A little CER, a little differentiation, a lot of thinking.

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Even this guy can CER.

Every month they let me into the junior high staff meeting (until they change the locks on the building) to do some professional development with teachers.  This year, the focus is on improving instructional practices, and teachers are learning about different literacy strategies that cross all content areas.  This month we took a look at the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning strategy, or CER.  This is an easy strategy to apply in classrooms and, with everything that’s going on politically these days, a desperately needed strategy in a world where our leaders make claims without any evidence or reasoning.  Below are the general steps for this literacy strategy:

  1. Find an interesting short passage/picture/word problem/video/something students can make a claim that is supported with evidence and reasoning about
  2. Have students generate a claim about the aforementioned something.  They should talk about their claim and/or write it down somewhere handy.
  3. Students cite evidence from your something to support their claim.  Again, students should talk about/write down this evidence.
  4. Students connect the evidence to the claim by explaining their reasoning for citing the evidence they did.  More talking and/or writing should ensue.

If you’d like to see the CER strategy in action, check out this video from the Teaching Channel.

I really wanted to show what this strategy would look like in a variety of subject areas and using a variety of somethings to make claims about, so I differentiated the activity with different subject-area stations.  They are embedded below for your perusal and/or outright theft (and I encourage thievery off this site).

Now, I’m a complete fan of the general thinking processes that CER has students practice (because, remember, it’s thinking we need students to be able to do fluently in this day and age, not just rapidly recall content and call it “learning”).  But what I’m a fan of bigly concerning this strategy is how well it lends itself to students doing the things that everyone has to do in order to learn – write and talk.

The writing part comes when students are putting down their claims, evidences, and reasonings; the talking part comes when students discuss their Cs, Es, and Rs with each other and revise and modify their own thinking.  A word of caution, however: If you just do the writing parts (filling out the CER charts), this activity runs the risk of becoming a mere worksheet, a task to be completed for the teacher in exchange for points rather than a learning experience.  Ensure that there is processing time via talking and time for students to revise their thinking after that talking time to really get the most out of this activity.

Also, don’t think you can use this strategy once with students and call it a day, having done your CER duty for your subject area.  Creating claims, backing them up with evidence, and explaining how the evidence is connected to the claim are skills that must be practiced repeatedly so students become mentally fluent over time and do it with automaticity.

Got a literacy strategy you think is just as nifty as the CER or have another awesome way to use CER in a classroom?  Please share in the comments.

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