Skillful argumentative writing requires students to give both REASONS and explain their REASONING as they support their CLAIM. Students often conflate the meaning of "reason" and "reasoning," including one but not the other. Each serves an important and distinct purpose:
- A REASON explains why the author believes the claim (or thinks it is true or valid). An argument may have one reason or multiple reasons to be strong.
- REASONING are statements that link evidence back to reasons or claims. Reasoning should clearly explain why the evidence is relevant.
The Writing Prompt & Claim
Argumentative writing is grounded in the concept of a claim. A strong claim lays the groundwork to state your reason and reasoning. A claim is an evidence-based statement in response to a debatable question.
Writing Prompt: Should local governments pass laws that focus on nutrition—like bans on trans fat in restaurants—to keep their residents safe?
CLAIM: Local governments should pass laws focused on nutrition.
Your reason is a logical statement that supports your claim. To come up with a reason, think about a general statement you would make if someone asked you why your claim was correct. If someone asks you why cities should ban trans fat, the most logical answer is that it will make people healthier.
REASON: These laws would keep residents healthy.
Reasoning always lays out how a piece of evidence—either a fact or an example from the text—supports your claim. Many students feel that it is redundant to include reasoning, but the goal of an argumentative essay is to persuade the reader to agree with your claim. If you just give evidence and reasons without reasoning, you give the reader the opportunity to interpret the evidence however he or she wants.
EVIDENCE (facts or data from a text): Trans fats are linked to heart disease and obesity.
REASONING: When residents eat fewer trans fats, they will become healthier.
Strategies to Try with Students:
- Collaborate to Find the Evidence (Editable Graphic Organizer for Students)
- Students work in partners and then in small groups discuss the evidence they’re finding and the reasoning to support that evidence.
- Practice CERCA using Real-Life Examples with students.
- Exemplars - Have students highlight different parts of the CERCA framework, or just focus on reasoning. Ask: What makes strong reasoning?
- Leverage the Reason and Reasoning Graphic Organizer or the CERCA Sandwich Graphic Organizer when students begin their writing.