A Guide to the R.A.F.T. Writing Strategy Across Content Areas

raft writing strategy

Why is RAFT writing one of the most effective writing strategies, particularly across all content areas and subjects? Before we share how it enables fluency and purpose, incorporates the elements of effective writing, provides students with a choice that is on grade level, and engages students to explain what they know and elaborate, let’s first talk about how different writing styles contribute to learning and understanding.

How Writing Pulls Back the Curtain

Heard often in classrooms: “I know the answer but I can’t explain it!” The problem here is a student who suffers from messy thinking and the simple answer to clearing that confusion might be writing.

Research has proven that writing crystallizes cloudy thinking, yet teachers often miss opportunities to provide students a venue for becoming aware of what they know and do not know. Another missed opportunity arises from a misunderstanding of types of writers.

What many mistake as writer’s block is actually a block in thinking.

Dianne Boehm simplifies this concept in her book Mozartians, Beethovians, and the Art of Teaching Writing. She describes writers as either Mozartians or Beethovians:

  • Beethovians are discoverers who discover what they think during the writing process. They actually generate their ideas as they write. These writers are very messy writers who write in a non-directed way. This writing almost always needs a great deal of revision.
  • Mozartians, by contrast, are planners. They mentally compose before they ever put pen to paper, working in a linear way focusing on what comes next. As they write they tend to recall what they know and organize that information as they write. Their revision process isn’t nearly as broad because they have mentally composed, revised, and edited throughout the composition process. 

Either type of writer is using writing in a way that contributes to learning and understanding.

Effective Writing in the Classroom

Regardless of which type of writer you or your students are, the implications are the same. Writing is the ideal vehicle for getting at what students understand and don’t understand. Junior Teague wrote that “nothing is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood.” All teachers have an amusing personal anecdote that illustrates the truth of this statement. The stories lose their humor, however, when we are honest about how much misinformation escapes our notice. Students are gifted at staying below the radar of our formative assessments, but writing pulls back the curtain.

Writing can help content area teachers in their efforts to provide students with opportunities to connect prior knowledge. It provides an ideal vehicle for summarizing strategies that benefit both the student and the teacher with shared insights to understanding. Writing helps students organize their thinking, create new knowledge, and make tentative ideas become permanent ones.

R.A.F.T.: The Best Writing Strategy For All Content Areas

Of course, there are numerous writing strategies to choose from.  However, in my opinion, the best writing strategy is the R.A.F.T. strategy.

Effective writing enables students to write fluently and purposefully for an audience. R.A.F.T. can help you identify and incorporate the elements of effective writing. The R.A.F.T. strategy engages students in explaining what they know about a topic and then elaborating. In addition, it provides students with a choice that is on grade level.

What is the R.A.F.T. Strategy?

The R.A.F.T. stands for:

  • Role of the writer 
    • Helps the writer decide on point of view and voice.
  • Audience for the piece of writing 
    • Reminds the writer that he must communicate ideas to someone else.
    • Helps the writer determine content and style. 
  • Format of the material 
    • Helps the writer organize ideas and employ the conventions of format, such as  letters, interviews, and story problems. 
  • Topic of writing 
    • Helps the writer focus on main ideas. 

R.A.F.T. Procedure: 

  1. Think about the concepts or processes that you want students to learn as they read a selected passage. Consider how writing in an interesting 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.

R.A.F.T. Scoring Rubric: 

Criteria 20 points 17 points 14 points
Role Role is convincingly and accurately portrayed Role is accurate but lacks convincing details Role lacks both accuracy and convincing details
Audience Point of view of the audience is addressed appropriately and convincingly Point of view of the audience is addressed but lacks supporting details Point of view of the audience is briefly addressed but not supported
Format Format is correctly used Format is alluded to but not consistently used Format is not used correctly
Topic Point of view on the topic is clear, precise, accurate and includes supporting details Point of view on the topic is clear and accurate, but lacks precision and/or supporting details Point of view on the topic in unclear or inaccurate
Neatness and Creativity The R.A.F.T. is completed thoroughly and creatively; if written has no mechanical errors The R.A.F.T.is completed and includes some creativity; if written has no more than two specific mechanical errors The R.A.F.T.is incomplete or does not use creativity; if written has more than two specific mechanical errors;

