May 4, 2015

The 6th E is for Excite!

Do you know what is exhausting? Preparing for hands on and active learning in the classroom. Today, I'm talking about Science. It seems like every week I'm purchasing, creating, or at the very least, unpacking supplies and materials with which to teach Science. In the past few weeks, I have had to prepare for and live through 2nd graders planting their own marigolds (and our subsequent Will It Grow? investigation), purchase and begin caring for our own butterfly larva, and prepare for and guide students through live earthworm observations. On top of that, we have to remember to observe and take notes on the plants every few days and observe and measure our larva every day. It. Is. A. Pain.

But do you know what is more exhausting? What is even more of a pain? Trying to teach students Science with textbook reading, video watching, and worksheets. The boredom! The low motivation! The off task behavior because it's 15 minutes before the bell and we're doing seat work! Ew.

Have you heard of the 5Es method of teaching Science? My school was involved in a 2 year stint of Science professional learning where we learned about the 5E method of teaching, Science Interactive notebooks, asking fuzzy questions, and teaching students to use the Claims-Evidence-Reasoning model of writing. Whew. That was a lot. And believe me, it felt quite overwhelming to those of us going through it a s well!

While I've used components of all of this learning throughout the years, the mainstay for me has been the 5Es. What is the 5E method? It is a method of planning and teaching Science based on the constructivist model of learning which says that students learn best when they are actively involved in building their own knowledge. A 5E lesson plan is broken down into 5 parts:
  • Engage-You might think of this as the hook of the lesson. Your purpose is to pique student interest and assess their prior knowledge. 
  • Explore-This is where students get to begin some sort of exploration or investigation that builds a common experience for everyone. 
  • Explain-This will be the opportunity to ask questions or build conclusions about the subject. You might also do further reading or investigating on the topic. You would introduce new vocabulary and have students summarize their learning.
  • Extend/Elaborate-This is the step where students will expand on their learning. They will apply the new things they have learned to an unfamiliar situation. 
  • Evaluate-This needs no explanation-you will find out how much learning has occurred at this stage. This is often not a test or quiz, but possibly some sort of product or writing.

The key is that we begin with fuzzy questions or hands on learning. Then, we engage our students in challenges, discussions, or questioning before we teachers (or textbooks or Brainpop videos...) explain all of our hard earned knowledge on a subject! I love teaching in this way. My kids love learning in this way. Like I said in the title of this post, the 6th E is for Excite! I can tell you without a doubt that my students are truly excited about their learning in Science. Throughout the year, I see them act as real Scientists: making hypotheses, asking questions, making connections, and learning, learning, learning! 

So that's what makes it all worth it. On those days when I know it would be a lot easier to run off some worksheets at the copier than go begging fourth grade teachers for their balances. On those days when I would like to just give a few minutes of independent seat work to my students so that I can sit at my desk and grade papers rather than dealing with 8 year olds studying earthworms. The 6th E, EXCITE, helps me stay motivated to teach Science in a real and hands on way. 

For further reading:

This is a great resource that we use, which I hope to post about soon:

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