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Thursday, April 27, 2017

RAFT Writing and World War I

Our first Montana and the Great War lesson plan is up. It has teachers leading students through a guided exploration of the Montana and the Great War Story Map before asking students to produce a classic RAFT writing assignment. RAFT stands for Role (who are you as a writer), Audience (who are you writing to), Format (are you writing a letter, diary entry), Topic. 

In this lesson plan, students are ask to take on the persona of a person living in Montana during the war or a Montana soldier at the front (Role), and then to write either a letter or a diary entry (Format) about their experiences during the war as informed by their research (Topic.) (Audience is either themselves--if a diary entry--or the letter recipient.) We've targeted the lesson to 5-8 grade, but I think it will work well in high school too.

This should be a comfortable assignment for English teachers, but I only learned about RAFT a few years ago, when Helena High School teacher Jean O'Connor worked with us to develop a similar exercise for the Great Depression. Her students were reading Grapes of Wrath, and to bring it home, she had them conduct research in the Montana Governors Records, where they found heartrending letters from farmers (some of which we digitized) detailing their struggles on drought stricken farms. Details of her project are here.

If you use either of these lessons, let me know. And if you have had students exercise their historical imagination by writing RAFTs on a different topic, I'd love to know that too (including how you had them do their research.)

P.S. Only ONE person has completed the Montana and the Great War scavenger hunt I posted a few weeks ago. Submit your answers to win your choice of the following books:
  • Darkest Before Dawn: Sedition and Free Speech in the American West. Clemens P. Work (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005).
  • Copper Chorus: Mining, Politics, and the Montana Press, 1889-1959. Dennis L. Swibold. Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 2006.
  • Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917. Michael Punke. Reprint edition, 2007. New York: Hachette Books.
  • Beyond Schoolmarms and Madams: Montana Women's Stories. Martha Kohl, ed. Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 2015.
  • Mining Childhood: Growing Up in Butte Montana, 1900-1960. Janet L. Finn. Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 2012.

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