The Raft by Jim LaMarche

Teacher Guide by Ashley Trudeau

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Elementary School Category

The Raft Lesson Plans

Student Activities for The Raft Include:

The Raft book by Jim Lamarche is a great story to help teach the appreciation of new things, people, and most importantly, nature and all its beauty. Nicky has to spend the summer at his Grandma’s, which he is reluctant to do, but one day a raft shows up and changes Nicky’s perspective on everything!

The Raft Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Raft Vocabulary Lesson Plan

Another great way to engage your students is by creating a storyboard that uses vocabulary from The Raft.

In this activity, students demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary words using sentences and corresponding images. Students may be provided the vocabulary words, or they can use words that they have discovered through their reading of the text. The sentences and images validate the understanding of the word and the context that it was used in the story.

Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the story and an example of a visual vocabulary board.

Example Vocabulary Words for The Raft

  • scattered
  • hitchhiker
  • preen
  • complained
  • nuzzle
  • thermos
  • tackle box
  • snorkel
  • gutters
  • bobber
  • hovering
  • reeds
  • attracted
  • willow
  • startled

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The Raft Character Map Graphic Organizer

As students read, a storyboard can serve as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

You can click on this map and create a copy on your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or to edit it for the level of your class. Printing it as worksheets for your students to complete while reading is a fast and easy way to incorporate this character map into your classroom.

Example Character Map Entry for Grandma

Physical Appearance

  • Older
  • Gray/white hair

Character Traits

  • "River rat"
  • Artistic
  • Caring
  • Not a 'normal' type of Grandma


  • "Well, she's not your normal kind of Grandma. Calls herself a river rat."
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The Raft Summary

Copy Assignment

In this activity, students decide on what they think the important parts in the text are, and categorize them into the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Having students decide on the beginning, middle, and end will help them break up the text, and make it easier to choose one or two main events to create. Students can plan their ideas with a partner or individually and decide what main parts they would like to add to their storyboard.

Example The Raft Summary


Nicky has to spend the summer with his Grandma and he is not happy about it. His Grandma makes him do chores, and he tries to fish, but doesn't catch anything.


He finds a raft, covered in drawings of animals, and secures it to the dock. He learns that his Grandma spent her summers poling the river on the same raft. The raft attracts many animals. Nicky loves riding around on the raft and sketching the animals.


Nicky spends most of the summer on the raft. On his last day at Grandma's, he helps a fawn up a muddy bank. He draws a picture of the fawn on the raft. He knows he is now a part of the river, forever.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Make a storyboard summary of The Raft.

  1. Make a picture that shows the beginning of the story.
  2. Make a picture that shows the middle of the story.
  3. Make a picture that shows the end of the story.
  4. Write a sentence under each picture.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Copy Assignment

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Making Connections in The Raft

Copy Assignment

Text Connections
Text to Text Connection that reminds you of something in another book or story
Text to Self Connection that reminds you of something in your life.
Text to World Connection that reminds you of something happening in the world.

Making connections is a very important skill to acquire and perfect. The Raft is a great story for students to connect to on many different levels. In this activity, students will be making text to text, text to self, and text to world connections. Students should choose which connection they want to make first and work to write a narrative for that. Once all three connections have been made, students can work on their illustrations.



  • Text: Nicky did not want to spend the summer with his Grandma.
  • Self: When I was little, I did not want to go to my Grandma's house.


  • Text: Nicky describes a moment he had on the raft with otters.
  • World: On the news, they talked about a zoo that had an otter exhibit and the otters could do fun tricks.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows connections you have made with The Raft. Include a connection for text to text, text to world, and text to self.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify parts of The Raft that you connect with.
  3. Parts from the The Raft go on the left side. The connections you make go on the right side.
  4. Create an image for each connection using scenes, characters, items, and text boxes.
  5. Write a description of how the text relates to another text, the world, and you.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Copy Assignment

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Character Evolution in The Raft | Compare and Contrast

Nicky and his view on river life changes a lot throughout the story. In this activity, students work to identify how he and his view changes from the beginning of the story to the end. Students can work individually or in pairs to research and compile evidence. Students will describe the evidence they compiled about Nicky in the beginning on one side of a T-Chart, and the evidence they discovered that has changed in the end on the other.

