Friday, May 30, 2008

Life RAFT's

OK, I'll admit it, I used to have kids do 'reports' on instruments and on music history and learned the brutal lesson in reality that is hard to recognize at the time or recover from....If you give a lame assignment, you get a lame (and heavily plagiarized) result. In fact, in my opinion, you deserve lame results. Did kids complete the assignment? Yes. Did they learn any lasting information? No. Did I begin to recognize the exact same citations from the encylopedia? Yes. "Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany..."

A few years ago, I learned in the 6+1 Writing Traits training a strategy of having students write stories in the RAFT format (Role, Audience, Format, Topic Sentence). A great big light bulb went off and I realized that I could have students learn a great deal more about any topic by having them do an assignment that they could not just copy from an encyclopedia or website. The first assignment was a replacement for the 'instrument unit' in which they take on the role of an instrument. The kids had to know a lot about an instrument in order to complete the assignment. The results were really funny and great.
  • Role- Instrument
  • Audience- Other sixth grade students
  • Format- Diary
  • Topic Sentence- About my life
Kids are very creative. Several of the stories described their life in the case and being lugged to school. Other kids talked about the breath of the kid that was blowing into them. Spit was a common topic (hey, they are in 5th grade--what did you expect?) But, along with the humorous bits, there was good solid information. Valves and mouthpieces, reeds and keys; knowledge that even if the words had been copied out of the book, had to be processed in some way and recreated in story form.

If you have been having kids right 'reports', try hopping on the life RAFT and escape to some great learning experiences!

1 comment:

mindelei said...

Wow - we never did anything beyond play the instruments back when I was in school. I love what you've done in relation to writing across the curriculum! This is an excellent way to allow students creativity while learning important information, I will definitely have to keep it in mind!