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April 11, 2019

Fostering CER Through Science Talk

By Donna Webb

How to guide your elementary students to construct arguments from evidence.

Grades 3–5, 6–8

    Key Takeaways:

    • Constructing scientific arguments is a key skill for students to practice—and a way to promote scientific thinking.
    • Claim, evidence and reasoning (CER) is a framework that teachers can use to help students develop these scientific explanations and arguments.
    • Scholastic’s SuperScience magazine provides many opportunities for teachers to practice CER in their classrooms with real-world science connections.

    Scientific inquiry is an approach to investigating the natural world and constructing explanations about how nature works. As a science teacher and educator, I train prospective teachers to apply the claim, evidence and reasoning (CER) framework. This framework can guide students in slowly unpacking the complex practice of developing scientific explanations. 

    By using “science talk”—an instructional-discourse practice that promotes inquiry and collaboration—teachers can support students not only to generate explanations, but also to justify their ideas. As an example, one of my prospective teachers, Emily, recently used science talk as a tool to teach our fifth graders, accompanied by an article and activity from SuperScience’s December 2018/January 2019 issue.

    This NASA space article focuses on their latest mission to study the sun. The CER activity asks students to investigate how distance affects the brightness of light from flashlights on a white wall. After reading the article and conducting the investigation, students made CER statements for why some stars appear brighter than others. Here are tips from Emily’s science talk lesson, which aimed to have students engage in argument from evidence:

    1. Establish four to five ground rules for science talk.

    Have students agree to basic ground rules for talk. Norms could include speaking in a way others can hear and listening while others talk. It’s important to include an approach to arguing. For example, Emily explains that ideas are to be criticized, but not the people expressing those ideas.

    2. Learn some “science talk moves.”

    Science talk moves are productive questions aimed at eliciting and building upon student responses in order to foster science understanding and reasoning. I love this Talk Science Primer chart. 

    3. Support student discourse by using CER scaffolds.

    Create anchor charts that include sentence starters and frames to support talk. 

    4. Integrate the CER language within science talk.

    Emily reviewed the anchor charts and asked students to use the supports to write answers. 

    She began science talk by asking a student to express a claim by stating, “I noticed the brightness from the flashlight became _______ when the flashlight was moved _______.” 

    Then, Emily asked another student to restate the claim. To bring out evidence, Emily prompted students with “The evidence I use to support _______ is _______.” 

    Wanting additional evidence, Emily asked, “Would someone else like to add to the evidence or state it in a different way?”

    Finally, she asked students for their reasoning. Emily said, “Now give me the ‘why.’ What is your reasoning?” 

    To support the argument when students explain their reasoning, Emily asked, “Do you agree or disagree with _______’s reasoning?” This was followed up with, “Why do you disagree? What is your evidence?” Come to a consensus and summarize the CER.

    5. Allow students to revise their written CER after participating in science talk.

    Science talk allows students to collaboratively communicate ideas and construct explanations using kid-friendly language. Science talk helps deepen scientific understanding, particularly for English Language Learners and students with special needs. Talk is an important step prior to written assessment. When Emily encouraged her students to make revisions, one stated, “I like being able to revise, because it helps me be concise, which is something I’ve been told I need to work on.”

    If you’re looking for more collaborative science activities like the one above, I highly recommend trying SuperScience magazine in your classroom. Their real-world science stories are truly fascinating and provide a great jumping-off point for using claim, evidence and reasoning. You can even try the magazine FREE for 30 days and discover the many ways SuperScience promotes science talk in your classroom. 

     

    Donna Webb is an assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education at George Fox University. Her primary research focuses on examining prospective teacher self-efficacy to teach engineering to diverse learners.

    Key Takeaways:

    • Constructing scientific arguments is a key skill for students to practice—and a way to promote scientific thinking.
    • Claim, evidence and reasoning (CER) is a framework that teachers can use to help students develop these scientific explanations and arguments.
    • Scholastic’s SuperScience magazine provides many opportunities for teachers to practice CER in their classrooms with real-world science connections.

    Scientific inquiry is an approach to investigating the natural world and constructing explanations about how nature works. As a science teacher and educator, I train prospective teachers to apply the claim, evidence and reasoning (CER) framework. This framework can guide students in slowly unpacking the complex practice of developing scientific explanations. 

    By using “science talk”—an instructional-discourse practice that promotes inquiry and collaboration—teachers can support students not only to generate explanations, but also to justify their ideas. As an example, one of my prospective teachers, Emily, recently used science talk as a tool to teach our fifth graders, accompanied by an article and activity from SuperScience’s December 2018/January 2019 issue.

    This NASA space article focuses on their latest mission to study the sun. The CER activity asks students to investigate how distance affects the brightness of light from flashlights on a white wall. After reading the article and conducting the investigation, students made CER statements for why some stars appear brighter than others. Here are tips from Emily’s science talk lesson, which aimed to have students engage in argument from evidence:

    1. Establish four to five ground rules for science talk.

    Have students agree to basic ground rules for talk. Norms could include speaking in a way others can hear and listening while others talk. It’s important to include an approach to arguing. For example, Emily explains that ideas are to be criticized, but not the people expressing those ideas.

    2. Learn some “science talk moves.”

    Science talk moves are productive questions aimed at eliciting and building upon student responses in order to foster science understanding and reasoning. I love this Talk Science Primer chart. 

    3. Support student discourse by using CER scaffolds.

    Create anchor charts that include sentence starters and frames to support talk. 

    4. Integrate the CER language within science talk.

    Emily reviewed the anchor charts and asked students to use the supports to write answers. 

    She began science talk by asking a student to express a claim by stating, “I noticed the brightness from the flashlight became _______ when the flashlight was moved _______.” 

    Then, Emily asked another student to restate the claim. To bring out evidence, Emily prompted students with “The evidence I use to support _______ is _______.” 

    Wanting additional evidence, Emily asked, “Would someone else like to add to the evidence or state it in a different way?”

    Finally, she asked students for their reasoning. Emily said, “Now give me the ‘why.’ What is your reasoning?” 

    To support the argument when students explain their reasoning, Emily asked, “Do you agree or disagree with _______’s reasoning?” This was followed up with, “Why do you disagree? What is your evidence?” Come to a consensus and summarize the CER.

    5. Allow students to revise their written CER after participating in science talk.

    Science talk allows students to collaboratively communicate ideas and construct explanations using kid-friendly language. Science talk helps deepen scientific understanding, particularly for English Language Learners and students with special needs. Talk is an important step prior to written assessment. When Emily encouraged her students to make revisions, one stated, “I like being able to revise, because it helps me be concise, which is something I’ve been told I need to work on.”

    If you’re looking for more collaborative science activities like the one above, I highly recommend trying SuperScience magazine in your classroom. Their real-world science stories are truly fascinating and provide a great jumping-off point for using claim, evidence and reasoning. You can even try the magazine FREE for 30 days and discover the many ways SuperScience promotes science talk in your classroom. 

     

    Donna Webb is an assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education at George Fox University. Her primary research focuses on examining prospective teacher self-efficacy to teach engineering to diverse learners.

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