Use RAFT prompts engage students in creative writing responses to engage students in writing that is exciting and imaginative.

How to use writing rafts to create interesting and creative prompts for your students.

All writing should be creative — no matter what the subject. But, too often the prompts we provide our students are dull. No wonder we’re nodding off as we grade!

By using RAFT as a formula for creating prompts, we can craft writing tasks that are inspirational, imaginative, and spark creativity.

What’s a RAFT?

No matter what subject you teach, you are always looking for assessments that incorporate writing. You may find yourself with boring prompts and short answers that don’t engage your students.

That’s where RAFT prompts can come in.

The acronym RAFT stands for the parts of a writing prompt:

Role of the Writer — Who is writing?

Audience — Who is being written to?

Format — What is the writing going to look like? (a letter, sonnet, etc.)

Topic — What are you writing about?

For example:

>> You are a soldier in the Revolutionary War (role) writing a letter home (format) to your sister (audience) about the conditions at Valley Forge (topic).

>> You are an element from the periodic table (role) writing a dating profile for the It’ dating site (format).  Your profile is designed to attract another element (audience) with whom you would made a good bond (topic).

>> You are a paintbrush in the art room (role).  You are writing a letter of complaint (format) to the principal (audience) demanding better work conditions (topic).

How to write a RAFT for your students

RAFTs are relatively easy to put together for any subject matter.  You can find lists of them online, but they’re also quick to write and customize for your students.

Here’s how:

  1. Topic Choose the topic. What do you want your students to show they understand. Look at the examples above. Students need to show that they understand the conditions at Valley Forge, they know how elements for a bond, and they understand how to care for art supplies. Think about the key ingredients your students will need to include.
  2. Format What do you want the finished product to look like? Do you want a list, a paragraph, a letter, email, blog post, poster, want ad, poem, haiku, phone message…get creative here with the form. This is also a good place to think about how you will assess the RAFT. A list is easier to grade than a paragraph.
  3. Role of the writer This is usually the start of the prompt. Begin with the phrase “You are…” It is really fun for students to step into the shoes of someone (or something) else. It forces them to look at an issue from a new point of view.
  4. Audience Who is the writer addressing. Again, be creative and think about how the audience will affect the format. For example, writing a persuasive letter to a parent is different from a letter to a friend.

How to assess

You can create a quick rubric to use for assessing as well as letting students know what you expect the assignment to look like.

Try this:

There are really four big buckets for the raft: role, audience, form, task. You can break your rubric into those four areas.

Did the writer take on the role? Address a particular audience, use the proper form, complete the task.

Decide what kind of content you want to find in your students’ writing. Is it a list of events, the steps it will take to do something, or a story? The content can be at the heart of the rubric.

I also like to add a row to the rubric for following conventions.

You could also include one for presentation.

Why not assess creativity? This is such a subjective assessment! I may provide an assessment for “ideas,” but not specifically for creativity.

7 fun writing activities to engage students

Why they work

Once your students have completed one RAFT, you will probably know why (and how) they work.

  1. They grab the writer’s imagination!
  2. Because they are so specific, students generally know just what they need to address in their writing.
  3. If you require that students include a certain number of facts or items (have them highlight them for easy grading), you are drawing students back into the content of the lesson or topic.
  4. They are easy for you the teacher to implement.  It only takes a few minutes to write a RAFT for your students to respond to
  5. They are simple. Students are writing, but not a big writing project.
  6. They are easy to grade.  Unless you are making this a full writing project, you don’t need to correct line-by-line.  Check for understanding, use of whatever content you are studying, and response to the prompt.
  7. They provide you with formative assessments.  You can quickly read through a student’s RAFT and know if he understands the way elements function or what happened at Valley Forge.
  8. They’re cross-curricular!  If you are looking for ways to incorporate writing in every subject matter, this is an easy way to do that.
  9. It’s hard for students to plagiarize in a RAFT.  Students will need to create a “voice” for the RAFT.  When you ask students to incorporate facts into their raft, it isn’t quoted material as much as it understood information.
  10. They make a great end-of-class activity to check for understanding.
  11. Perfect for journal prompts.
  12. They can be adapted for nearly any grade — lots of fun in middle school!
How to create and use mini lessons

The creative writing benefits

In addition to being fun to write, RAFTs can make teaching easier.

  • They call on higher level thinking skills and synthesis.  You can almost see the wheels turning when you ask your students to respond to a RAFT!
  • They’re fun.  Encourage students to share their responses with the class and watch the creativity rise!
  • Because they are fun, writing becomes more enjoyable for students.
  • They help students write with voice in a way that is safe because they are “hiding” behind another speaker (the role).
  • They provide practice for responding to a prompt.

If you’re looking for adding “creative” writing to your classroom, try a RAFT or two.

Add raft writing as bridges before or after units. They also can be used in addition to other writing choice activities.

Write your own response to the prompt and share it with your students.

If you’d like to see an extended lesson using a RAFT, check out the Cranky Calculator Math RAFT in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

With gratitude,

10 Comments on How to Use Writing Rafts

  1. This is such great information! Thanks for taking the time to share! I remember my teacher calling writing time “creative writing” and then giving us a rigid outline to follow. No creativty. None. Using this raft system,writing truly becomes creative! Also, I love how it encourages students to work on using voice in their writing. That’s such an important skill! I love the element example!!!!

  2. I love using RAFTs for students who need a starting point. Your ideas are great, especially the one about the element looking for a “date”! Hilarious!

  3. Excellent information here. I especially love the one about looking for a date. A great way to motivate your students.

  4. I love the R.A.F.T acronym. They form the foundation for any piece.

    Three of my creative writing commandments were: Show, Don’t Tell, Create Word Pictures and Make Every Word Count. They are reflected in my writing products .


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