Have you heard of RAFT Writing?  It’s used more regularly in upper grades classrooms.  It’s also a common format for writing in content areas.  Basically, the Role, Audience, Format, and Topic are laid out for students to do their writing.

Examples of its use in content areas could be:
~Write an article as if you were a water droplet going through the writing cycle.
~Write a diary entry as if you were a young, black child growing up on a plantation during times of slavery.

This method is commonly used as essay responses at the end of units to measure students’ content knowledge.  It’s also used in more open ended ways allowing for differentiation; the role and audience may be the only givens and students are able to choose the format and specific topic.

I have also used this same strategy with students as young as first grade.  In first grade, I introduce it by explaining each area.  We then generate, together, options for each area.  We generally do about 4-6 and often use students in the class or people in the school.  We then roll the dice to choose each one.  We do a shared writing of it together, the first time.  Then, we select another for the students to complete independently.

Sidebar: If your white board doesn’t have clips for pocket charts or chart paper, large binder clips are a helpful solution.
I introduced RAFT writing to my 3rd graders a couple weeks ago as a quick filler activity.  We now have done it 3 times.  They especially love when I let them use “texting” as an option for the format.  We also did our first mock state testing writing assignment and we analyzed it for RAFT before I set them free.  The state testing comes up in early March, and since they’ve never done it before, I want to give them adequate practice with the format, and the whole write-for-55-minutes-and-no-you-cannot-get-up-and-talk thing.  
I wanted to have some preset options for them so that I can use them as a center.  Also, it’s a lot quicker to just grab a card, or have a kiddo grab a card, and begin writing than it is to have them generate them each time.  

I’ve included two different types of cards.  One set has 24 cards with each area lined out.  I plan to use these cards as a writing center.

The other set has 64 cards that are color coded by area of RAFT.  You can go through and only choose specific ones from each area to use, or you can just print and use the entire set.  I will use these cards with the whole class when we are talking about RAFT.

Have you done RAFT writing with your students in lower grades?  I’d love to hear different ways you use it.