What is CER? Everything I Want to Know about CER and How to Implement it in My Classroom

Claim, evidence, reasoning, also known as CER, is a strategy that many science teachers are now using to have their students write clear, concise lab reports that are filled with scientific evidence and reasoning. This strategy aligns with NGSS and Common Core State Standards so it is classroom win.

Getting started with CER in Your grade 4, 5, 6 science classroom       It can be difficult to get started and wrap your head around how to implement this writing method into your science classroom. To do so and access graphic organizers, check out this blog post which will walk you through the steps of CER and examples of student responses for claim, evidence, and reasoning. Practice makes perfect. Sign up for my email list below to get a few ideas to quickly use in your classroom and access more ideas here.

claim evidence reasoning to engage students in holiday learning       This science strategy can also be used to help incorporate the holidays into your classroom with fun and engaging activities. Read about how I integrate this strategy into my physical and chemical changes unit on Halloween.

turn existing science lessons into ngss aligned cer activities       Don’t stress about using this method in your classroom. If you already have lab write ups for your science activities, use these science strategies to quickly turn them into CER NGSS approved activities. This will also allow you to get your students to partake in argumentation as they support their learning with data and evidence from the activity.

       Do you still have questions about CER; claim, evidence, reasoning? Let me know in the comments below.

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    How to Quickly Incorporate CER Strategy into Existing Science Lessons

    One hesitation from science teachers in using the CER claim, evidence, reasoning strategy is that you can no longer use your preexisting science activities. This is so untrue! Incorporating the CER method is easy and requires minimal work from you.

             If you are unsure of what the CER strategy is or if it is right for your classroom, you can learn the basics here.

             While there are several ways to do this, you will choose which one works the best for your classroom needs. The way that I incorporated it into my classroom was by eliminating the entire scientific method write up. With the implementation of the NGSS standards, teaching the scientific method will look different than it did in the past as scientists feel that it is not realistic to complete an experiment in a linear fashion.
    NGSS and CER strategy in minutes

             This thinking as led me to edit my lab write-ups to look more like a graphic organizer. Students are given the problem and create a hypothesis. Their hypothesis may later become their claim but I do not allow them to determine this until they have conducted the experiment. Observations are collected on the same sheet so that students can compare their hypotheses and observations to then formulate their claim. Students then cite evidence from their observations to support their claim and finally connect this to scientific reasoning.
    States of matter and the CER method in the science classroom

             Another way to incorporate CER without having to edit your prior science lessons is to have students use the claim, evidence, reasoning formula for their conclusion. This allows them to explain their scientific thinking in a concise way and allows you to easily implement the strategy without having to change the way you normally teach this concept.  
    grade 4 5 6 7 science students aligns with NGSS standards

    Part of the NGSS standards are to allow students a chance to argue their thinking. While some students can naturally do this on the fly, others need more structure and the ability to formulate their answer first. The CER method will easily allow your students to do this while providing you with an assessment of their understanding. 

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      Using Picture Books in the Science Classroom

      PIcture books ideas and tips to complement the grade 4, 5, 6 science classroom

      * This post contains affiliate links. * 

      Integrating science into the upper elementary classroom can be difficult with so much emphasis on Common Core standards in math and ELA. Often, science and social studies is an afterthought in the education of the United States student. Knowing the pressures of the classroom teacher, I have been creative in how to infuse literacy skills and concepts into my science curriculum so that students are engaged but also so that administrators can be persuaded into seeing the value of science as part of a well-rounded education.

             Having a master's degree in literacy, I feel that the skills needed to become a good reader should transpire throughout all content areas. Science is a topic that I am so passionate about because of the hands-on, real-life nature. While all of my science units include informational reading passages for students to gain knowledge about the concept, this summer I realized I wanted to do more.

             One goal of mine this year is to incorporate picture books into the science curriculum. Picture books help stimulate students in different ways. Students are drawn in not only by the wording of the book but also the pictures. For students who are struggling readers, picture books help them to gain a better understanding of what is going on in the story.

      Why use picture books with upper elementary and secondary students?

      • Illustrations are just as important as the words. The illustrations can help them observe more about the story and make deeper inferences.
      • Picture books will better hold student attention than informational text articles. 
      • “Colorful pictures and graphics in picture books are superior to many texts for explaining abstract ideas,” (Kralina 1993). 
      • Improve reading skills in science. Picture books give you another opportunity to work on critical thinking skills.
      • Correct science misconceptions. Picture books are more likely to have scientific inaccuracies. This is OK because it gives you an opportunity to have a conversation about it and correct student thinking.
      • Reading aloud allows you to model fluency for your students. It also allows you to continue to work on comprehension strategies as you stop and question student knowledge. 

       How to Use Picture Books in the Secondary Classrooms.

             How you use picture books in your classroom is entirely up to you. You can use it:

      An introduction to the topic this will allow all students to gain background knowledge before they start learning about the science concept. Having this information will prep their minds into focusing on the concept. It will also engage them on the topic and get their minds to start to question what they are learning about.

