Tuesday, November 3, 2015


This past Thursday, several teachers from our special education department sat in a ThinkCERCA training to learn ways to incorporate explicit instruction in writing in a variety of class: both Strategies for Learning, English and content area classes.

I had the privilege to work with ThinkCERCA last year in my Strategies for Learning class. Using ThinkCERCA, I was able to break down the writing process and help students have an organized argument. What does ThinkCERCA stand for?

Our class did a pre-assessment writing about the following prompt:
What type of learner are you? Use evidence from the text to support your claim about why this learning style is best for you.
After reading an article, I asked the students to write a paragraph-long argument. This is what I got from one student after prompting her to go back and look in the article for examples, etc:
I'm a visual learner. I agree with those things about how I like to read.
We spent about two weeks going over the process of ThinkCERCA and how we can build strong arguments. We spent a day on claims: we looked at claims, analyzed claims, wrote claims and then looked at each other's claims. After going through each part, I had them go back to the original prompt.

This is what I got after two weeks of using ThinkCERCA:
I learn best by visualizing my school work because if I see examples on what I have to do I get it right away by examples and visuals.  The article states "if your a visual learner, you take in informations best by reading." In school I learned vocabulary words by studying. The article also states a true fact, "you get impatient when listening to someone giving an explanation. You just want to read it yourself." When my teachers use to help me with work and they explain it in a difficult way when I can't understand, I want to try and learn it myself. The author says, "kinetic learners might enjoy measuring and mixing." It doesn't apply me because I don't understand how to do it. In conclusion, I am a visual learner.
I went through a training last year, and then another one today. I was pleasantly surprised to see that ThinkCERCA had a bunch of improvements! Some of the highlights:

  • Scaffolded Text: In every part of ThinkCERCA there are mini-lessons and texts available for all grade levels 3-12. No more digging through the internet to find articles that connect to differentiate for the diverse learners in your classroom!
  • CERCA Starters: An easy way to start the learning process of ThinkCERCA. These are the starting points to teach all of the important skills: Why We Make Arguments, Summary, Claim, Evidence, Reasoning, Counterargument, Audience. Each CERCA Starter comes with a mini-lesson and a corresponding QuickCERCA (article and multiple-choice questions) to get a baseline on how much the student understands that concept.
  • More CERCA Sets with Thematic Unit PlanningCERCA Sets have an entire unit planned out for you: you have an overarching question, suggested mini-lesson, and applied lessons (which are articles/writing at various grade levels 3-12).
  • Assign by Reading Level: When you create your class, you assign students a reading level. When you assign an applied lesson, you can have it automatically assign the article that corresponds to their reading needs! This makes differentiating a breeze.
  • QuickCERCAs Guide Lessons: When students read an article and answer the 5 comprehension questions, the data is directly linked to each part of CERCA. A quick 20minute QuickCERCA can then guide you as to which part of CERCA you need to go over.

For more information, check out the ThinkCERCA Blog.

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