Three Easy Steps to Teaching Your Students Through the CER Writing Process

Author: Shawna Wiebusch, Education Specialist, Secondary Science

What can you learn from a ShamWow commercial? As it turns out, a lot!

Image from http://tophouseholditems.com/does-shamwow-work

The ShamWow Commercial is the perfect “hook” to introduce your students to evidence based argumentation using the C-E-R Method: Claims – Evidence – Reasoning.

Many of our students, especially in middle school, come to us with a mindset that “Science is hard.”  Using a fun, lighthearted, science-lite infomercial to introduce a systematic way of scientific writing eases students into the process.

How does it work? (Not the ShamWow – CER!)  Here’s how I introduced it to my students:

1.  Show this infomercial to your students and have them answer the question “What does Vince want to convince you is true?”

After the infomercial, solicit and record your students’ answers.  Then introduce the term “Claim.” Make the connection that what the announcer wants us to believe about the ShamWow is his claim.

2.  Ask students: “What data does the announcer give to convince you that the ShamWow is as cool as he claims?”

For Example:

  • “Sham wow holds 20 times its weight in liquid”
  • Lasts 10 years and will be cheaper than paper towels over time
  • Will soak up 50%  of wine, coffee, cola out of carpet without pressure

Introduce the term “Evidence” – the facts that are used to convince you that the claim is true.

3.  The final part is to connect the Evidence back to the Claim.

Ask your students “WHY does the Sham wow hold up to 20 times its weight in liquid?”  Tell them about microfibers and ask why something made with microfibers would absorb liquids better.

Ask your students WHY the ShamWow would be a better deal than paper towels over time.

Introduce the term “Reasoning” – the principle behind the evidence.  HOW does the evidence support the claim?   In our science classes, the students need to be able to explain the scientific principle behind the labs and activities they are doing.  This is the reasoning!

These are the basic steps to writing a C-E-R.  Go ahead and try it with your students!  Teach them to argue effectively and with science!  Want to know more and find other good ideas?  Check out our Science Blog and the Region 13 Science page for updates!


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