Monday, April 9, 2012

Teaching Students CER (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning)

Two of the most fascinating and useful sessions that I attended had to do with the CER framwork, which stands for Claims, Evidence and Reasoning. I hadn't heard of this framework but now I can't wait to start incorporating it into my science units, as well as sharing it with the upper elementary science teachers. CER works very well if you are already using science notebooks. It is a way to get students to think about their scientific inquiries or projects and support their conclusions. It just makes sense to me. Why shouldn't we be explicitly teaching our elementary students to argue their point and back it up with evidence? According to the presenters (K. McNeill from Boston College and P. Pelletier from Boston Public Schools), the reasoning piece typically is not introduced until 3rd grade, but they did showcase how second graders completed a worksheet with the just the claims and evidence pieces.

 In this month's issue of Science & Children (an NSTA publication), the feature article is titled "Engaging Students in Scientific Practices of Explanation and Arguementation." It goes on to to explain how we must move away from teaching each scientific concept in isolation and instead provide students with a framework to discuss and apply how core areas of science are related. Using the CER framework is one way to support students in developing theses critical thinking skills, which in turn can be applied across subject areas. Just think how being able to make an argument in science would help a student with a reader's response or a word problem in math.

Student generate chart describing the 3 parts of scientific exploration.
The second presentation was perhaps the best that I attended because it was so practical. A team of teachers ranging from K-4th grade discussed how they use claim and evidence structure in their science lessons. I saw how they took the very research that McNeill and Pelletier discussed in their session and applied it to all levels of elementary grades. The best part of their presentation is that they shared actual videos of them using this technique in their classrooms. Each teacher also brought their graphic organizers from the lesson for us to see.

All of the pictures below were part of the presentation entitled, "My worm likes the dark because it ran from my flashlight" - Young Scientists Make Claims Bases on Evidence. Presenter(s): Jessica L. Cowan (Gray's Woods Elementary School: Port Matilda, PA); Kimber Hershberger (Radio Park Elementary School: State College, PA); Judi Kur (State College Area School District: State College, PA)

Kindergarten Example: I Know, I Think, I see, I wonder

This was third grade example. Notice the addition of "Scientific Principles and Words."

Each of the teacher presenters went through a specific inquiry project that they have done in their classrooms. I was impressed with their ability to get kindergarten students to sit in a circle and have a discussion with their science notebooks in hand. Maybe you are reading this and you have expereince with with getting students to construct arguments and evidence-based claims...I'm curious what you think. To me these sessions were a huge wake up call to me that I have not been teaching inquiry-based science. And it has nothing to do with time constraints. It is possible to make this framework fit, regardless on how much time you have to teach science. CER and other similar frameworks will improve your students critical thinking skills, which we all know is a very important aspect to preparing students to be successful members of society.

I just ordered this book, written by some of the authors from the above presentation. Check it out!


Lisa said...

The school I work at has been using CER a lot with the 5th graders. But, to help the upper grades, the lower grades are beginning to use CER as well. I teach 2nd grade and feel almost overwhelmed- wondering if they can successfully complete such a task.
How has it gone for you?

Kate said...

Lisa, I know what you mean. It is an overwhelming task. Honestly, I just try to incorporate it as much as I can, even if it's just some of the language. My school hasn't adopted CER so I have some flexibility. I think its important for the lower grades to start setting a foundation and I think 2nd graders can successfully complete the claim and evidence tasks. I'm doing ALOT of modeling for my first graders. From my understanding based on my NSTA conference sessions, the reasoning portion should be reserved for third grade and up. Thanks for reading and good luck!