April 2, 2007 at 11:11 am | Posted in uncategorized | 17 Comments

We are working on RAFTS this week.  What are some ways you have adapted this technique to your content area?  Do you feel RAFT will be helpful for students to explore and understand content?

Paul, Christian, & Diana



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  1. While I have not used RAFTS in an actual class room, the following example shows how the strategy has been successfully used with math students: http://mymindisopen.info/2007/04/writing_raft.html
    The RAFT options presented by the teacher allowed the students to choose from a variety of roles and formats to complete the assignment. These students demonstrated creativity with the format and thorough learning of the mathematical concepts behind it. This is a sample of a student’s work and the RAFT setup:

    Role Audience Format Topic
    A line A circle A love letter How many ways to intersect each other

    Dear Circle,
    I am sorry that we are only able to intersect twice. I would intersect more with you if possible. I am jealous of anyone else that has the possibility of intersecting with you more. Especially parabola. I feel as if he tries to intersect with you up to 4 times sometimes. I enjoy being a function though, and would not trade it for anything. At least we have your diameter, which is what we can try to make together between our two intersecting points if we try really hard. I am up to the challenge, I hope you are too.

    This is clearly an activity students can enjoy and can effectively utilize to communicate understanding of concepts. It is an excellent way to energize students about writing in the content area and is wide open to creativity levels hard to match in other strategies.
    By helping students select roles with which they can readily identify, the teacher can enable them to unlock talents they may not know they have. A few suggestions provided by the teacher will get them started, but once they gain some initial experience they will be able to select any format they like and connect roles and topics to it.
    This strategy would be best employed after thorough practice with concepts to ensure students properly express connections between the key ideas. It can be done as an introductory activity if the teacher provides adequate scaffolding to ensure students make appropriate connections. The scaffolding would be very manageable and should be focused to accommodate a variety of interests. In geometry alone formats can range from advice columns, to petitions, to poetry, to speeches, to sporting events and can take on nearly any role imaginable. Expanding to other math units can quickly produce countless writing opportunities – and this is all before considering student-created options. This may be one of the most easily adaptable ways to get students writing about math because it can be done from a perspective that suits their interests perfectly.

    I can easily generate a handful of approaches for writing about the linear equation (y = mx+b) to focus attention on specific facets of its use. For instance, at an arbitration hearing told from the perspective of the equal sign (as arbitrator) arguments could be heard from both sides to emphasize how balance and equality are maintained regardless of how much shifting is done from one side to the other. A mountain climbing expedition described from the perspective of a climber’s backpack (played by the slope expression) could depict how steeper mountains (lines with increasingly positive values of slope) yield better views of the landscape during the climb. A letter written from the dependent variable to the independent variable could use an interpersonal relationship approach to describe the connections between these special variables (friends). A marathon described by a sports commentator at a fixed point along the route (played by the y-intercept) could be used to describe the pace of the race and all the activity as competitors pass by the checkpoint (representing lines of differing slope passing through the same y-intercept). It grows rapidly from there, and this is just one specific topic.

    We could use the approach in journaling initially to get students comfortable writing about math. After they have some experience, they could expand into blogging, or even develop a class wiki for greater excitement, readership, and learning potential. The written pieces do not need to be long or time consuming and should be fun and educational for students. A collection of pieces would be available in very short order and could be synthesized into “the adventures of character x in the world of geometry.” This is where the wiki application comes in because others can add segments to the story as their creativity is sparked, or subsequent topic exploration in class could naturally produce new adventures for our hero.

