Creative writing is one of the best techniques to get students engaged in a text. In my EDUC 340 recitation class we explore the RAFT activity, which encourages students to visualize themselves as the fictional or historical characters in the designated text and write a piece to reflect those characters’ needs and wants. Students enjoy the exercise as a break from monotonous classes, and teachers get a chance to see how well their students are grasping the material. This could also be an idea for our next Genre Paper.
Choose the “Role” of the writer first. Look through the assigned text and decide on a character or role you want to portray. For example, in a social studies class studying Egypt, students can choose the pharaoh, an Egyptian god or goddess, a temple priest, a slave, a rich wife or a revered cat. Have fun and stretch your imagination.
Then choose the “Audience” for the piece you will write. Who would the pharaoh need to write to, who would the slaves communicate with or who would the Egyptian god want to write to? Again, be as creative as possible but remember to use the information in the text as inspiration.
Choose a “Format” for the RAFT writing piece. Choose any type of text, but be sure it makes sense with the role and audience you have chosen. Possible formats could include a love letter, an obituary, a speech, a thank-you note, a temple wall carving or a prayer. Try to think beyond a simple letter or prose piece to find an engaging format for the RAFT.
Choose a “Topic” to write the RAFT about. For example, “Why is the pharaoh writing a speech?” or “Why is the queen writing a love letter?”
Now you have all of the elements needed to write your RAFT! In the class I assisted-taught at Preston Middle School, the teacher had the students choose a character from The Lion King, specifically from the “Elephant Graveyard” scene and create a RAFT. I had a feeling that my small group of 6th graders would do things like, “Simba writing a love letter to Nala”, however, they completely surprised me with their creativity! One girl told me that she wanted to write a letter of resignation from Zazu (the bird), to Mufasa (The Lion King). Then another boy told me that he wanted to write a letter from Mufasa to “whom it may concern” about a Personal Assistant position available. The last kid in my group, wanted to conclude this funny tri-fecta by writing a letter of interest from Ed (the “dumb” hyena) about the Personal Assistant job under Mufasa.
This just goes to show how creative students can get with the RAFT activity and how they can show their understanding of any subject. I’d love to see what any of you came up with! In my content area of Theatre, I was thinking of the Make-Up or Costume writing a break-up letter to the actor for not treating them right, and the topic would be, “Theatre Performance Etiquette”.