Science Curriculum Project - The 5E Model

5E Model Lessons (Scroll Down)

Over the past twenty years, the 5E Approach to Science Inquiry has emerged, arguably, as the best model at our disposal for effective science instruction. The acronym stands for five lesson phases: engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate.

The 5E model incorporates a constructivist understanding of how students learn. Students serve as no mere receptacles of information but engage actively with natural phenomena and the world of ideas.  In the process, students' conceptions of these phenomena come up for revision as they attempt to create newer, truer understandings of the world around them.

In this approach, teachers value formative assessments as windows into students' naive conceptions about the world.  These assessments also serve as opportunities for students to think through those conceptions toward the big ideas of science. 

From the beginning of the lesson, the teacher serves as a guide for students, starting with her own sense of wonder about the world and gradually encouraging students to ask questions that can be investigated (the engage phase).

Learning how to investigate these questions remains at the core of inquiry methods (the explore phase). Scientific investigations include both the simple observational investigations common to the early grades as well as the more sophisticated, controlled experiments of the later grades. 

Teachers help students process these investigations through a variety of direct instruction methods (e.g., lecture, nonfiction text, video) that take student misconceptions head on (the explain phase).  In this way, teachers help students move away from naive conceptions about the world and toward the core concepts, or "big ideas," of science.

Applying these "big ideas" to a different question or new situation affords students the opportunity to solidify their learning of core science concepts and to make even more connections to the world of ideas (the elaborate phase).

Summative assessments serve as an end-of-the-lesson means to evaluate individual student learning as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of the lesson overall (the evaluate phase).

Whereas many teachers grounded in inquiry methods may already utilize aspects of the 5E approach, rarely has a curriculum been designed to capitalize fully on this model.  For this reason, the lessons liked to this page, and those yet to be added, will serve as exemplars of a 5E inquiry science curriculum.

Even amidst present uncertainties about the future of science standards, we can still teach with confidence knowing that we have at our disposal a curriculum that lends itself to inquiry-based instruction and assessments that point the way toward continual improvement for our students.


Tony Clishem, Ed.D
K-5 Science Curriculum Specialist


Model Lessons

Grade 1.  Water, Water, Everywhere!  A Lesson About Water and Weather, contributed by Tony Clishem, D64 Science Curriculum Specialist

  • 5E Lesson Plan - PDFDOCX
  • Pre-assessment - PDFPPTX
  • Student Journal - PDFPPTX
  • Teacher PowerPoint - PPTX
  • Classification activity (5E Elaborate Phase) - PDFDOCX
  • Final assessment (5E Evaluate Phase) - PDFDOCX

Grade 5.  Go North, South, East, West, Young Man!  A Lesson About the Cardinal Directions, contributed by Tony Clishem, D64 Science Curriculum Specialist Coming Soon!

  • Lesson Plan
  • Pre-assessment
  • Student Journal
  • Teacher PowerPoint
  • Elaborate activities.
  • Final assessment (evaluate)