    There are many websites on writing activities (including math writing), proving that opportunities for writing abound! The following are a few such sites submitted for consideration:

    The RAFTS strategy is a great tool, and I look forward to using it with real students to produce tangible gains in their learning. It could lead to a sense of satisfaction described by a teacher who witnessed students getting energized about learning in Blog Juice for Educational Technology at http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/2007/04/04/seeing-wonder/

    I have never seen “wonder” displayed so effectively or so movingly than what I saw in that little boy’s face.
    I saw a brain running away with possibilities!
    I saw a future of potentials blossom before his life!
    I saw in his eyes, the clarity of something new and wondrous, learned and engaged,
    and probably to remain a useful nugget of knowledge for the rest of his life,
    and lives that he influences in his future.
    It’s why we teach!

  2. As Mike said in the first blog –

    This is clearly an activity students can enjoy and can effectively utilize to communicate understanding of concepts. It is an excellent way to energize students about writing in the content area and is wide open to creativity levels hard to match in other strategies.”

    Mike has a great point that RAFTS are a great activity to get the students involved and communicating about the topic being taught. I agree with Mike that the students can be energized about writing about content areas. Instead of just researching a topic and writing what the textbook says, the students can be creative and think of different ways to write about content being taught in class. If the students are interested in the RAFT, they will remember the content.
    Using RAFTs in science class will be a great way to get the students interested in the content. Instead of just assigning the students to write a typical essay, the students can use their imagination to create an essay with the science content as the topic.
    A website I found at http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/strats/raft/
    gave these suggestions for using RAFTs in your classroom.

    “Step one: Explain to the students how all writers have to consider various aspects before every writing assignment including role, audience, format, and topic. Tell them that they are going to structure their writing around these elements. (It may be helpful to display the elements on chart paper or a bulletin board for future reference).
    Step two: Display a completed RAFTs example on the overhead, and discuss the key elements as a class.
    Step three: Then, demonstrate, model, and “think aloud” another sample RAFTs exercise with the aid of the class. Brainstorm additional topic ideas, and write down the suggestions listing roles, audiences, formats, and strong verbs associated with each topic.
    Step four: Assign students to small, heterogeneous groups of four or five or pairs and have them “put their heads together” to write about a chosen topic with one RAFTs assignment between them.
    Step five: Circulate among the groups to provide assistance as needed. Then have the groups share their completed assignments with the class.
    Step six: After students become more proficient in developing this style of writing, have them generate RAFTs assignments of their own based on current topics studied in class.

    These suggestions such as using groups to decide on a content topic can be helpful. I believe a small group of students that use think alouds and brainstorming is a great way to get the students thinking about the content we are teaching. The students will be thinking about the content and as they review this information there should be a deeper understanding of the material.
    The third suggestion is helpful as the students will be involved with the groups as they brainstorm ideas. I also believe the second suggestion by this website to model a RAFT in front of the class will be very helpful. It will help the students understand how to format a RAFT writing assignment when they see a RAFT in front of them and read through one.
    The students need to have a purpose for the writing so this can be explained in the beginning. The RAFT can be adapted to fit into your class as the students need to explain the principles to an audience. For example, if the students are learning nuclear chemistry. The teacher can model a RAFT where Albert Einstein writes a letter to the U.S. government describing his nuclear inventions that could be used as a weapon. The students will need to know the purpose of explaining the chemistry topic to the audience. As the students write the letter, they will research the content and develop a better understanding.
    I found a rubric a teacher can use with RAFTS at
    The rubric not only deals with writing mechanics but also if the students focus on the format, stay with the role and if the topic information is accurate. The topic information can be supported with text sources and internet sites.This rubric can be useful to give to the students when RAFTS are assigned so the students know what to expect.

    Another website that describes the purpose of RAFTs is at http://www.learnnc.org/lessons/burrbost11192004597. I can see how RAFTs will help the students stay focused on the topic, audience and purpose of the writing. This website also explains modeling a RAFT on the overhead, using think-alouds to discuss a RAFT and using student groups to brainstorm the topic.

