I'm not sure where/when the R.A.F.T. writing strategy originated or who was the mastermind behind it, but I have found it a useful tool when teaching middle school kids argument and opinion writing. (For those not familiar: R=role, A=audience, F=format, T=topic.) Not only does it allow them any easy avenue for slipping into any perspective they want to write from, it also reminds them of the importance of having a concrete audience and purpose for writing. I've found that this can be a way to ease kids into experimenting since it gives them a little bit of structure before they begin, but still allows them the freedom to choose all parts of the R.A.F.T.
After a fun week of "celebrating" Banned Books, my students' assignment last Friday was to create a R.A.F.T. dealing with the topic somehow. I have never done much with Banned Books Week in my class because, honestly, I was afraid I might get some blowback for it, but I took the plunge this year. We were at a good stopping point between other units, and my 8th graders really seemed to enjoy the opportunity to dig in and talk about an issue that they care about. I had kids who've never been vocal in my class actively taking part in discussions about books and why they're banned. I had kids defending parents' right to want books banned, and others defending their right to read whatever they wanted. I think we created a good balance between both sides: the right to read, and why some parents feel the need to put restrictions on their own kids' reading. It opened up some honest, awkward, and real conversations about why some topics are controversial and how our society confronts them in real life and literature.
There were a lot of fun R.A.F.T.s to read, but I was struck in particular by one girl. She played it "safe" as far as R.A.F.T.s go: she chose herself as the role, me as the audience, an email as the format, and defense against banning books as the topic. This email reminded me of one of the things I love about teenagers: their opinions are so strong. They're just starting to develop their convictions on certain topics, and the newness makes it powerful. I'm lucky enough that they allow me to glimpse into their minds through writing.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.