RAFT -Differentiated Instruction

RAFT (Role, Audience, Format and Topic) is a tool for demonstrated the mastery of content. Students are given one or two elements of the RAFT and are encouraged to choose the(ir) best way  in showing their skill and knowledge development.

Students take on a particular Role (teacher, historical figure, leader of community group, inanimate object etc) and use a particular format (report card, song, mixed CD, letter, speach, powerpoint presentation) to convey information to a specific audience (student, newspaper readers, school principal, historical antagonist etc). The topic can be selected by the teacher or the student but the four elements will culminate with the student’s ability to show development.

It is differentiated as it allows students to show mastery in non-conventional forms as well as in the standard ways.

Recently, I had students complete assignments with these RAFTs:

THE GREAT WAR (CHY 4U)

ROLE (option) AUDIENCE (option) FORMAT (option) TOPIC- YOU MUST CHOOSE ONE OF THESE
Woodrow Wilson Members of League of Nations (or non-members) Reddit Forum – Impact of Peace Treaties (be specific)
Georges Clemeanceau Parties at the Versailles Conference Powerpoint urging for the punishment of Germany – Development of the League of Nations
WW1 Nurse Her children Scrapbook about the problems facing the Veterans in her care – Great War Art re: Veterans (poetry, visual art, music)
Czar Nicholas Russian Population Apology letter about the failing to address population’s needs  – Short term consequences of the Russian Revolution
Lenin Russian population Mixed CD/iPod Playlist + letter explaining song selections – treatment of Veterans by home country
Teacher Student test
Veteran 1920s Canadians Painting re: suffering of Veterans

Here’s what one of my students produced.

Where the Magic Happens

Every day, we ask our students to come into our classrooms and try new things. We ask them to stand in front of their peers and speak, or answer a question on freshly learned topics or throw them into new methods of instruction which are far from the safety of pencil and paper activities. Our classrooms house intimidation!

Magic

I once read about a 30+ year veteran teacher who started a new activity every September. She believed it was a way to remind herself about the challenges of being a student. She reasoned that risk taking is hard and learning something new, although exciting, is really intimidating.

I love the image of a grey-haired woman stepping over the chrome engine of a Harley on her first ride, banging away at a drum lesson or leaping into a jazz dance class. She is risk taking. She giving up control. She is experiencing. She lets her self leave her comfort zone and head “where the magic happens.”

Unfortunately, many teachers forget what it’s like to take risks. We become at ease with the topics we cover (our students always seem so shocked, “how do you know all this?” and the answer is often, “I’ve taught it  a lot”). We make excuses for why we won’t or can’t learn something new.

Teachers can be intimidated by technology. There are so many variables in selecting iPad, interactive whiteboard, web activity, collaboration, Google Apps etc. Then, we have to worry about managing those activities once we’ve created them.

My challenge to you: pick something. If it fails? Try again. Do something differently. You’ll get another crack at it in the future. What is there to lose?

MOST IMPORTANTLY:  Let your students guide you. Let the students who know their way around reddit or tumblr show you how to find .gifs or embed videos. Enjoy being a student. Use the classtime to develop a skill or learn a new web too.

Wikipedia by Another Name

Our students love and rely on Wikipedia. I constantly remind them it’s a great resource for ‘general knowledge’ but they should not use it as a source on papers. I teach them to ‘mine’ the footnotes at the end of the documents to access more reputable sources.
There are many students who struggle with the vocabulary and heavy text of the original Wikipedia. Luckily, there’s been some pretty genius online sources which use the data from Wikipedia to make more accessible options.
Other Ways to Search Wikipedia
10 Word Wiki (gives you summary in 10 words exactly)
  – this might be inspiration for neat writing activity too!
Simple English Wikipedia (for kids, English Language Learners or for those who need a simpler version)
Wiki Mind Maps – connects ideas within Wikipedia links for word association
The Wiki Game (use the links to connect unrelated ideas – the 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon for the web)