  3. I had never heard of RAFTs before this semester (both in GMST 513 Assessment, where it’s called GRASP, and here), nor can I recall ever using anything similar as a student. They strike me as very useful tools to activate higher-order thinking in the students. From my own point of view, I would have loved to do some creative writing in science once in awhile, if for nothing else but to break up the monotony of solving word problems.
    I plan to use RAFTs often in my classroom to get students thinking about concepts more from the inside-out perspective. I am particularly intrigued with the idea of considering the point of view of the electron in the atom, and all the interesting situations I can conceive (i.e. being in an atom that is struck by a photon of light; being an atom in the gold foil in the famous Rutherford experiment; being an electron in a parallel circuit; etc…) The RAFT is also a good way for the student to get a taste of the type of work that occurs in particular careers, such as scientists, electricians, architects, engineers, etc… The grading will certainly be more time-consuming than those good old multiple guess exams, but I think the time I will need to put into assessing the work will be well worth the effort. I was glad to see the nice site Paul found for designing rubrics for RAFTs, as I still seem to have a hard time coming up with good rubrics on my own. I have only designed a few RAFTS, never actually taught them: the first has the student consider the design of a rope-tow ski lift at a local park from the perspective of a Systems Engineer, and has the audience the Department of Parks and Recreation; my other RAFT makes the student a Physicist hired onto a team of Software Engineers who write code for computer games. The Physicist has to write an algorithm for the programmers that explains the motion of billiard balls in a game of 8-ball based on Newton’s Laws of Motion, energy, force, kinematics and momentum. I surfed the Internet a little bit to get some ideas about RAFTs/GRASPS for my Assessment course and came across this article in The Science Teacher, the magazine put out by the NSTA at the high school level: http://www.nsta.org/main/news/stories/science_teacher.php?news_story_ID=52851
    Not only does the article give some decent resources to use in developing RAFTS and a short rubric, it also references the textbook we’re using for GMST 525! I also came across this other neat site called The Writing Fix (motto where getting a daily “fix” of writing is more important than fixing your writing) which has a RAFTS Prompt-Maker for Math. In addition, The Writing Fix has Writing Across the Curriculum Guide. I have this one bookmarked because there’s no doubt I’ll be returning here for advice.

  4. My first exposure to RAFTS was in this program. One of my fellow graduate students used a RAFT as part of an example lesson. At first I was skeptical; it seemed like fluff that would never work in a real science class. However, as I completed the assignment I saw it’s potential. The assignment was to be a cell organelle and convince the cell that you are the most important organelle. As I wrote I realized how deeply you have to think to write a persuasive letter. I had to think about the organelle’s role, function and it’s interaction with the cell. The act of writing it down in an organized framework really solidified it in my mind. After that experience I was hooked on RAFTS and GRASPs.

    Given the nature and flexibility of RAFTS they are easily and effectively adapted to any subject. Using them in science can be especially interesting. You can have students look at topics and problems from multiple points of view. For example, they can be an endangered animal pleading their case for survival or a rain drop describing the water cycle. They can also learn about the rich history of science by writing letter as if they were Darwin. They can also write a letter to Mendel telling him that his gene theory was correct even though he did not live to see it acknowledged!

    An interesting website that I found has a template with prompts to create your own RAFTS in science, math or history. They even include the strong verb! http://www.writingfix.com/WAC/Writing_Across_Curriculum_RAFTS_Science.htm

    This site is useful for a busy teacher, but I prefer to create my own RAFTS. I think creating them yourself leads to more creativity and more connection to your own teaching style.

    As Mike noted when he stated,

    “It is an excellent way to energize students about writing in the content area and is wide open to creativity levels hard to match in other strategies.”

    RAFTS are a good way to increase student motivation. One way to do this is to offer students a Choice when they are completing a RAFT. For my assignment this week students will get to choose between two connected RTAFS that show two sides of the same story. Once students have enough experience with writing RAFTS you can allow them to create their own RAFT for a topic. By doing this you are increasing motivation and forcing students to take responsibility for their own learning.

