5E Science Lesson Plans

What is the 5E model lesson plan?

5E Science lesson plans use the 5E model and can help support student learning and growth through inquiry based instruction. Traditional science instruction employed a “sage on the stage” mentality where the instructor, who knew all of the answers, imparted his or her wisdom upon the students via lecture. The inquiry model of science instruction uses the teacher more as a “guide on the side.” The 5E lesson model allows students to make discoveries and to process new skills. 5E lessons not only help students learn but also improve student metacognition and understanding of their own learning process.

In a 5E lesson plan, the role of the teacher is to support students as they prior knowledge to build new knowledge. Students who learn using an inquiry approach score better on standardized tests than students who were taught by direct instruction.

What are the 5 E’s in Science lesson planning?5E science lesson planning

5E science lesson plans all incorporate the 5 essential elements in order:

  1. Engage – Engaging students in the topic by piquing their curiosity is an essential first step in 5e science lesson planning. The NGSS draws upon phenomena to cause students to be curious and ask questions. Engaging students can be a simple bellringer or Do Now but more often it invites students to open their minds and get ready to explore possibilities.  Students can be engaged with the activity in any way that draws upon their natural curiosity. A simple picture walk of locations displaying types of pollution can cause students to ask questions like why is there so much pollution, why has nothing been done, or what can be done to prevent it. KWL charts are a great way for students to begin identifying what they (K) Know about a subject and (W) Want to know about a subject – it’s extremely useful with things they might have some background knowledge of preconceptions such as genetically modified food or vaccines. Short videos are great ways to give students enough information to be curious enough to want to explore further. Students may express misconceptions but the teacher does not correct them yet.
  2. Explore – Allow students to form hypotheses, test variables, and draw conclusions about the new topic.  Once students are engaged in the lesson, the teacher’s job is then to allow them to explore the concept. Exploration can take many forms – games and experiments are the most common and easily accessible ways for students to explore content in a 5E science lesson. Students can use this exploration time to find the answers to the questions they developed in the engagement portion of the lesson by testing variables and drawing conclusions. The explore portion of the lesson should be student driven – the teacher’s job is to provide the opportunity but not to provide the answers.
  3. Explain – Teacher moves from guide to instructor by providing vocabulary terms, answering outstanding questions, and explaining new concepts. More traditional teachers will recognize this as a modified lecture. The teacher uses the explain portion of the 5E science lesson plan to answer questions students still have and to provide explanations for phenomena that they observed. Relevant vocabulary is defined and concepts are explained. The teacher can also conduct some formative assessments by engaging students in some traditional Q&A or some higher order questioning techniques such as asking students to make hypotheses, analyze data, or make connections with other learning.
  4. Elaborate – Students are given an opportunity to extend their learning by forming generalizations about what they learned and extending it to other situations. In the elaborate portion of the 5E science lesson plan, students participate in an extension or different activity that further explores the concept. This portion of the lesson also provides an opportunity for remediation and differentiation if necessary. Students may make new hypotheses and draw new conclusions to make generalizations about the new learning and apply it to previous learning.
  5. Evaluate – Students demonstrate that they have mastered the content in either a formal traditional assessment or in an alternative assessment. The evaluate portion of the 5E science lesson plan is a more formal summative assessments to measure what students have learned. It may be a traditional quiz or test but it can also be a project, a model, or an essay or reflection. Ideally, the student is evaluating his or her own learning.

A unit using the 5E model may take several days or longer to complete. Even thought the steps are presented in a chronological order, the process may be more like a cha-cha-cha than like a straightforward linear progression – a few steps forward, a few steps back. Let students explore and then engage them again. Explain and then engage them again, allowing them to explore. Maybe elaborate a little and then explore and explain.

How do you make a 5E Science lesson plan?

Engage – choose one or more of these activities to engage your students.

  • Video
  • Game
  • Display of objects
  • Model
  • short story
  • KWL
  • picture walk
  • phenomenon
  • Bellringers/Do Nows
  • Questions


  • Test variables
  • Form hypotheses
  • Conduct controlled experiments
  • Play games
  • Create or examine models


  • Define vocabulary
  • Explain concepts
  • Correct misconceptions
  • Ask leading questions
  • Provide models


  • Make connections
  • Make generalizations and apply them to new situations
  • Make a craft
  • Watch a video
  • Play a game
  • Conduct an experiment


  • Write
  • Have a conversation
  • Demonstrate
  • Assess
  • Analyze a new scenario
  • Critical reflections
  • Problem based learning project

5e science lesson plans




download the 5e lesson plan template

Published by JustAddH2OTeacher

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