When I first started teaching 6 years ago, the buzz word was "differentiation". I attended several workshops on this topic and my favourite strategy to gets students writing was to create RAFT assignments.
RAFT stands for Role, Audience, Format, Topic. As the teacher you create one writing assignment with several writing choices on the same theme. At the top of this blog post you can see an example RAFT I wrote based on a DRA assessment booklet story called "Northern Spirit". In the story the main character Jason moves from Montreal (an urban metropolis) to the Yukon (a remote territory in northern Canada) and has difficulties adjusting to life there.
After students read the story and answered the assessment questions, I wanted them to take their learning further so I created a RAFT writing assignment with four choices. Students have a choice of line 1 -4. You read a RAFT by choosing a role and then following the audience, format and topic of that role.
As a teacher you tier the activities so they meet a variety of learning styles and abilities. On this assignment students have a choice of: an email, a top 10 list, an explanation letter or a poster, that way students can response to the same story in a variety of ways. As the teacher I am assessing their ability to gather information from the story and other sources for use it in their final product.
Students need choice to keep them engaged in their writing, but they also need guidelines. This type of assignment provides both student choice and structured guidelines, therefore limiting unwanted behaviours in your classroom.
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