Archive for November, 2011

Exploring the 5E model

The exact definition of the 5E model varies from place to place. Some have expanded the model to include 6Es or 7Es and standards. Let’s accept the variations and avoid symantics, for the sake of a short post. The common intent is to provide a (mostly) sequential path for student learning that engages the student and lets them explore a concept before getting into vocabulary or the textbook.

Before my lengthier definitions, here’s an overview of the Es:

Engage the student, allow the student to Explore the concept in some way, ask the student to Explain what they’ve experienced, Elaborate on what was learned to apply to other applications and Evaluate the learning, and Extend the acquired knowledge to new situations.

One teacher I know is curious about this model of instruction, but is reluctant to jump in with both feet. He has explored his own version by doing his lab activity first, THEN going through the lecture experience and notes as needed.

Here’s a more in depth discussion of each stage, primarily distilled from a introduction by the Miami Science Museum that I think explains it nicely:

Engage (sometimes “excite”). The teacher grabs the learner’s attention and outlines why the learning is important and why the student should be interested in the concepts to be learned. The teacher provides opportunities for the student to makevery clear connections with past and present learning experiences.

Explore. Learners explore the concept that will be taught, and all students will now have a minimum level of experience with the concept shown. They have the opportunity to use materials or refer to phenomenon that show some of the interactions that result from this concept. This is a good place for students to ask questions “what happen if…” and then try it out to see the relationship.

Explain (sometimes or “expand”). Learners start to form explanations for the relationships they have just witnessed. Effort is made to sequence events into a logical format, and communication occurs between peers, the facilitator, or within the learner himself. The teacher can start to introduce vocabulary for the concepts that the students are attempting to explain. The teacher can also clearly and methodically use the experiences to help students overcome misconceptions. Learners make apply their generalizations to situations outside of the classroom.

Evaluate (sometimes “elaborate” or “exchange”). The teacher and learner evaluate the progress made towards learning goals. These assessments should include student reflection, informal teacher observations, rubrics, small group discussions, checklists, student interviews, portfolios designed with specific purposes, project and problem-based learning products, and embedded assessments.

Extend (sometimes “enrich”). The student takes the learning and applies it to a new set of circumstances or a more challenging situation. Students propose investigations that permit further exploration and inquiry into the topic at hand. Applications may include collaboration with other students locally or globally, investigating a local or global issue – current or historical – that relates to the concept, creating artwork, media, or writings connected to the concept.

The Miami Science Museum goes on to say “the learning process is open-ended and open to change. There is an on going loop where questions lead to answers but more questions and instruction is driven by both predetermined lesson design and the inquiry process.”

I hope that gives you something to think about. I hope you’ll share comments about your experiences with 5E.

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Bathroom or bust (literally)

At an Illinois high school, students are being asked to make up for lost instructional time when they use bathroom breaks excessively, by serving time after school. A detention. I can’t imagine making such a big deal about this with students, for the following reasons:

1. Students will ‘hold it’ when great things are happening in the classroom.

Certainly, no teacher wants to compete with Angry Birds for attention. However, if we provide great classroom experiences, there’s a major decline in bathroom breaks and “inappropriate use of technology” (cell phones). It’s a barometer for the success of your teaching: lots of pit stops is a great indicator that instruction could improve.

2. Save “political capital” for the rare and truly important situations.

There are rare times when things boiling over in your classroom – anger explodes between students, or your plans blow up in your face, etc. In these times, you need to be able to say

“I don’t have time to explain myself, and you probably won’t like what I’m about to ask you to do, and I’m sorry. Will you support me anyway?”. If you’ve shown respect to your students, and you’ve earned their trust – they will support you.

If you are fighting daily battles with students about something as trivial as bathroom breaks, you won’t have enough respect in the “interpersonal bank account”.

3. Most importantly, if you EVER wrongly accuse a student of abusing bathroom privileges:

If this happens, you have personally failed that individual student, and broken trust with all your students for years to come.

You will have mentally abused that student to some degree. You have asserted your authority over someone else, and that person may model this same behavior when they are in position of power at some point in the future. Whatever embarrassment happens for this student will never be forgotten.

Your reputation as an unreasonable person will quickly spread to students in your other classes. They won’t want to trust you or your judgment in the future. Younger brothers and sisters of current students will hear of your reputation and may hold it against you.

Thoughts on handling excessive bathroom use:

  1. If a student is constantly leaving for the bathroom, just do a GENERAL “check in” with them – not mentioning the bathroom use. “Hey, I don’t want to pry, but I’ve noticed you’ve seemed less interested in class activities lately. Is everything going OK at home and in your other classes?”. It seems like 80% of the time, this question gives me some context as to why class isn’t the top priority at the moment.
  2. If a student asks to go in the middle of class, suggest they wait for 3 minutes, because you’re about to transition to something else. This may cause the distracted student to ‘forget’ they needed to go.
  3. If a student approaches you one on one, say something like “Oh, can it wait?” If they say it can’t, you can really insist that they go. If it WASN’T urgent, you’ve appealed to their higher nature and shown respect. If it WAS urgent, you’ve built some trust with that student, and people don’t like to lose someone’s trust.
Please share your own comments – what do you think about the bathroom issue? Do you have strategies or troubles of your own?
-Phil