Does Practice with CER Result in Better Writing?

­Although more than half or 64% of my 11th grade US History students could demonstrate their proficiency in identifying claims, evidence, and reasoning with in-class readings, I was curious as to how many would transfer this skill into a longer form writing assignment. I would like to see daily CER identification/explanation proficiency improve to at least 85% and will be designing more writing activities and reporting the results. Below is a proficient CER practice example that shows how daily practice was conducted.

During non-fiction reading activities using Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides, this student could clearly identify a claim of fact, value, and policy. They selected textual evidence and cited it correctly with a page number. Then, they explained how the evidence supported the type of claim the author made. The consistent 3XCER practice made me wonder if students who successfully used CER in their exit tickets would have any trouble using CER in a subsequent essay. This post pairs two pieces of student work to hypothesize that students who successfully identify claims, evidence, and reasoning for practice will be more likely to write adequate responses that includes at least three claims, correctly cite textual evidence, and thoroughly explain their reasoning.

To assess student analysis or the quality of their explanations, I used the 2021 AP Language rubric from the College Board. I focused on how students supplied evidence to support or strengthen their claims. I used the row above to provide written feedback on student responses.

This student makes multiple supporting claims with textual evidence that are quoted, with cited page numbers, and explained clearly. For instance, they found textual evidence that suggested MLK’s stature was slipping by noting some unsavory information about King’s drinking, gaining weight, and poor sleeping patterns. Next, they mention how King’s movement had been losing support for years and state that an audience of Watts riot survivors had actually booed King at a rally. After, they explain how Malcom X, the Black Panthers, and others disagreed with MLK’s beliefs. With three pieces of textual evidence clearly quoted and cited by page number, the author then goes on to strengthen their line of reasoning that the cracks in King’s reputation repair rather than diminish his legacy over time. This student needs some help in elaborating and extending their analysis skills, but this proficiency with the QUOTE-CITE-EXPLAIN strategy shows they are proficient using the CER strategy.

However, this student who did not complete the exit tickets or log any practice time with CER subsequently failed to use the CER format successfully in this writing assignment. According to the AP Rubric, I would give this student a zero because they provide an opinion without any relevant evidence.  

This student addresses the prompt but does not include any quotations that would strengthen their argument. They use vague language that says – “part of me was surprised, and the other half wasn’t,” or “the history books and history story-tellers have glorified his good actions and have thrown his bad ones under.” These points do not use any evidence that would support or weaken an argument. The lack of focus on specific details is exacerbated by repetitive summaries of their opinion. Because they use zero quotes to support their argument that MLK’s reputation was slipping in stature, the teacher can only assume that they did not read the text and/or are unable to provide excerpts that support or refute that King’s reputation was slipping and he was losing control of the Civil Rights Movement. This student needs more practice with CER.  Research shows that when teachers stress performance outcomes, students develop performance goals. students who have learning goals are more motivated and engaged and have better reading test scores than students who have performance goals (Kamil, M. L. et al, 2008, p.27). The goal with this activity was for the students to demonstrate proficiency by hitting the learning goal of correctly using the CER writing strategy three times.

This instructional sequence is part of a formative assessment cycle suggested by (Graham, S. et al., 2016, p. 43).  While I cannot definitively say that practice with CER leads to proficiency in academic writing, I would need to analyze many more samples with a larger population of students. I can say, however, that this data suggests that students benefit from practice with CER and that students who show proficiency with CER in quickwrites seem to demonstrate proficiency more easily in longer form writing assignments. This work aligns with previous research that recommends integrating learning goals with focused literacy instruction.


Graham, S., Graham, S., Bruch, J., Fitzgerald, J., Friedrich, L., Furgeson, J., Greene, K., Kim, J., Lyskawa, J., Olson, C.B., & Smither Wulsin, C. (2016). Teaching secondary students to write effectively (NCEE 2017-4002). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

Kamil, M. L., Borman, G. D., Dole, J., Kral, C. C., Salinger, T., and Torgesen, J. (2008). Improving adolescent literacy: Effective classroom and intervention practices: A Practice Guide (NCEE #2008-4027). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.