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How to Use the 5E Model With Blended Learning

In this post we’ll talk about how to use the 5E Model with Blended Learning. In case you’re not familiar with the 5E Model of teaching, it’s an inquiry-based constructivist model where students work to generate their own understanding of the science concepts.

The Es stand for Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend (Elaborate) and Evaluate. The great thing about this teaching methodology is that it can work with all science topics. And, if you’re struggling to start incorporating the Next Generation Science Standards into your curriculum, the 5E Model is tailor-made for the NGSS!5E Model with Blended Learning

It’s also easy (as if ANYTHING in teaching is easy anymore!) to use blended learning with the 5E Model. It really is so flexible that you can adapt it to use just about any teaching strategy you can think of.

Let’s do a quick review of blended learning. There are probably a zillion definitions of it, but what it boils down to is that a blended learning lesson incorporates an online segment with face-to-face teaching. Here’s a previous post about it if you’d like a bit more information.

How 5E and Blended Learning Fit Together

Let’s look at the Es and see how we can address them with a blended learning model.

First, the “Engage.” This is basically a “hook” of some sort to capture students’ interests and get them starting to question it. It doesn’t have to be a full period long, though it can be. I like to use a discrepant event, a short video clip, a controversy or even a storybook for this part. If you’re looking for something longer, you could use an inquiry lab or a POGIL-type activity.

Next, the “Explore.” This part is where students are gathering information about the Engagement to start to try to make their own understandings. You can use flipped lessons, in-class flipped lessons, science stations … all of which can be part of blended learning.

It’s at this point where the lesson can be differentiated. Readings can be modified, practice problems can be different, and the “teacher time” can be tailored to meet the needs of slower learners or those who need a bit more practice.

Hands-on activities can be performed where students are predicting and forming hypotheses, either as a full lab or as one of the stations.

Now, the “Explain.” Now students are starting to understand the concepts. Teachers answer questions, define vocabulary and explain concepts. It’s important to connect prior knowledge to the new, current concepts.

I’d like to make a side note here … in my opinion, we (teachers) have been led to believe that lecturing means we’re terrible teachers with no imaginations and that our students can’t possibly learn that way.

I have a problem with this notion. First of all, part of our job is to get our students college and career ready. I haven’t been in college in many years, but I’m willing to bet that most professors still teach via lecture, at least part of the time.

Secondly, sometimes a concept just needs to be EXPLAINED by the teacher! So I honestly don’t see anything wrong with an occasional lecture. A Powerpoint presentation can certainly be made interactive. You can add TPS activities, review questions, ask great open-ended questions, have a short discussion … all while explaining concepts to students!

So the Explain phase CAN include a lecture or two. A CER (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning) activity or writing is a great formative assessment to see where students are at this point.

Students will need time to internalize what they’ve learned, which leads us to the next 2 phases.

The “Extend.” Some people call this Elaborate, but basically they are the same phase. Up until now, the knowledge that students have gained has been specific to the situations you’ve used in your lessons. But they need to be able to generalize the concepts and apply them to new situations.

For this phase, teachers have several options. You can have students conduct a new. more in-depth lab activity where they come up with their own experimental design. You could have them classify or sort objects into groups.

New scenarios can be shown to students, either by reading or by video, and have them explain it based on their new knowledge. You can also look back at some previous labs and have them take them a step further, or explain the results based on the new concepts. They can also do a project to show their understanding.

The “Evaluate.” There are many ways to evaluate students’ learning during a unit. Formative assessments have been taking place all throughout, as you observe students working.

Self-reflection is an important piece of this phase. Students should be able to look back and see how far they’ve come, as well as filling in any missing pieces that may exist in their understanding. Rubrics or checklists work very well for self-reflection as do journals.

Models, choice boards, mind maps, performance assessments … all work very well in this phase.

As a Living Environment teacher in New York State, I still have to prepare my kids for the Regents exam. They must pass this test and my course at the end of the school year in order to graduate. So I would be doing them a huge disservice if I did not provide them with unit assessments. We still have to give them a number grade! So as part of my Evaluate phase I always include a unit test composed of questions from past exams. You may have something similar that you are responsible for.

Where’s the Blended Learning Part?

Here’s the cool thing … blended learning can be added ANYWHERE in the 5E Model! If you’re incorporating online work with face-to-face teaching, that’s blended learning.

Perhaps you want to use an online lab activity for the Explore. Students could do the activity online, then meet with you in small groups to discuss the results.  Or you can use Edpuzzle or Educannon with an explanatory video during the Explain phase, then have them work in collaborative groups to discuss their notes and do an activity.

The possibilities are really endless with these teaching strategies. I hope you’ve come away with some ideas on how to use the 5E model with blended learning!

If you’ve had a great lesson, please comment below and let us know. Or, if  you’ve tried and run into difficulties, we’d love to know that too! We could brainstorm some solutions!

Happy Teaching!



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