ALEX Learning Activity


Integrating Scientific Argumentation into Your Classroom

A Learning Activity is a strategy a teacher chooses to actively engage students in learning a concept or skill using a digital tool/resource.

You may save this Learning Activity to your hard drive as an .html file by selecting “File”,then “Save As” from your browser’s pull down menu. The file name extension must be .html.
  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Hannah Bradley
System:Dothan City
School:Carver Magnet School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 1614
Integrating Scientific Argumentation into Your Classroom
Digital Tool/Resource:
Using the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning Framework Podcast
Web Address – URL:

The authors of Supporting Grade 5-8 Students in Constructing Explanations in Science,  Dr. Kate McNeill and Dr. Joe Krajcik discuss using the framework of the claim, evidence, and reasoning method of argumentation in science instruction. This podcast will help teachers understand the importance of scientific argumentation in the classroom and how this practice is connected to both the Next Generation Science Standards and the Alabama Course of Study Standards

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 3
23 ) Write informative or explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly. [W.3.2]

a. Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension. [W.3.2a]

b. Develop the topic with facts, definitions, and details. [W.3.2b]

c. Use linking words and phrases (e.g., also, another, and, more, but) to connect ideas within categories of information. [W.3.2c]

d. Provide a concluding statement or section. [W.3.2d]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.3.23- Compose informative or explanatory texts by stating a topic, providing facts or details, and providing an appropriate conclusion related to the topic.

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 3
25 ) With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 22-24 above.) [W.3.4]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 3
29 ) Recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories. [W.3.8]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.3.29- Distinguish whether information (text, illustrated, and/or digital) is related to a given topic.

SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 3
8 ) Engage in argument from evidence to justify that traits can be influenced by the environment (e.g., stunted growth in normally tall plants due to insufficient water, change in an arctic fox's fur color due to light and/or temperature, stunted growth of a normally large animal due to malnourishment).

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
L4.4: When the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce; others die or move to new locations.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Engaging in Argument from Evidence
Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect
Disciplinary Core Idea: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Evaluate the given evidence to determine its relevance, and use it to justify the claim that traits can be influenced by the environment.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Engage
  • Argument
  • Evidence
  • Justify
  • Traits
  • Influenced
  • Environment
  • Cause
  • Effect
  • Claim
Students know:
  • Characteristics result from individuals' interactions with the environment, which can range from diet to learning. Many characteristics involve both inheritance and environment.
  • The environment also affects the traits that an organism develops.
Students are able to:
  • Support explanations about environmental influences on inherited traits in organisms.
  • Use evidence to support an explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.
Students understand that:
  • Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified and used to explain change such as the possibility that environmental factors may influence an organism's traits.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Heredity and Diversity

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.3.8- Recognize that living things have specific needs (water, light, temperature, food, shelter) to live and grow in an environment.

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will engage in argument from evidence to justify that animal traits can be influenced by the animal's environment.
  • Students will gather information from print and digital sources by taking brief notes.
  • Students will write an explanatory text that states a claim, provides evidence, and describes scientific reasoning to clearly convey the idea that animal traits can be influenced by the environment.
  • With guidance from the teacher, students will produce an organized writing piece utilizing scientific evidence and reasoning.
  • Students will create an illustration to aid in comprehension of their explanatory text.
  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

After Strategy/Explain & Elaborate: 60+ minutes

  1. The teacher should introduce the website, 7 Animals That Turn White in Winter article from Britannica and tell students that they will choose one animal from the list (besides the arctic fox) that experiences a seasonal change in fur color to research.
  2. Each student will need to draw a T-chart on a sheet of notebook paper. The students should title the T-chart with their chosen animal from the list, then label the left side of the T-chart “Traits,” and the right side of the T-chart “Environment,”
  3. Using either an internet-capable device or print sources, the student should research their chosen animal and record information about its traits and environment on their T-chart graphic organizer. The teacher can allow students to conduct research independently, with a partner, or with a small group.
  4. Next, the teacher should tell students they will be creating a writing piece to provide evidence and a scientific explanation to answer the essential question: “Can an animal's traits be influenced by the environment?”
  5. The teacher should give each student a Claim-Evidence-Reasoning Graphic Organizer. Depending on the students’ experience with this format of writing, the teacher may wish to complete this graphic organizer as a whole class or allow students to complete it with a partner
  6. Lastly, the teacher should allow students to re-write their claim, evidence, and reasoning on a new sheet of paper. The teacher may wish to proofread the student’s writing before they create a final draft, or allow students to peer edit each other’s paper for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. After students rewrite their claim, evidence, and reasoning statements, they should add an illustration to their writing that helps to show how their chosen animal’s traits are influenced by its environment. For example, the students could draw the arctic hare with brownish-gray fur in a summer scene, and an arctic hare with white fur in a winter scene.

    -In the claim section, the students should write the name of their chosen animal in the blank, then circle can or cannot to complete the claim. 

    Example: The traits of the Arctic hare can be influenced by its environment.

    -In the evidence section, the students should write a fact they learned about their animal during their research to prove that their claim is true.

    Example: In my research, I found that arctic hares change from a brownish-gray color in the summer to white in the winter.

    -In the reasoning section, the students should explain how and why the traits of their chosen animal are influenced by its environment.

    Example: The reason for this is because the brownish-gray fur helps the arctic hare camouflage in the summer, but white fur helps it camouflage itself better in the winter.

Assessment Strategies:

Formative Assessment: The teacher should observe students during the after strategy of this lesson as students research their chosen animal to ensure students are collecting accurate information that will be useful in the writing project. The teacher should review each student’s Claim-Evidence-Reasoning Graphic Organizer to ensure students have followed directions and understand each section of the graphic organizer.

Summative Assessment: To formally assess students, the teacher should review each student’s final draft of the writing piece. The teacher can ensure the student met the objectives of this lesson by assessing student’s writing using the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning Checklist.

Advanced Preparation:

Student Background Information: Students will need to be familiar with the terms trait and environment and how these terms relate to living things.

Students will need to have background knowledge regarding the different habitats of living things, which is related to the Second Grade Alabama Course of Study Standard 7:

7.) Obtain information from literature and other media to illustrate that there are many different kinds of living things and that they exist in different places on land and in water (e.g., woodland, tundra, desert, rainforest, ocean, river).

This activity will require students to conduct research using print or digital sources and take brief notes. This lesson will also require students to develop an explanatory writing piece in a claim-evidence-reasoning format. If students do not have experience with these two skills, the teacher may wish to provide more scaffolding and support during the after strategy of this lesson.

Visit Can an Animal's Traits be Influenced by the Environment? lesson plan to learn more about this activity and additional lesson procedures to redeliver this Science activity in the classroom. 

Variation Tips (optional):
Notes or Recommendations (optional):

To learn more about integrating the practice of scientific argumentation in your classroom, please visit "Integrating Scientific Argumentation into Your Classroom: Using the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning Framework." 

  Keywords and Search Tags  
Keywords and Search Tags: