How to Implement CER in Your Science Classroom

Improve grade 4, 5, 6 written responses with the claim evidence reasoning strategy.

As a science teacher with a master’s degree in Literacy, one of my passions is to authentically bring in reading and writing skills into the curriculum without compromising the fun, hands-on nature of science. Some ways I incorporate these skills are through readings to build background knowledge and comprehension of the concept we are learning about. I also like to use sketch notes to allow students to summarize and synthesize their knowledge.

         Writing skills have often been neglected when it comes to science until the CER strategy came along. Using this method, I now have a succinct way to teach my students how to respond to a topic, give evidence, and tie it to scientific reasoning.

What is CER?

CER stands for claim, evidence, reasoning.

Students are given a hands-on activity. Upon completing the activity, they will demonstrate their scientific knowledge and be able to answer the prompt and incorporate important writing skills also needed in ELA. 

Here is an example

The students are learning about chemical and physical changes. They are working together to complete an activity that has them determine whether a chemical or physical change is happening. Students complete the experiment and then fill out their sheet using the CER method.

Example student CER response:

Claim: Students state whether a chemical or physical change occurred. A chemical change occurred.

Evidence: Students use evidence from the activity to demonstrate that their claim is accurate. Once the glowstick was activated, there was a change in color. (Depending on the activity, there may be more evidence to include. More evidence requires another sentence or two to support the claim).

Reasoning: Students will use their scientific reasoning to explain the connection between the claim and evidence. One way to tell if a chemical change occurred is by observing a color change, therefore when the glowstick was activated, the change in color indicates a chemical change

Classroom decor, graphic organizers, rubric, student reference sheets needed to help implement the CER writing strategy into the grade 4, 5, 6 science classroom

Using this method, student responses varied in 3-7 sentences. It cut down on lengthy written work that often didn't explicitly answer the question being asked. Now, in some cases, students are writing less, but their writing is more meaningful as it clearly answers the question being asked of them. As a teacher, it allows me to be able to quickly identify who understands the scientific principle we are working on and who needs more assistance. This allows me to pull small groups together to explain and discuss their thinking. 

This method really worked with my students because of the formula-like written response. It also doesn’t require an extended response to show their scientific knowledge and thinking. It is clear and concise and I love how these skills will transfer over into their ELA class when they are writing their argument essays. 
Free graphic organizer and student writing formula sheet to help you easily implement the CER strategy into your middle school science class

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    If you need teacher tips, classroom decor posters, student reference sheets, a graphic organizer, a formula response sheet, and a rubric then you might want to check out the materials below. 

    CER claim evidence reasoning materials for the upper elementary student

    Learn more about CER

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