    I like Paul’s idea of using a rubric to assess the students’ RAFTS. Often these types of assignments are more of a subjective assessment and lose reliability. The rubric will help both the teacher and the students stay on topic and increase reliability. If you do not want to use a pre-made rubric a great website for creating rubrics is: http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php. This website has pre-made prompts and allows you to write your own prompts it is an excellent time saver for any teacher.

    Overall RAFTS are a good tool for any subject and are a great way to integrate content and writing in a rich learning experience.

  5. This is just to see if I can post something, I’m having trouble yet again.

  6. (http://www.officeport.com/edu/blooms.htm)

  7. xnet.rrc.mb.ca/glenh/CourseImplementation/grasps.htm

  8. RAFTS are a great writing strategy for any class because they can easily be adapted to fit any content area. In one of the lessons I wrote for one of my other classes I created an assignment where I asked students to pretend that they are a scientist for the EPA (their Role). I asked them to create a pamphlet (the Format) describing the damage acid rain can cause to the environment. I wanted students to convince (Strong Verb) the American citizens (Audience) to reduce pollutants in the atmosphere. This is just one example of a lesson a came up with for another class, but there are so many. I think Cathy’s idea of having students pretend to be an electron in an atom is great, it can easily be adapted to any physics or chemistry course.
    In my other courses I actually used the GRASPS strategy.

    Provide a statement of the task.
    Establish the goal, problem, challenge, or obstacle in the task.
    Define the role of the students in the task.
    State the job of the students for the task.
    Identify the target audience within the context of the scenario.
    Example audiences might include a client or committee.
    Set the context of the scenario.
    Explain the situation.
    Clarify what the students will create and why they will create it.
    Provide students with a clear picture of success.
    Identify specific standards for success.
    Issue rubrics to the students or develop them with the students.
    This is from the website xnet.rrc.mb.ca/glenh/CourseImplementation/grasps.htm

    I prefer this format to the RAFTS. The GRASPS format gives the students more information, so they know exactly what the teacher is expecting. I especially like that GRASPS includes the standards and criteria for success. This tells the students exactly what they have to do to create an acceptable piece of writing. I’m the type of person who likes clear-cut directions and GRASPS provides that for the students.
    Whether we chose to use RAFTS or GRASPS they both provide the higher level thinking that Diana mentioned.
    My first exposure to RAFTS was in this program. One of my fellow graduate students used a RAFT as part of an example lesson. At first I was skeptical; it seemed like fluff that would never work in a real science class. However, as I completed the assignment I saw it’s potential. The assignment was to be a cell organelle and convince the cell that you are the most important organelle. As I wrote I realized how deeply you have to think to write a persuasive letter. I had to think about the organelle’s role, function and it’s interaction with the cell. The act of writing it down in an organized framework really solidified it in my mind.
    Like most of you already mentioned creating this type of assignment for students could really break up the monotony of simply doing word problems, or the good old multiple choice. I think if you give the students an assignment that they really wouldn’t expect to get in a science class you can create some excitement or at least spark some interest. I will definitely be using GRASPS assignments in my future classroom, they not only spark students’ interests, but they also make them think at a higher level. Looking at Bloom’s Taxonomy (http://www.officeport.com/edu/blooms.htm) this type of assignment definitely pushes students to the higher levels of their cognitive domains.
    I wanted to quickly thank Paul all of the websites you listed were very helpful especially the RAFT rubric.
    Also, if anyone is interested both of these sites along with the sites Paul listed in his blog really helped me with my RAFT assignment for this week.
    Sorry about all of the previous posts.

  9. As what everyone so far has said, the RAFT technique can be a very fun and engaging way to get your students involved. It definitely is a great way for students to be able to communicate their comprehension of a topic while having fun doing it! As Diana stated,

    Given the nature and flexibility of RAFTS they are easily and effectively adapted to any subject. Using them in science can be especially interesting. You can have students look at topics and problems from multiple points of view.

