Claim, Evidence, Reasoning: Tools to Introduce CER in PD and Instruction

I have been digging into Joseph Krajcik and Katherine McNeill‘s book- Supporting Grade 5-8 Students in Constructing Explanations in Science– and I highly recommend it to any upper elementary and middle school teacher of science. The book provides a very clear and engaging look at how to use a Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) framework to improve student writing and discourse in science. The CER framework can support not only science explanations but also the Common Core State Standards’ focus on using evidence and argumentation in math and English/Language Arts.

As I’ve been moving through the book, I’ve developed some tools that could be useful for professional development providers, professional learning communities, and ultimately students who are engaging with a CER framework.


1. An activity for writing a scientific explanation of whether soap and fat are the same substance. This is directly from the book with some added reflective questions for teachers. This could be used as an initial activity with teachers before revealing the CER framework. CER writing an explanation fat and soap

2. A set of 3 Formative Assessment Probes (based on Page Keeley’s work) to uncover student ideas about science explanations- the probes include a facilitation guide:

3. A video “think sheet” for participants to track their thinking while watching the first video clip from the book where a teacher introduces the CER framework to a class of 7th graders- introducing CER framework vid 2.1 think sheet

Please let me know if you have any revisions/changes/improvements to any of these documents. Hope these are helpful… enjoy. My hope is to assemble these tools and others into a Claim, Evidence, Reasoning Handbook.

6 responses to “Claim, Evidence, Reasoning: Tools to Introduce CER in PD and Instruction

  1. Loren Willson

    Hey Kirik,

    Thanks for your work on these CER items. I’m going to be using them today with a handful of middle school teachers. I love the Page Keeley formatted probes 🙂

    One item of feedback: I think the facilitator notes for “Is it a Scientific Explanation?” are mis-labeled as “Is it a Claim?”

    • Hi Loren,
      Thanks for the kind words and the feedback.. I just noticed the title issues the other day. I will fix and repost soon. I’m interested to hear how these probes worked for you .

  2. I wanted to say thanks so much for posting these resources. Having used CER extensively at my last school, I am now proposing that we start using it at my new school. These probes and the think sheet for teachers will be very helpful. I don’t have the book or the video (yet), but I can easily modify the think sheet to use with the other science teachers.

  3. Love all of the ideas. Is there a link to show the video on CER?

  4. Can you tell me where this writing falls in the standards and cross cutting concepts? Starting using this, however having a hard time finding it aligned to NGSS
    Thank you!

    • Yes- you should see that CER aligns quite nicely what we expect students to be doing in NGSS.
      A. The CER framework supports students in constructing explanations (SEP 6) and evidence-based arguments (SEP 7)… so the framework supports 2 of the 8 science & engineering practices
      B. Look at the evidence statements for any PE that contains explanations or arguments as the practice and you will see that Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning was used to build the NGSS evidence statements.
      C. The Crosscutting Concepts can often be used in the Reasoning section of CER to support an explanation. This doesn’t always work but Cause & Effect, Energy & Matter, Systems, etc often provide a way of supporting student thinking about their Reasoning.

      Hope this helps

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