterday: Picture Students had a choice between the two rows-they could write a presidential debate or they could choose to write the television show episode. I think I enjoy writing these as much as students enjoy writing them.  I know I usually get better, higher quality writing when I use a RAFT than when I ask a plain old boring essay-type question, and I think it's because these challenge students to be creative, writing from a different perspective and in a different format than they normally do.  Do some students have a hard time wrapping their head around a different role?  They sure do; however, I don't think it's a bad thing to ask students to stretch their imagination and write from a different place in their head every now and then.
Want to give the RAFT strategy a try?  You can check out the resources below:
RAFT Writing Template
RAFT Examples for Different Subject Areas
RAFT Overview
Lots of RAFT Examples

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