    Because of this ability to look at a topic from different point of views, this is a great tool for differentiation, as stated by many websites including http://www.greece.k12.ny.us/instruction/ela/6-12/Reading/Reading%20Strategies/RAFT.htm (this website is great for an explanation of RAFT, along with examples). It can be differentiated by interest and by skill level, but it is very important that the students know the vocabulary that is being used in the RAFT. If a student is given a RAFT but doesn’t know/understand what “evolution” (for example) is, it is going to be extremely difficult to do the assignment. This is why scaffolding and lessons are important to use in conjunction with a RAFT assignment.
    This writing technique can be easily adapted into any content area. It involves a little imagination on our end as teachers, and many opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge and use their imagination in a way that is not normally used, especially in math and science. I also found a great site that provides examples and a rubric for assessing the RAFT assignment – http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/strats/raft/index.html
    Another way to get the students involved is by having them individually make a RAFT (relating to the topic of study), identifying the role, audience, format, topic and strong verb. They can then switch with another classmate, who will then actually go through do the assignment. At the end of the task, the original student can read through it and do the assessment (if the teacher would like to go that far). I think it gives students ownership and connection to their work, further engaging them in the task and still relating it to the topic of study.
    All in all, I really do like this technique. It is easy for teachers to put together and can be really fun for the students to do, while still displaying their knowledge of the content. I will definitely use this is my classroom.

  10. Just like everyone else, I never heard of RAFTS until this course. I agree with Diana when she said that she was skeptical at first. I have been taking math classes for as long as I can remember and there was “no writing in math.”
    When we first talked about writing in math I was having trouble deciding on what I would have my students write about. My mind was still on the math is numbers misconception. Bust as we dove deeper into the subject my mind started to change. When a student is learning something new in math there are a lot of facts that they need to remember. With RAFTS the students might be able to organize their minds.
    With the help of Mike’s website http://mymindisopen.info/2007/04/writing_raft.html, it showed what the students would hand in. I could not believe all the detail that was put into the writing. I knew that there was a lot of facts about circles and lines but never thoughts of having my students think about the information in that way. From that website and http://www.tantasqua.org/Superintendent/Profdevelopment/etraft.html I saw different ideas on what way to ask my students.
    Another problem I was having with RAFTS was how to grade my students. With the help of Paul and his website http://www.branford.k12.ct.us/user/site/staff/cmiller/docs/Raft%20Rubric.doc I saw how I could use a rubric for grading. I also liked the idea that Paul found that said that after the students become proficient with RAFTS to have them develop the RAFTS themselves. This will help engage them in their own writing.
    The more I think about RAFTS the more I think I could use them in my classroom. In most topics in math there are steps and facts to solve a problem. I, with some help from the Internet, could come up with RAFTS for every topic in math. A few topics I can think of are systems of equations, Pythagorean theorem, Euclidean Proofs, and even radical numbers.
    I think that RAFTS will be very helpful for students to explore and understand the content. I know that I have students that struggle with math but strive in English and History. Using RAFTS might help them connect math to the subjects that they do well in. I remember in high school when we had to do a report on a famous person, we could choose anyone we wanted. I chose a mathematician, because they interested me. I think the same thing will be true for my students that love to write. They might enjoy math more if they are doing something they love right along side of doing something that they struggle at.

  11. Unlike most the other comments on this blog, I have seen RAFTS before. When I student taught at Greece, the district was introducing them to the middle school teachers. http://www.greece.k12.ny.us/instruction/ela/612/Reading/Reading%20Strategies/RAFT.htm The idea is to incorporate reading and writing in all content areas to ensure success on the ELA assessments. The teachers at the school were skeptical and didn’t want to use them. As a new teacher, I have not changed the journaling in my own classroom from what was set up for me. However, I can see how I would use them.
    RAFT is a nice way to incorporate creativity in the journaling aspect of any content area. As both Paul and Michael stated, this method would be fun and engaging for the students. If writing and journaling was introduced in such a way, maybe the students wouldn’t complain so much about writing in mathematics. To have my AIS math students enjoy writing would be an enjoyable experience for me.

