A Guide to the R.A.F.T. Writing Strategy Across Content Areas
January 28, 2022February 2, 2022Don Marlett
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.
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.
Brainstorm possible roles students could assume in their writing.
Decide who the audience would be as well as the format for writing.
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:
Role is convincingly and accurately portrayed
Role is accurate but lacks convincing details
Role lacks both accuracy and convincing details
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 is correctly used
Format is alluded to but not consistently used
Format is not used correctly
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;
1st Grade RAFT Example for English/Language Arts: How to Write a “How To” Paragraph
Explain how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Labeled Sequence Pictures
Draw and label a series of pictures that show the steps in making a peanut butter sandwich.
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.
List the steps in making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
2nd Grade RAFT Example for Math: How Do People Pay for Things
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.
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.
Make a List
Make a list of the names of coins you used to buy a birthday card for $1.00.
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
Sing the song of the life cycle of a plant from seed to the blooming flower.
Draw and write your story of becoming an adult plant.
Draw and describe the parts of a plant and their purpose.
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 is “himself” or “herself.”
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.
actions taken to save Wilbur from slaughter.
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
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:
Deposition or plot chart
Tell what really happened.
Save lives. Don’t talk to strangers.
Help me! I was framed!
Warning Posters with Captions
Strangers & Red: Beware!(A Cautionary Tale)
5th Grade RAFT Example for Math: Decimal
Explain the importance of finding the missing decimal point.
Determine why the decimal point is so important in doing decimal addition and subtraction.
Song or Poem
Convince sum to be Difference’s best friend because they have so much in common with decimal addition and subtract.
Convince the decimal to vote Zero as the best candidate to be used as a placeholder.
Explain why you can’t live without the decimal point.
4th Grade RAFT Example for Science: Astronomy
A friend or relative
Your trip to Pluto and what you saw on the way.
Scientific entry on each planet you pass on your way to Pluto.
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
Opposite vertical angle
It’s like looking in a mirror
Wanted: My complement
Any angle less than 180 degrees
Together we make a straight angle
7th Grade RAFT Writing Example for Science: Invasive Species
Explain the effects.
Warning Posters with Captions
Why I am not “wanted!” (A Cautionary Tale)
It’s Not Fair! How I Lost My Home and My Life…
Don’t’ Blame Me: I Can’t Help Myself!
Why I am going to win…
8th Grade RAFT Writing Example for Social Studies: Taxation Without Representation
British newspaper reporter
Boston Tea Party
Boston Tea Party
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
Health Risks to continued use of tobacco
Health Insurance Executive
How to cut the cost of health insurance
Tobacco Company Executive
Thank You Card
Why business is booming
Tobacco/Liquor Company President
Tobacco/Liquor Control Board
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
We’re perfect for each other!
Help Wanted Advertisement
Wanted: Sugar Producing Organelle
Comic Book Fans
The Adventures of Photosynthesis
NO ONE- TOP SECRET
It is tough being green!
Subject Area Examples
Readers in 1851
Native Americans sign treaty at Ft. Laramie
Dead Confederate Soldier
Robert E. Lee
Complaint or Advice
New invention disrupts skies
21st Century Woman
Susan B. Anthony
Alexander the Great
What I have seen on my journeys
My son likes the British
Kaiser Wilhelm II
European Heads of State
How we can start a World War
Martin Luther King Jr.
Nonviolent opposition and resistance
Great Wall of China
Invaders I have seen and stopped
What you will see when you travel my length
Readers in the 1870s
Qualities of General Custer
US Supreme Court
Dred Scott Decision
Talk Show Host
Other water drops
Journey through the water cycle
Process of germination
9th grade students
Journey through a parallel circuit
Chemical weathering process
Dear Abby readers
Effects of acid rain
Effects of fertilizer runoff
Effects of oil spills
Effects of DDT
Red blood cell
Journey through circulatory system
Effects of drinking
Rusty old car
Ozone layer has formed
Journey through the digestive system
Importance of the #0
Directions for a blueprint
Mental ways to calculate percentages
Proof/check for set membership
Rules for divisibility
Parts of a graph
How to read a graph
Instructions to jury
Laws of exponents
Perfect, abundant, deficient amicable numbers
Role of variables
Comparing volume measurements
Explain the differences of triangles
Argue the importance of functions
Explain their relationship
Set of rational numbers
Prove that you belong to this set
Use in sentences
Need for Prenatal Nutrition
Romeo and Juliet
Recreate the ending of Romeo and Juliet
Reactions to Animal Farm
Community of Monroeville, AL
Eulogy for Atticus Finch
Summer Holidays (tone of amusement / purpose to entertain and inform)
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.