As the students enter the room, they take out their journals and respond to the prompt: What should be included in your science fair conclusion? Why? While the students work on their journals, I circulate through the room and read their responses. The students have a general understanding of the components of a conclusion, but some of them struggle with explaining why their listed items should be included. As I work with the students who are struggling in this area, I use guiding questions to help them better describe why each item should be included. I begin by asking them to define the component. The act of thinking through the definition of evidence or results is generally enough to help students articulate their importance and relevance to the conclusion.
Once the students have finished writing their responses, I ask for volunteers to share their thoughts with the class. Many of the students struggle with understanding the importance of including data as evidence for their conclusion, so as the students share their journals, I ask them questions to help them better understand why they need to include evidence in their conclusions. For instance, I will ask follow up questions that require the students to link the information from their journal to their specific experiment in order to provide an example. A phrase that I frequently use during this discussion is "prove it."
I have the students take out their Chromebook and log in to our google classroom web page. From there, the students open the CER Introduction. We begin part one of the worksheet by reviewing the CER anchor chart. During this portion of the lesson I review definitions for Claim, Evidence and Reasoning and provide guide questions that students can use as they work on writing their CER. The guide questions are listed at the bottom of each section of the anchor chart, so the students can refer back to them as necessary. The students also write this information down on their CER Introduction page for future reference.
For part two of the CER Introduction, I display an CER Example on the SMARTBoard. I read it aloud and then ask the students to determine the claim being made. I call on one volunteer to circle the claim on the SMARTBoard. Once the student circles what he/she thinks the claim is, I ask the class if they think it is correct. If the answer is not correct, I will remind the student of the definition of claim and then I will read the original question answered by the CER and ask the student to identify the sentence that directly answers the posed question. If the student is still unsure, he/she is able to ask a classmate for assistance. Ultimately, I have the student at the board circle the final answer and ask him/her to explain it as a way of checking for understanding. After the correct answer is determined, I ask the class to think about which part of the paragraph is the evidence. I then ask for a volunteer to go to the SMARTBoard to underline the evidence. Again, I ask the class if the evidence has been underlined correctly. Finally, I ask the students to determine the reasoning and I have a volunteer double underline it on the SMARTBoard.
In order to provide students with small group practice in identifying CER and as another way to provide students with examples of how CERs are written, we complete part three of the CER Introduction. Students are seated in groups of five, so for this part I give each group of students an example CER. The students begin by reading the CER and then work together to identify the claim, evidence, and reasoning. As the students discuss, I circulate through the room listening to their conversations. I also ask them to explain the reasoning behind their decisions regarding which items are the claim, the evidence, and the reasoning.
For part four of the assignment I hand out a copy of the CER rubric. Prior to this activity, the students have use the PARCC science research writing rubric. I point out the differences between the two rubrics and I review the wording of the CER rubric with the students.
In part five, I review the two sample CERs with the students. I read each sample aloud and then as a group we move through each section of the rubric. I ask the students to tell me which score the example should receive and to explain their reasoning. We do this for both examples.
Using the CER format addresses CCSS W.8.1 and CCSS WHST.6-8.1- write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence for discipline specific topic - because students generate a central claim and then use data as their evidence to support that claim. The CER format also addresses NGSS SP6 - constructing an explanation, and SP7 - engaging in argument from evidence.
The students work on their own or with their science fair partner, if they have one, to complete part six of the CER introduction worksheet. As the students work, I meet with them to review their information. This one on one time is critical because it allows me to guide the students through the process of creating their conclusion using the CER method. This is especially important because this is the first time the students have worked with the CER. While they have a rubric to use as a guide, they are eager to have me review their conclusion and provide them with feedback.
At the conclusion of class, I ask the students to review what CER stands for and the information that is represented by each word (Claim, Evidence, Reason). I also ask the students to share their CER with the class. This provides them with the opportunity to receive feedback from their peers and the chance to give authentic feedback. This helps to build rapport among the students and helps to build their science vocabularies as they use scientific terminology to discuss their evidence. Additionally, as the students share their CER with the class, I repeat or have them repeat their CER a few times to help the students process the information. Student CER samples may also be shared using the document camera.