The 5E Instructional Model: Explain

Well, well, well. Where have I been?

Let me just say this… new grade + new school + new school district = one huge, new learning curve. This is my twenty-third year, and it has still been an adjustment.

But, even though I have been AWOL for a while, my little blog (and this blog post series) has always been on my mind… just kind of tucked away and hiding.

So, without further adieu, lets get this ball rolling!

I’ve covered the first two components of the 5E Instructional Model: Engage and Explore. Today I’m going to discuss the third component: Explain.

What does this third part of the 5E Model entail? Well, this is where students start to take their “old” prior knowledge, “stick it to” their new understandings, and accommodate, or make sense, of it all.

Now, lean in real close, because I’m about to whisper something very important in your ear.

I’ts okay for them to struggle with this.

(I have to ask…did you just lean in to your screen? hee, hee.)

When your kiddos struggle, they are applying what they have recently learned to what they already knew (or thought they knew) and re-organizing it all in their mental filing cabinets. This is where misconceptions are challenged and changed… this is learning!

Hold up!!

Why hasn’t she mentioned vocabulary instruction?

One misconception that we educators often have is that we are supposed to pre-teach vocabulary.


I really get irritated when I attend PD’s and the presenter discusses pre-teaching vocabulary, but I digress.

Vocabulary should not be taught until students have some knowledge and experience to connect it to. Just think back to a time when you memorized vocabulary that you really didn’t understand (and the definitions often consisted of other unknown vocabulary), only to forget it as soon as you have finished a test. We’ve all done it, and it doesn’t work. Students need to experience the concept, apply vocabulary, and then use that vocabulary regularly in order to “know” the language of what they are learning.

What (in a round about way) I’m trying to say is that the explain component is perfect for vocabulary instruction.

Here are some vocabulary activities you can work in:

  1. The good old Freyer model – these can be time consuming, so I prefer to use them for what I refer to as “big concept” words… words that apply to the overall concept in general.
  2. Crossword Puzzles (teacher and student created)
  3. Vocabulary games – bingo, I have, Who has, etc…
  4. Word Search activities (I never give a word bank. Instead, students have to identify the correct vocabulary in a cloze-type activity…the word search is the bonus.)

Other activities that work well within the explain component are:

  1. The “L” column of their KWL charts
  2. Sorting activities
  3. Graphic Organizers such as venn diagrams, tree charts, 3-2-1 charts, etc…
  4. Writing / reflection in science journals

I think is important to stress that the “explain” phase of the 5E Model requires the students to do the explaining. The teacher is there simply to facilitate and reinforce as needed. Remember… gradual release!

The explain component is the perfect time for students to work together, discussing and hashing-out what they have learned. You may find that as your students work through the process of explaining their learning, they will generate new questions. This is excellent! I suggest that you have your students write their new questions in their journals, because these can guide them later in the “elaborate” component of the 5E Model.

I really hope you got something of value from this post, and I fully intend to post the next installment about the Elaborate component in a more timely manner!

Until next time…

Happy Teaching,



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