      Wherever you see fit! It’s your classroom, your science unit, your students. If you know you have a few minutes left and can squeeze in reading, go for it. While you can make it an activity for the class period, it doesn’t HAVE to be. Sometimes the most meaningful lessons are the ones where my students and I were having a conversation about a book.

      At the end of the unit once your students have gained all the knowledge to rock the science concept, you can reinforce their learning through a picture book. Your questioning will determine how much, or how little, they will get out of it. 

      Where do I start?

             Here are some picture books that I have used or researched to use for my science units. Have a great idea? Share it below!

      Observations and inferences:

      Making observations and inferences using picture books

      • Seven Blind Mice: When reading, do not show students the pages that depict the elephant. Have them guess what the mice are running on. 

      States of Matter:

      Chemical and physical changes:

      • Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle I will also be making pancakes with my students to question them about the physical and chemical changes while we are cooking.

      Force and Motion:

      • Gravity is a Mystery Another book that gives students the basics of the concept. Great for an introduction to your unit. 

      Environmental Hazards

      These books help to support a unit on natural disasters or environmental issues in the world. 

      Food Chains and Food Webs:

      Butternut Hollow Pond: Review ecosystems using this delightful book that is also rich in figurative language.
      Using picture books like Butternut Hollow Pond to enhance your science unit on ecosystems and ecology

      Human Body:

      Magic School Bus: The Human Body
      I am Human by Susan Verde

      As I come across more great finds, I will add them here. If you have any books that you use to enhance your science units, please comment below so I can add them to the list. 

      We've got tons of ideas for turning your students into "wild readers!" Be sure to check out these other helpful ideas for upper elementary teachers! 

      Strategies to Help Motivate Reluctant Readers // The Little Ladybug Shop

      How to Promote a Love of Reading In Your Classroom // The Stellar Teacher Company

      Looking for more great ideas to add to your science classroom? Consider joining my science tribe. You will receive weekly tips and ideas to easily implement into your classroom. Sign up below to access the F-R-E-E resources to use with Dr. Xargle's Book of Earth Hounds.

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        Using picture books to enhance the grade 4, 5, 6 science classroom curriculum NGSS and common core

        Holiday STEM in the Science Classroom

        Holiday STEM in the grade 4, 5, 6, 7 science classroom to boost social emotional learning and NGSS standards

        The holidays can be a time that tests classroom management. Throughout my years, I have found that student engagement is the best way to keep students on task. An engaged student cannot get into trouble. But there are so many more reasons to try a STEM resource in your classroom. Aside from the NGSS connection, STEM can improve social-emotional learning skills (SEL). Read on to learn more about STEM projects and why I like to use them in my upper elementary and middle school science classes.  

        What is STEM?

        STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM resources have been created because these are areas that have been recognized as important skills that students need for the future. Many professionals feel that by immersing our students in these areas will allow them to develop a passion and eventually want to pursue a job in this field.

        Many STEM projects also align with NGSS Engineering standards. 
        • NGSS 3-5 ETS 1-1: Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or want that includes specific criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost. 
        • NGSS 3-5 ETS 1-2: Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. 
        • NGSS 3-5 ETS 1-3: Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
        • MS-ETS-1-2: Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions. 
        • MS-ETS-1-2: Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. 
        • MS-ETS-1-3: Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.   
        • MS-ETS-1-4: Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.  

         This allows you to be guilt-free in including it in your curriculum. In addition to meeting your curriculum requirements, STEM provides your students with other benefits.

        STEM helps students: 

        • Reinforce collaborative learning
        • Encourage and enhance tech use
        • Improve independence
        • Spark ingenuity
        • Build on inquiry thinking skills
        • Allow students to learn from failure points
        • Expand problem solving skills
        • Think of solutions to real-life problems

        Why do I think it is important to incorporate STEM skills around the holidays?

        When we were in college going through our standard history of education classes, how many times have we heard that young children learn through play? In pre-school, counseling, and with friends, our students learned so many valuable lessons while they were playing. Why would this suddenly stop? Yes, the “play objects” change, but students will STILL learn best through hands-on learning.

        In addition to the preferred learning style, the holidays are not always a jolly time for our students. Just like in our own complex family dynamics, our students often come from heart-breaking family stories.  

        I feel strongly that STEM ties into social-emotional learning. Students need to work and refine their cooperative learning skills as they work on the task. STEM learning helps them to set and achieve goals, establish and maintain positive relationships with their peers, and make responsible decisions. Students will also find this type of activity more therapeutic and stimulating than normal seatwork. Getting their mind off of other things and focusing on the project can greatly help some students mindsets. Remember what I said about the engaged student? 

        Looking for premade lessons and activities to use with your students? Check them out here

        incorporating STEM into your science classroom to help with social emotional learning

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