Using RAFT to Enhance Students' Reading Comprehension
Teachers use RAFT to create projects and other assignments to enhance students’ comprehension of novels they’re reading and information they’re learning in thematic units (Holston & Santa, 1985). RAFT is an acronym for role, audience, format, and topic, and teachers consider these four dimensions as they design projects:
- Role. The role is the person or people the student becomes for this project. Sometimes students take on the role of a book character, historical figure, or contemporary personality, such as Oprah, and at other times, they are themselves.
- Audience. The audience is the person or people who will read or view this project. They may include students, teachers, parents, or community members, as well as simulated audiences, such as book characters and historical personalities.
- Format. The format is the genre or activity that students create. It might be a letter, brochure, cartoon, journal, poster, essay, newspaper article, speech, or digital scrapbook.
- Topic. The topic is the subject of the project. It may be an issue related to the text, an essential question, or something of personal interest.
When students develop projects, they process ideas and information in different ways as they assume varied viewpoints and complete projects directed to specific audiences. Their thinking is imaginative and interpretive; in contrast, students’ comprehension tends to be more literal when they do more-traditional assignments, such as writing answers to questions.
RAFT is an effective way to differentiate instruction by providing tiered activities: Projects on the same text or topic can be adjusted according to students’ achievement levels, English proficiency, and interests.
Teachers follow these steps to use RAFT after reading a book or studying a topic during a thematic unit:
- Establish the purpose. Teachers reflect on what they want students to learn through this activity and consider how it can enhance students’ comprehension of a book they’re reading or a social studies or science topic they’re learning.
- Prepare a RAFT chart. Teachers prepare a RAFT chart of possible projects by brainstorming roles, choosing audiences, identifying genres and other formats for projects, and listing topics.
- Read the book or study the topic. Students read and discuss a book or learn about a topic before they create RAFT projects.
- Choose projects. Sometimes teachers assign the same project for all students, but at other times, they vary the assignment for small groups or let students choose a project from the RAFT chart.
- Create projects. Students create their projects using the writing process and get feedback from the teacher as they work.
- Shared completed projects. Students share their projects with small groups or the whole class and other appropriate audiences.
RAFT is usually an applying-stage activity because students develop these projects after reading and discussing a novel or after studying a social studies or science topic, but it can also be used in preparation for grand conversations or literature circle discussions. In addition, many teachers use RAFT as a prewriting activity to help students understand the relationships among topics, formats or genres, authors, and readers.
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