Hands-On Learning, Pedagogy

Planning a 5E Lesson

After taking a rather lengthy hiatus from blogging and working on Teachers Pay Teachers products, I am back at it… Yay!

By the time this post publishes, I will have already updated and reposted all previous blog posts, including my series Understanding and Implementing the 5E Lesson Cycle. So, to top it off, how about a post about actually planning a single 5E lesson?

Unpacking the Standard

I recommend starting your plan by ‘unpacking’ the learning standard (the TEKS in my case). Unpacking the standard means that you are going to really study that standard in order to understand what the student is expected to learn and to do.

Before I get started, I want to emphasize that for purposes of this post, I’m discussing using the 5E Lesson Cycle as a daily planning guide. Planning according to the 5Es is very flexible in that it can be used to plan for daily instruction, as I’m doing here, or it can be used for planning with weekly, or even entire unit, goals in mind. Do what suits your needs.

I’m going to use the fifth grade Texas Essential Knowledge Skills (TEKS) science standard 5.8D for demonstration. The TEKS standard 5.8D states that students should be able to identify and compare the the physical characteristics of the sun, Earth, and moon. The verbs in this standard are identify and compare, so that is what your 5E cycle needs to focus on.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Well it is… and it isn’t. Identifying and comparing sound easy enough, but you need to develop lessons that build on prior knowledge, develop new understandings, and are rigorous. Depending on your state, you may or may not have a test for your grade. Here in Texas, fifth grade is the first year that students take a state science test. So, that leads to my next tip….

Plan With the End in Mind

The reality of what we do on a day to day basis eventually culminates with a test. I like to pull released STAAR questions and study how these standards are tested. The easiest way that I have found to analyze STAAR questions is to use the lead4ward IQ Tool. Simply go to lead4ward, click resources, then choose IQ – released items analysis tool. You can then easily choose your subject area, grade, and TEKS that you want to look at. It really is amazing! It’s so much easier than going through old tests on the TEA website. (On a side note… You can also right click on the question and then copy and paste the entire question into a word document. I like to do this and then use the questions for quick exit tickets, or even quizzes.)

Here are some examples. The first question is from the 2021 5th Grade Science STAAR test that was administered in 2022, and the second question is from the 2015 5th Grade Science STAAR test.


You can see that these are two very different kinds of questions. What kind of activities would support being successful with either of these questions? Understanding how your students will be tested is imperative to planning lessons that prepare them for success on the test. I know that testing kind of sucks, but it’s not going anywhere, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t still plan an awesome set of activities that your kiddos will love and learn from.

Start Planning!

This is actually my favorite part! Everyone has their own method of engaging in lesson planning. My plans tend to be a bit detailed because a) my administrator likes to see detail, and b) I like to include details that I may forget. Click here for some planning templates (one PDF and one digital) that you can use to make notes of possible activities, websites, vocabulary, etc… These templates are NOT my lesson plans. My district requires us to use the planning component in Eduphoria. I like the templates for jotting down ideas and for brainstorming with other teachers.

Here is an example from our Earth and Space Unit. Although the TEKS states Earth, sun, and moon, for this lesson I was starting with just Earth and its moon. The sun was added to the next day’s lesson plans.

One small piece of advice… don’t delete or throw out your plans from year to year! I suggest that you hang on to them because chances are that you can recycle your plans with just a few minor tweaks and updates. (I like to call this working smarter, not harder.) And, speaking of tweaks and updates, be sure to evaluate your plans as you implement them in your classroom. If something doesn’t work well, make a note of it on your planning template. What needs to change? How could you make it better? Sometimes you have to make an adjustment to your lesson from one class to the next. Don’t be afraid to change it up midstream if you need to. That’s being responsive to your students’ needs, and it’s good teaching!

Be sure to check out my 5E Lesson Cycle series for a deeper understanding of implementing each component of the cycle and for examples of activities that can be used.

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