I first heard of RAFT writing several years ago as a strategy for students to show their content knowledge beyond just writing reports. Most of the suggestions for use have been in upper grades classrooms, especially in middle school and high school. It’s also a common format for writing in content areas to have students demonstrate their understanding of the topic that has been learned- often as a product at the end of the unit. RAFT Writing has students respond when the Role, Audience, Format, and Topic are laid out for students to do their writing, often showcasing their content knowledge. It’s also a great tool to help teachers write prompts for those content areas.
Over the years, however, I’ve used RAFT as a writing strategy for analyzing prompts in elementary school with students as young as first grade. RAFT has allowed me to give students experience and exposure with various writing types, build in creative writing into our writing centers, and give students a tool to use for state testing to analyze the prompts their given and respond appropriately.
RAFT is an acronym identifying the four aspects of a writing prompt:
R- Role (who is the character/narrator and their point of view)
A- Audience (who is the writing for)
F- Format (what type of writing is expected)
T- Topic (what you are writing about)
Examples of RAFT in content areas could be:
~Write an article as if you were a water droplet going through the water cycle.
~Write a story as a water droplet going through the water cycle.
~Pretend you are a child in 1774 in what will eventually be America. Describe what your life is like.
RAFT Writing 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 pieces given and students are able to choose the format and specific topic. Or, students are given the topic and format, but can choose their role and the audience. This is most often done in intermediate classrooms and higher as the focus is on the subject and content that has been taught, and not on the writing itself.
I’ve used RAFT as a strategy in other ways in my elementary classroom, and with other classes and groups of students, with good success.
RAFT Writing in the Primary Grades
I have used RAFT Writing with students as young as first grade as a way of building creative writing. In first grade I introduce it by explaining each of the components. We then generate, together, several different items for each component. We generally do about 4-6 and often use students in the class or people in the school as the role and audience. This helps make the task relevant to students. We then roll a dice to choose which item from each category we’ll use. We do a shared writing of it together, the first time. Then, we select another for the students to complete independently. After students are familiar with RAFT and how it can be used to generate a writing task, I use my RAFT Writing cards as an option during our centers to build students’ creative writing.
RAFT Writing as a Test Prep Strategy
I also really like using RAFT as a test prep strategy. On the state tests, students are given an on-the-spot prompt to respond to. Often, it’s in response to reading, and students are expected to respond from a range of genres. In my experience, students struggle to identify the proper genre to respond to or miss out on other key pieces of information, such as writing from a character’s perspective. With my third graders, it’s so important to me that they have a strategy to “attack” a difficult task that is given to them. RAFT is a strategy that can make them break down the prompt and help them feel ready to respond successfully.
We do our main writing work during our writers workshop four days a week. However, one day a week, we do specific RAFT practice. I begin the year doing various narrative writing tasks with RAFT, though I introduce it with examples of all 3 genres. I want my students to be successful with it so I don’t typically do much of the other genres until we have explicitly done them together. However, I will occasionally do something like a how-to, or something opinion based that I know they have strong feelings about. Our weekly RAFT practice gives my students an opportunity to work through the genres in a more spiral way than we typically do during writers workshop. It also allows me to continue to do focused lessons on specific strategies I want to see in their writing. This pre-writing step has made a world of difference for my students as they tackle the demands of state testing writing prompts!
After I’ve introduced and practiced RAFT with my students, we begin analyzing prompts. Using the strategy to think through and plan writing with the acronym is why it’s so effective and useful. This easy form is one I use when I begin having students independently analyze their writing prompts. I have students identify each area of RAFT and then I work to correct any misconceptions. You can download the free page by clicking the image below.
I also offer a variety of free RAFT writing resources in my free library. As we practice RAFT throughout the year, we move on to students writing based on the the prompt information. These printables and templates have us up and working with a prompt in just a few quick seconds. I have 5 ready to print digital RAFT prompts ready to go!
I have two digital templates for creating your own RAFT writing prompts. I use these to give my students practice with a RAFT prompt each week after we’ve worked through the parts together. The digital template is designed for students to type their responses in and is perfect for updating and sharing as copies on Google Classroom. The printable is designed with handwriting lines for students to write their written responses after you’ve typed the prompt.
You can download each of them from my Free Library. To access it, sign up for my newsletter. After confirmation, you’ll receive an email with the link and password to access each of the files for yourself.
RAFT is such a useful writing strategy that can be incorporated in so many different ways in the classroom. In addition to our writing block, I also use digital prompt writing and journals to give students much needed practice responding to prompts on a regular basis. You can read more about that by clicking the link below.