Nicky at the Beginning Nicky at the End
  • Does not want to go to his Grandma's house for the summer
  • Wants to watch TV all summer
  • Upset that he has to do chores
  • Mad that he can't catch a fish
  • Enjoys river life and bonding with his Grandma
  • Starts to respect and understand nature and animals
  • Learns to like drawing/sketching
  • Becomes a 'river rat'
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A Quick Synopsis of The Raft Book (Contains Spoilers)

Nicky doesn’t want to spend the summer with his Grandma. There will be no one to play with, and she doesn’t even own a TV! His father tells him he will be working all summer and that Nicky cannot come with him. His dad says he will have a good time and that his Grandma calls herself a ‘river rat’.

Nicky is sad as he watches his father drive away. His Grandma ushers him inside where she is preparing supper. Nicky looks around the house. He peers in a room that is filled with sketches, books, fishing gear, and a giant carving of a bear.

Before Nicky can explore, he has to do his chores. Then, he goes off to try and catch some fish for dinner. He gets aggravated that there is no fish, and that he has to do chores.

The next day, while Nicky is unsuccessfully fishing, a raft floats by. Nicky clears away the brush, and finds it has paintings of animals on it, like ancient cave paintings; ‘wild, fast, and free.’ He gets some rope and ties it to the dock. All the while, birds are flying freely right above Nicky and the raft.

Grandma knows about the raft. She teaches Nicky how to pole up and down the river. As they travel, birds keep them company. Nicky is starting to notice that the raft attracts animals.

Nicky spends all his free time on the river, and with the raft. He gets excited as new animals are attracted to it- raccoons, turtles, foxes, bucks, otters. Nicky starts sketching all the animals and finds that he is pretty good at drawing.

Each day brings new animals and new adventures. Nicky spends time with his Grandma, as well. She tells him her past stories about the river.

On his last day at the river, Nicky sets out for one last trip on the raft. He spies two deer; a doe and her fawn. The baby fawn cannot make it up the steep bank after her mother, and gets stuck in the mud while trying to. Nicky goes to help the little fawn. At first the fawn is scared, but then she stops struggling, like she knows Nicky is there to help. Nicky frees the fawn and carries her back to the mother.

When he returns to the raft ,he decides to draw the fawn on it. He is very proud to show his Grandma his drawing. Grandma gets some oil paint, and together they paint the fawn so it will stay on the raft forever. Grandma tells Nicky that he is a part of the river forever, and Nicky agrees and states that he is now a ‘river rat’.

Essential Questions for The Raft by Jim LaMarche

  1. Is it okay to judge or jump to conclusions about something without ever trying it?
  2. How did nature help change Nicky’s perspective?
  3. What did Nicky learn from his summer with his Grandma?

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•   (English) The Raft   •   (Español) La Balsa   •   (Français) Le Radeau   •   (Deutsch) Das Floß   •   (Italiana) la Zattera   •   (Nederlands) de Raft   •   (Português) A Jangada   •   (עברית) הרפסודה   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) الرمث   •   (हिन्दी) बेड़ा   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Плот   •   (Dansk) den Raft   •   (Svenska) The Raft   •   (Suomi) Lauttaa   •   (Norsk) The Raft   •   (Türkçe) Raft   •   (Polski) Tratwa   •   (Româna) Pluta   •   (Ceština) Voru   •   (Slovenský) Raft   •   (Magyar) a Raft   •   (Hrvatski) Raft   •   (български) Рафта   •   (Lietuvos) Plausto   •   (Slovenščina) Splav   •   (Latvijas) Plosta   •   (eesti) Parve