Table of Contents – R.A.F.T Writing Examples

1st Grade RAFT Example for English/Language Arts: How to Write a “How To” Paragraph

Role Audience Format Topic
Student Friend Friendly Letter Explain how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
First/Second Grader Younger Student Labeled Sequence Pictures Draw and label a series of pictures that show the steps in making a peanut butter sandwich.
Student Student Write a Post-it Note Response What could happen if you did not follow the steps for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in order.
Jelly Man Sandwich Girl Check List List the steps in making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

2nd Grade RAFT Example for Math: How Do People Pay for Things

Role Audience Format Topic
You Lucy Draw and Label Draw and explain all the different combinations of coins that Lucy could have used to pay for a birthday card that costs $1.00.
You Parent Written Request Convince your parents to give you the coins in their pockets to pay for the birthday card for your friend. Let them know what coins you will need to pay for a card that costs $1.00.
Lucy Charlie Brown Make a List Make a list of the names of coins you used to buy a birthday card for $1.00.
Snoopy School Newspaper Cartoon Strip Draw a cartoon strip to show how Lucy might have saved $1.00 in coins to buy Charlie Brown a birthday card. In each frame show how much money she saved. Be sure it adds up to $1.00 by the end.

2nd Grade RAFT Example for Science: Lesson on Living Things: Plants

Role Audience Format Topic
Lady Bug Flower Song Sing the song of the life cycle of a plant from seed to the blooming flower.
Baby Seed Newspaper Cartoon Strip Draw and write your story of becoming an adult plant.
Student Parent Post Card Draw and describe the parts of a plant and their purpose.
Flower Children Story Book Describe how the parts of a plant are like a factory.

3rd Grade RAFT Example for English/Language Arts: Charlotte’s Web

  • Role: You will assume the role of Wilbur or Charlotte.
  • Audience: The audience is “himself” or “herself.”
  • Format: In reading this story, we discussed the unusual friendship between a pig named Wilbur and a barn spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur was in danger of being slaughtered by the farmer, Charlotte writes messages praising Wilbur, such as “Some Pig” in her web to persuade the farmer to let him live. The format you will use is a personal journal or diary. Assume or pretend that your chosen character talked things over in his or her head, as the action of the story played out. What was he or she thinking? How did it feel? What did he or she think that the farmer should do? How can you describe these things? When you assume the role of Wilbur or Charlotte, you will be using words to describe how you feel—you will become the character.
  • Topic: The actions taken to save Wilbur from slaughter.
  • Writing Task: Write a response in which you assume the role of Wilbur or Charlotte. You must decide what you think he or she was thinking and feeling, and then describe it in detail. Use specific references to the text. You should have at least four or more references to the text and at least three quotations. Your response should be at least five paragraphs long.

3rd Grade RAFT Writing Example for ELA: Character Perspective

Role Audience Format Topic
Students choose a perspective from which they work: Students choose an audience to address: Students choose their product or performance: Students choose a “lens” or topic of Interest:
Red Police Deposition or plot chart Tell what really happened.
Grandma Red 1-2-minute conversation Save lives. Don’t talk to strangers.
Wolf Defense Attorney 1-2-minute conversation Help me! I was framed!
Neighbor PTO Warning Posters with Captions Strangers & Red: Beware!(A Cautionary Tale)

5th Grade RAFT Example for Math: Decimal

Role Audience Format Topic
Banker Detective Wanted Poster Explain the importance of finding the missing decimal point.
Student Decimal Point Interview Determine why the decimal point is so important in doing decimal addition and subtraction.
Sum Difference Song or Poem Convince sum to be Difference’s best friend because they have so much in common with decimal addition and subtract.
Zero Decimal Point Campaign Convince the decimal to vote Zero as the best candidate to be used as a placeholder.
Money Decimal Point Love letter Explain why you can’t live without the decimal point.

