CEI: A Writing Strategy to Integrate Science and Language Arts

CEI: A Writing Strategy to Integrate Science and Language Arts

By Mary W. Thomas 

Do you find that students' paragraphs sometimes lack supporting details? After scoring the Performance part of the Elementary Level Science test, did you realize that if students had included MORE evidence in their writing, they would have scored higher? C-E-I is a paragraphing strategy that can provide students with a framework for writing. It is a technique that has also been used successfully in writing responses to Document Based Questions (DBQs) in Social Studies, writing paragraphs about literature, and/or writing reflective essays. In science, C-E-I helps students to provide evidence or supporting details when interpreting data collected during experiments and activities. 

How It Works:

  • C = Claim - In the first sentence, make a claim about the topic based on your observations or data.
  • E = Evidence - Next, provide evidence that supports your claim. Include specific details from your observations or the data table(s).
  • I = Interpretation - Finish the paragraph by stating in your own words why you think this data or thing that you observed happened. For instance, "The reason I think this is because..."

There are a variety of additions or deletions that can be used with this format. Students may choose to add a sketch or drawing, if that would help provide evidence (i.e., "It looked like this..."). Sometimes when using the C-E-I strategy for a science activity, it may not be necessary to include the Interpretation piece. For instance, if students are summarizing their observations recorded on a short data table, they may need to just include the Claim and the Evidence. 

Example: 

My earthworm likes wet paper towels. I know this because I gave four worms a choice of wet paper towels and dry paper towels. Their bodies touched both parts at the same time. All four earthworms crawled to the wet towels. I think earthworms would rather live in wet places than dry places. 

Using the C-E-I technique may help students to provide more logical, complete explanations when writing about science experiences. C-E-I is a framework to help students make sense of what they observe and convey that information to others. With practice using C-E-I, students' thinking and writing skills can be strengthened and they may experience increased success on assessments.

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