Beacon Lesson Plan Library

What a Difference a Year Makes: Billy's Letter

Thomasine Kennedy
Citrus County Schools


Students complete a post reading activity for the novel [Where The Red Fern Grows]. They write a RAFT letter from the point-of-view of the character Billy to his grandpa reflecting about the death of his dogs and his adjustment to life in town.


The student selects and uses a format for writing which addresses the audience, purpose, and occasion (including but not limited to narrative, persuasive, expository).


-Copies of the assessment rubric for each student
-Copies of the novel [Where The Red Fern Grows]
-Paper and pens for each student


1. Write the definition of RAFT on the board.
2. Provide students with a copy of the rubric you will use in assessing their letter.
3. Preview the Weblinks for information on CRISS and RAFTS.


Note: Students should have prior knowledge of how to write friendly letters. Students must also have read [Where The Red Fern Grows] before they can complete this activity.

Day One:

1. Give half the class 3 minutes to write down ways Billy might cope with the death of his dogs. Ask the other half of the class to write down the advantages and disadvantages Billy might experience when he moves from the country to the town.

2. Share and discuss these ideas as a group for about 10 minutes.

3. Explain to the students that they will be using the RAFT process to write a two-paragraph letter. Explain that RAFT stands for Role/Audience/Format/Topic. Students will serve in the Role of Billy Coleman. Their Audience will be Billy’s grandpa. The writing Format is a friendly letter. The letter’s Topic is that they are writing to Grandpa a year after the death of Billy’s dogs and his family’s move from the country to town. The first paragraph should reflect Billy’s feelings about the death of his dogs and how he has coped with that loss. The second paragraph should describe how Billy has adjusted to life in town.

4. Provide students with a copy of the rubric used in assessing their letter.(see attached file)

5. Students write the rough drafts of their letters and finish therough drafts for homework.

Day Two:

1. Students switch rough drafts and peer edit each other’s papers. (Students circle spelling errors, box vague or poor word choices, and insert suggested punctuation changes.) Students will also use the rubric provided to assign a number to the letter. Finally, they will write one positive comment about the letter and one specific suggestion of improvement on the letter.

2. Ask students to review their peer’s comments and write a final draft of their letter. This final draft will be due by the end of class.


Use a rubric (see file attachment) to assess the student’s ability to do the following:
Write as if you are the character Billy Coleman and your audience is Grandpa; express to Grandpa how you (Billy) have adjusted to life without your dogs and after your move from the country to the town (purpose), and accurately address event(s) that occurred in your (Billy’s) life that were life changing (death of his dogs and move to town) (occasion).


The RAFT CRISS strategy can be applied to almost any reading assignment. To learn more about RAFT and CRISS (Creating Independence through Student-owned Strategies), see the Weblink above.

Web Links

An excellent site for learning about using the RAFT activity in your own classroom.
Creating Independence Through Student-owned Strategies

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