4th Grade RAFT Example for Science: Astronomy

Role Audience Format Topic
Tourist A friend or relative Postcard Your trip to Pluto and what you saw on the way.
Astronaut NASA Scientific log Scientific entry on each planet you pass on your way to Pluto.
Advertising Agent Tourists Advertisement An advertisement for an adventure in the Solar System that persuades people to become cosmic tourists.

6th Grade RAFT Example for Geometry Lesson: Types of Angles

Role Audience Format Topic
Vertical angle Opposite vertical angle Poem It’s like looking in a mirror
Acute angle Missing angle Wanted poster Wanted: My complement
Any angle less than 180 degrees Supplementary angle Persuasive speech Together we make a straight angle

7th Grade RAFT Writing Example for Science: Invasive Species

Role Audience Format Topic
Ecosystem Humans 1-2-minute conversation Explain the effects.
Human “Neighbor” Nearby communities Warning Posters with Captions Why I am not “wanted!” (A Cautionary Tale)
Native Species Invasive Species Obituary It’s Not Fair! How I Lost My Home and My Life…
Invasive Species Ecosystem Memoir Letter Don’t’ Blame Me: I Can’t Help Myself!
Invasive Species Nonnative Species 1-2-minute conversation Why I am going to win…

8th Grade RAFT Writing Example for Social Studies: Taxation Without Representation

Role Audience Format Topic
British newspaper reporter English citizens Newspaper article Boston Tea Party
Eyewitness Reporter Interview Boston Tea Party
King George Parliament Speech Declaration of Independence

9th Grade RAFT Example Lesson on Inference Using John Steinbeck’s, “The Pearl”

  • Role: You will assume the role of Juana, wife of Kino in John Steinbeck’s, The Pearl.
  • Audience: The audience is “herself.”
  • Format: In reading the novel, we considered the “Song of Evil” and the “Song of the Family;” now, you are to create Juana’s “Song to Herself.” The format you will use is a personal journal or diary. Assume or pretend that Juana communicated with herself, talked things over in her head, as the action of the story played out. What was she thinking? How did it feel? What did she think her family should do? Now, how can you describe these things? When you assume the role of Juana, you will be using words to describe how you feel—you will be singing the “Song of Herself.”
  • Topic: The time you will use is during the action of The Pearl and speculation on what happened afterward—what did the family do after they threw the “pearl of the world” back into the ocean?
  • The Writing Task: Write a response in which you assume the role of Juana, wife of Kino in John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. You must decide what you think she was thinking and feeling, and then describe it in detail. Use specific references to the text. You should have at least seven references to the text and at least three quotations. You must also specifically mention all four of the essential questions, which is cake because Juana is an indigenous female in a sexist and racist culture that was neither fair nor just because those in power—including her husband—used it over the powerless, a group of which she is a member. Your response should be at least two typed double-spaced pages in 12 point font.

9th Grade RAFT Example for ELA: Analyzing Viewpoints Lesson

Role Audience Format Topic
Doctor Cancer Patient Prescription Health Risks to continued use of tobacco
Health Insurance Executive Healthy People Advertising Postcard How to cut the cost of health insurance
Funeral Director Tobacco Company Executive Thank You Card Why business is booming
Tobacco/Liquor Company President Tobacco/Liquor Control Board Fact Sheet Why use is okay and a human right

Writing Task: There are many views on the use of alcohol and tobacco. They range from those vehemently against it to those who believe there should be no laws regulating it. It is important to be able to see and understand viewpoints different than our own. Although understanding does not mean agreeing, seeing the other side allows us to have a deeper understanding of the complexity of these social issues. Based on the US Health Department video we watched to complete your graphic organizer showing the research findings about short and long term consequences of alcohol and tobacco use, complete two of the following R.A.F.T. assignments. Choose one from A and B, and one from C and D. You will be graded based on the rubric displayed on the front board. Please look over the rubric before you begin.This will give you a clear picture of my expectations for this activity. Your R.A.F.T. will be due tomorrow as you enter the classroom.

10th Grade RAFT Writing Example for Biology: Photosynthesis

Role Audience Format Topic
The Chloroplasts Sunlight Love Letter We’re perfect for each other!
Plant Job-seeking chloroplasts Help Wanted Advertisement Wanted: Sugar Producing Organelle
Author Comic Book Fans Comic Book The Adventures of Photosynthesis
Plant NO ONE- TOP SECRET Diary Entry It is tough being green!

