The 5E Instructional Model: Engage

Hello again teacher friends!

Can you believe it is almost time to go back to school?!?! I report August 10 for new teacher orientation then on to my campus August 14th. This year I have changed districts, and I’m excited to be moving back to fifth grade after a long and exhausting stretch in second.

So, let’s get down to business. In my last post, I introduced this blog series about understanding the not-so-scary 5E Instructional Model. I know that when I first started teaching science… I had no clue! Really, I was like a brand-spankin’ new teacher. So, I can imagine that if you don’t consider yourself a “science person”, but you find yourself teaching science…well, you may be feeling a bit of anxiety. Been there, done that.

But let me say this…

…kids love science, and science is super fun to teach!

Where do you start?

With the 5E Model, you start with Engage. All that engage means is that you basically get your students interested and engaged in the topic. The Engage phase of this model is where your kiddos make connections to their prior knowledge and understandings. It is also the phase where you begin to assess what they know and what their misconceptions may be.

How do you do that? (For the purpose of this blog series, I’m going to base all of my examples on the topic of States of Matter). Here are a few suggestions


  • You could either demonstrate with, or place at group tables a solid object, a small cup of water, and a blown up balloon, and then simply tell students to observe and discuss with their table mates.
  • Walk around the room listening to student comments, and asking questions. Pay close attention to what your students are saying. If you hear a misconception, do not tell your students are incorrect. Just make a mental note to be sure to address it in the future (or jot it down on a clipboard). You may find that many of your children have very similar misconceptions.
  • Bring the class back together, and simply ask “What did you and your table mates discuss?” Record observations/ideas on chart paper.


  • Ask your kiddos what you had them observe. You may get answers like “a block”, “a cup of water”, or “a blown up balloon”. And… most likely you will have a few little smarties that will say “a solid”, “a liquid”, or “a gas”.
  • Have them discuss what solids, liquids, and gases are. Again… someone may know that these are all examples of states of matter. Now you need to get their ideas in front of them in writing.

Read on my friend….

KWL Chart 

  • KWL (Know, Want to know, Learned) Charts are fabulous ways to get your kiddos started, and they could be used in tandem with the demonstration activity described above. Concentrate first on the “K” – what they know. I would post a piece of chart paper on the board, put a big “K” on the top (make sure they understand that K stands for Know) and then have them volunteer what they know about states of matter. This activity will further help you understand any misconceptions your students may have. Write the “K’s” down, even if they are incorrect – they will accommodate their new understandings later. I stop writing at the end on one piece of chart paper…you have to draw the line somewhere. Then have them choose and copy three of four of the details in the K column onto their own KWL chart. (Super Smart Teacher Tip: When a kiddo volunteers a piece of information to be included in the chart…write their initials next to it. They will feel super special, and you will remember who said what. Plus this encourages all of your students to participate!) Sometimes, you may find that a KWL chart doesn’t quite meet your needs, especially when there is a lack of background knowledge. Check out my post about building background knowledge using an OWL chart.

Click on the chart to download this KWL Chart!

Read Aloud

  • Kids love read-alouds! Gather them up close to you and read to them. You don’t have to read the entire book, just a few pages that deal with what you want them to start thinking about. Ask questions and discuss pictures as you read. After I read aloud, I leave the book up front and center with other on-topic books for students to read during Read to Self time (one of my science rotations).
  • One of my favorite science authors is Gail Gibbons. Her books are fabulous! My kiddos will actually say something like “Yay, a Gail Gibbons book!”

I will be adding to this chart as we work our way through each phase of the 5E Instructional Model.

Engaging your students and understanding any misconceptions they may have is essential to planning and implementing future activities. When you do and engagement activity, you will most likely have already planned for the unit. I advise that you go back and review your plans, making changes where necessary.

Next time I’ll be discussing the second phase of the 5E learning model – Explore!

Until next time…

Happy Teaching,


P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about easy-to-implement science and math activities, I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter which also gives you access to my exclusive resource library!



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