How to Teach CER in Third Grade

Claim. Evidence. Reasoning. These can be three tough words for a third-grade student to know and understand!

However, teaching CER can be simple and I am going to share exactly how I teach CER in third grade.

Lesson Plan

The first step to implementing a CER lesson in the classroom is to create an organized plan.

By doing this, there is a guarantee that students have time to develop a claim, bring in evidence, and then support their answer with reasoning.

Time can go so fast while teaching and it is important to take the time to plan out the necessary steps as students may need some guidance when they are new to CER lessons. 

Student-Friendly Steps

  1. Background Information

In order to complete a CER lesson, students first need content.

For example, students may receive visual aids and/or reading materials. Students may complete a variety of activities, such as examining the life cycle of an animal or completing a word sort on how two items being explored are similar or different.

It is important to review answers and thoughts as a class in order to ensure students are truly understanding the content before proceeding. 

  1. Definitions Behind Expectations

Students will be hearing and utilizing three keywords: claim, evidence, and reasoning.

However, since this lesson format is new, they will need to know what these words mean. It may be helpful to break the words down into more student-friendly language. For example, I use: 

Claim: Answer       Evidence: Clues               Reasoning: Why

  1. Writing a Claim

At this point, students will know the claim means an answer. This is the part students may be used to doing as they have answered questions all throughout school.

To reinforce this, I hand out specific questions. They may be in a traditional question format or even a fill-in-the-blank option. Students will review the questions and then discuss their claims, or answers, to the questions. 

  1. Identifying Evidence

It is essential for students to bring in evidence to fulfill the CER requirements. Additionally, by doing this, they cannot just write down any claim because they will have to bring in evidence to prove their response.

For example, if students completed a word sort of similarities and differences, this would provide some excellent evidence that they can use in their CER response!

In addition to this, students may utilize a chart or graph and be able to support the claim with research-based evidence. Students may also utilize a reading passage and cite specific detail for evidence as well.

After students make their evidence selection, it is important to discuss why their choices support the claim. Some students may struggle to pick out evidence that actually relates to and supports the claim, so this will be important to review before continuing.

It may be helpful to use sentence starters to help students add evidence into their thoughts. In addition to this, anchor charts are extremely helpful for students. An anchor chart could even be developed as students go through the first CER lesson together!

  1. Reasoning 

This portion of the lesson may be the hardest and require a good amount of modeling for the first few times a CER lesson is used. Students now have to take their claim and evidence and provide the why. Students may greatly benefit from classroom discussion during this time. For example, students may turn and talk about what they know about the science of life cycles. A discussion is a great way to help ensure students take the content and explain it in their own words. 

Students may greatly benefit from sentence frames in this step as well in order to build strong sentences that help explain their thoughts. Students can then complete a short answer question by following the CER format.

They will first state their claim, or the answer to the question, bring in evidence, or clues, and then provide the reasoning, or why, for the claim. 

The CER method will truly change how deep students think about the material. It will require patience and modeling in the beginning but after the first lesson or two, students will truly be engaged and focused while utilizing this format. 

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