Subject Area Examples

Social Studies

Role Audience Format Topic
Newspaper Reporter Readers in 1851 News report Native Americans sign treaty at Ft. Laramie
Dead Confederate Soldier Robert E. Lee Complaint Pickett’s Charge
Bird Wright Brothers Complaint or Advice New invention disrupts skies
21st Century Woman Susan B. Anthony Thank-you note Woman’s rights
Alexander the Great Aristotle Letter What I have seen on my journeys
Ben Franklin Dear Abby Advice column My son likes the British
Kaiser Wilhelm II European Heads of State Recipe How we can start a World War
Mohandas Gandhi Martin Luther King Jr. Letter Nonviolent opposition and resistance
Great Wall of China Self Diary Invaders I have seen and stopped
Colorado River Rafters Travel guide What you will see when you travel my length
Rain Forest Humans Complaint Deforestation
Constituent Governor Proposition State taxes
Newspaper reporter Readers in the 1870s Obituary Qualities of General Custer
Lawyer US Supreme Court Appeal Speech Dred Scott Decision
Talk Show Host Television public Talk Show Women’s rights

Science

Role Audience Format Topic
Water drop Other water drops Travel guide Journey through the water cycle
Bean Self Diary Process of germination
Frog Tadpole Letter Life cycle
Electron 9th grade students Letter Journey through a parallel circuit
Limestone rock Cave visitors Postcard Chemical weathering process
Statue Dear Abby readers Advice column Effects of acid rain
Trout Farmers Petition Effects of fertilizer runoff
Duck Senator Letter Effects of oil spills
Star Self Diary Life cycle
Peregrine falcon Public News column Effects of DDT
Red blood cell Lungs Thank-you note Journey through circulatory system
Liver Alcohol Complaint Effects of drinking
Lungs Brain Thank-you note Quitting smoking
Rusty old car Previous owner Letter Chemical
News writer Public Press release Ozone layer has formed
Oreo Other Oreos Travel guide Journey through the digestive system

Math

Role Audience Format Topic
Zero Whole numbers Campaign speech Importance of the #0
Scale factor Architect Directions for a blueprint Scale drawings
Percent Student Tip sheet Mental ways to calculate percentages
Repeating decimal Customers Petition Proof/check for set membership
Prime number Rational numbers Instructions Rules for divisibility
Parts of a graph TV audience Script How to read a graph
Exponent Jury Instructions to jury Laws of exponents
One Whole numbers Advice column Perfect, abundant, deficient amicable numbers
Variable Equations Letter Role of variables
Container Self Diary Comparing volume measurements
Acute triangle Obtuse triangle Letter Explain the differences of triangles
Function Relations Article Argue the importance of functions
Square root Whole number Love letter Explain their relationship
Repeating decimal Set of rational numbers Petition Prove that you belong to this set

English/Language Arts

Role Audience Format Topic
Role text text text
Comma 9th Graders Job description Use in sentences
Doctor’s Association Future Parents Web page Need for Prenatal Nutrition
Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet Play Script Recreate the ending of Romeo and Juliet
Stalin George Orwell Book Review Reactions to Animal Farm
Scout Finch Community of Monroeville, AL Eulogy for Atticus Finch Social Inequality
You Best Friend Poem Summer Holidays (tone of amusement / purpose to entertain and inform)
Semicolon Classmates Diary Entry I Wish You Really Understood Where I Belong
Dictionary Younger Students Love Letter Why you need me
Cartoonist Newspaper Readers Comic Strip with Captions The definition of onomatopoeia or alliteration

Don Marlett

Don has been an educator for 20 years. Before joining Learning-Focused he taught High School and Middle School Science and worked as a school administrator. Don has participated in school evaluations focused on the implementation of High Yield Strategies. He has presented at numerous conferences, including the Florida Association of School Administrators Conference, the Tennessee Principals Association Conference, and the Kentucky Association of School Administrators. Don leads product development, provides leadership training and coaching, and coaches educators in the implementation of the Learning-Focused Instructional Framework.

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