Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Writing For A Purpose: Email

21st Century Writers

How do we make writing authentic for 21st Century learners? The new Learning and Technology Policy Framework reminds us that students need work that is not only authentic but also personalized. So what does that look like for our students? Text messaging, blog posts and email instead of letters, reflections that stay in a journal at school and stories for the bulletin board outside the classroom.  


I have begun using RAFT with my grade two students this term. RAFT is a writing strategy. Some people use RAFTs. I usually use that with older students. In fact, I thought both were really tools for older writers. However, I have found using RAFT with my grade twos helps me make the activities more personalized for them. 

  • R= role of the Writer: Who are you as the writer? 
  • A=audience: To whom are you writing?  
  • F=format: In what format are you writing?  
  • T=topic: What topic are you writing about?
  • S=strong verb: What strong verbs help define this writing?

With my students, I have been choosing three parts and letting them choose the fourth. So, I might tell them their role, audience and topic but they get to select the format. This allows for students to personalize the experience themselves.

Email Format

My students did a science experiment with cornstarch and water. It was an exciting experiment, so I wanted to channel that energy into a writing assignment. I used RAFT to set the assignment:
  • Role: To tell 
  • Audience: You pick (mom, dad, aunt, grandfather...)
  • Format: Email
  • Topic: the science experiment using cornstarch and water 
Students did a first draft in their journals and then did some revisions. In their agendas, I sent home a note asking for email addresses. Those students who did not return one, sent the email to a staff member at the school. 


In general, I was really pleased with the project. I'd like to do it earlier in the year next year. Perhaps even collect a number of email address throughout the year that students can have in their writing journals. That way, when they choose to do an email, they already have the resources necessary. 

The one downside was those families who did not return the email addresses. Some students were disappointed not to be able to send it to a family member. 

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