    Generally, writing-to-learn activities are short, impromptu or otherwise informal writing tasks that help students think through key concepts or ideas presented in a course. Often, these writing tasks are limited to less than five minutes of class time or are assigned as brief, out-of-class assignments.

    The AIS classes are small in size and short in length, so a short 5 min. activity is sensible in class. I would modify the RAFT for my students. I know that the format is important but I don’t really have the time to instruct the students on how to write a business letter or a proposal so I think I would change the format section to the tone of the writing. This way, I could have the students writing about the topics in a creative and fun way without them stressing out about the way they are writing it. I also think that if I was teaching a full classroom of students with 80 min. classes, after the first month or two, I would start making one of the Friday classes write the RAFT assignment; much in the same way each group creates the blog. I would post the writing assignment on the teacher website that night. Then the students would have the weekend to finish the writing assignment.
    As Shawna stated,

    I know that I have students that struggle with math but strive in English and History.

    Writing is a way for the students to connect with the math material in a positive way. For these students, it is important that we connect them to mathematics and we as teachers now have a way to do it. I agree with Sara when she said it give the students a chance to demonstrate their knowledge. I would use them to help develop a deeper understanding of the material and I would use them to help the students self monitor their learning. If the students can’t write about the topic, then he/she doesn’t know the topic. However, I don’t see this method being used to explore a subject matter. I would find it very difficult to write about something I didn’t know about and since the RAFTS aren’t suppose to be long, there isn’t the time to have them research the topic.

  12. The consensus of the class so far is that RAFTS are a imaginative and fun way to get students to understand their content area. I agree with this sentiment.
    I found some more good examples of RAFTS: click here and here click here

    I will try and use the RAFTS technique in at least these two occasions.
    1. Over long breaks Xmas, winter break and Easter.
    2. I will use them to teach the students how to use Wikis (which we will talk about this weekend). RAFTS will make great wiki assignments. The class can work collaboratively on a letter or story etc. in real time from anywhere.

    I like what Mike wrote. He nicely states the purpose of the RAFTS activity.

    This is clearly an activity students can enjoy and can effectively utilize to communicate understanding of concepts. It is an excellent way to energize students about writing in the content area and is wide open to creativity levels hard to match in other strategies.
    By helping students select roles with which they can readily identify, the teacher can enable them to unlock talents they may not know they have..

    By using the RAFTS activity students can actually see that content area courses are not “boring” but that they can be a whole bunch of fun.

  13. I am pretty on course with the rest of the class. This is the first time I had ever been exposed to a RAFT and I too was skeptical. I really didn’t think that it would work in the math class. However after having learned more about them (not to repeat the rest of the class but…) I can see where students would be highly engaged and would enjoy the freedom and creativity. Math generally doesn’t leave much room for creativity, but I can see where some students would really love an activity like this.
    I struggled to come up with a RAFT of my own at first, but I soon got the hang of it. I then made a poor decision to ask my math colleagues what they thought. They thought that I could try it if I really wanted to but the general consensus was a sarcastic “good luck”.
    After talking with a non-math colleague I got a few new ideas and a lot more support. I think it would be very easy to use this as a form of assessment. Through writing the students will show their grasp on the material and especially the vocabulary. My reading teacher colleague suggested that it could be used as an interdisciplinary project. It isn’t terribly often that we see a math teacher teaming up with an English teacher for a project. I really liked this idea because I know that I am not so great with grammar, therefore I would only grade content. The English teacher could take care of the rest. Interdisciplinary projects are always beneficial for students (unless they decide not to do it). Students get to see the information from different angles and it lessens the load in a way. When two classes are teamed up the student can more easily stay on track.

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