The Five Es Educational Model versus A Sound Pedagodical Methodology

My wife, a teacher in a Dallas school, and I began talking about education a few nights ago. She told me about the lesson plan structure used in her school – the “Five Es” lesson model. This model focuses on hands-on activities and avoids traditional lectures like scholars of high Spanish literature avoid new media literature. A “Five Es” lesson consists of the following stages:

 Engage – during this stage the students engage in interactive, hands-on activities that connect what has been previously learned to what will be learned.

 Explore – Students engage in hands-on activities that allow them to explore the new topic. Group work is an essential part of this stage.

Explain – In this stage the students tell the teacher what they have learned so that the teacher can correct misconceptions.

Elaborate – Hands-on activities allow students to broaden their practice.

Evaluate – hands-on activities that allow the students to show what they have learned.

As you can see, this model focuses entirely on hands-on activities. Lecture is reduced to a simple “I don’t think that is correct, you do it this way” somewhere halfway into the lesson. I am an advocate of hands-on learning – in fact, that is what my methodology revolves around. I spend a lot of my classroom time guiding students through writing tasks and discourse analysis tasks – something which, I’m sure, they enjoy more than they would hour long lectures on discourse analysis. However, with the exception of performing arts (and even then one always refers back to the basics), for true teaching to happen one must always reference back to the theoretical knowledge before engaging in practice.

The lesson plan structure that I use – and that should be the standard for any lesson – consists of the following stages:

Exposition – In this part the instructor gives the background information needed for the day’s tasks.

Discussion – The instructor converses with the students about the material to make sure that they got the gist of it.

Guided Practice – The instructor engages the whole class in sample exercises / tasks and discussion of said tasks.

Individual / Group Practice – Students engage, individually or in groups, with a task that leads to the application of the theory.

Sharing – Students share their work with the entire class.

Evaluation – Students engage in individual activities that will help the instructor assess how successfully the students acquired the skills required.

Certainly, EDGIgSE, or whatever sort of silly acronym we can make, doesn’t sound as interesting as “Five Es”, but let’s look at what hypothetical sample lessons under each method would look like. Certainly, it would be unfair for me to focus on English Lit, Rhetoric and Composition, Linguistics, or English Language Acquisition, as those are my areas of specialty. For these sample lessons we will look at math, science, art, and Klingon and assume no previous knowledge.

MATH – Using the 5Es model

The teacher walks into the classroom and asks 7th grade students to solve the following equations:

5x^2 + 3x + 9

X – 1

2X +3Y – 5Z

After the students struggle for a few minutes with the incomprehensible figures, the teacher asks the students to make groups of 4 students and work on the following equations:

(x+2) (y-1)


After the student groups struggle, the teacher asks the students “What did you learn?” and the students reply “Nothing, I don’t know what to do”, so the teacher explains how to solve equations. Students are then given a number of more difficult math exercises which lead up to a quiz or some other form of exercise.

SCIENCE – Using the 5Es model

The teacher asks the students to burn a penny with the lab equipment in order to see how nickel separates from other metals. Students start setting up the lab equipment and, because they have no idea about the procedure for burning nickel, they take out the wrong equipment. The teacher asks them to work in groups. One of the students forgets to shut off the gas before taking out the equipment, which results in almost burning down the lab (this I actually saw happen in one of the classes I was visiting when I was Arts and Sciences Coordinator in Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios). The instructor asks the students what did they learn, to which they reply “if you set coins on fire you can get nickel”. The instructor clarifies that the chemical reaction of nickel to extreme heat is a rapid decomposition and composition of its solid state to liquid then back to solid. Students say “ah” in unison and write it down in their lab journals. They burn nickel properly.

KLINGON – Using the 5Es model

Students are given a Klingon text to decipher individually then discuss in groups.

Because they have no idea what it means, they can only guess. The instructor explains the text, to which the students reply with “I don’t get it”.

 These mock classes reveal the fundamental flaw in the model – the explanation of what to do and how to do it comes after students clumsily grasp and some skills they don’t possess and have not been told how to develop. Let’s look at the same classes using the EDGIgSE model.


The teacher explains what an algebraic equation is and how to solve them.

The instructor shows students on the board how to solve 5x^2 + 3x + 9 and X – 1.

The instructor asks the students to solve 2X +3Y – 5Z on the board. They can ask each other for advice.

The instructor has the students solve (x+2) (y-1) and 5X+7X-3 on their own, then share their results and how they got to them with the class.

There is a quiz.


The instructor reminds the students of the appropriate lab procedures and tells them that they will burn pennies to see the reaction of nickel to heat.

The instructor helps the students set up the lab equipment.

Students get in groups and burn nickel. (One student almost burns down the lab.)

The instructor asks what did students learn, to which they reply something like “I don’t know it kind of got all liquidy and then solid really fast and there was some smoke”. The instructor pushes – “so what is the reaction?” The students answer accordingly and write down their notes in their lab journals.


Students are told that Klingon doesn’t sound like any other language, and gives them sample words like “Pakhh”, “PukhPakahh”, “BilerrrrBeEEEh”, and “Tchorrrrr”. The instructor then gives them the following sheet and a list of Klingon words:

The instructor asks the students to write the words using Klingon characters and pronounce them. The instructor gives the students a Klingon document and asks them to read parts of it aloud.


Even though my wife strongly disagrees, I think that actually talking about what will be discussed in class and explain how to actually do it BEFORE doing hands-on activities is useful in more ways than one. This leads me to my advice: steer away from gimmick-driven methodologies and stick to what has been scientifically proven to work:

 Exposition > Whole Group Examples > Small Group Exercises > Individual Exercises > Discussion > Assessment

 * Klingon charts taken from the Klingon Language Institute


About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on October 19, 2010, in Education Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. And what about adding some more images? No offence, text is really nice. Just according to the scientists people acquire information much more effective when there are certain helpful pictures.

    Jeff Nixon
    cel phone jammer

  2. Your wife’s class might be better served by having actual Klingon speakers provide the recordings, and having the information that the sounds in Klingon are similar to sounds in other language. Most English speakers who hear Klingon spoken compare it to German or Hebrew. Furthermore the “Klingon” document is just a substitution cipher: English written with pIqaD (Klingon letters), so a motivated and observant student could indeed decode it with no additional assistance.

    As a gross stereotype, males learn better if they have an initial hands-on opportunity, and then get an explanation, and finally opportunity for practice, while females learn best with a more thorough pre-exercise briefing. Teachers should use more than one method to best serve their students.

  3. You’re aware, of course, that the “equations” you list are in fact NOT equations. They cannot be solved–by anyone–without more context, i.e. providing the students with a number to use for X, or actually providing a WHOLE equation [ x-1 = 4]. Otherwise, your classroom is truly doomed.

  4. The 5-Es must be viewed quite differently when used for more conceptual activities like a language. Language is primarily a spoken phenomenon with a written representation. It also is way too complicated to present as a large lump and should be introduced in small progressively more complex units. (Which is also true of math and science.) Thus, the Engage activity for brand-new students should consist of the teacher speaking only the foreign language, giving greetings and introductions to the students. Then they should encourage the students to Explore, with each other, the examples given before the teacher switches to English to Explain. Then the students explore the examples with each other again as the Elaborate what they have learned. Finally the teacher evaluates the students to try to get an understanding of where students are weak so an appropriate lesson can be created to strengthen their current understandings and introduce new material. This is an age-old language teaching method and actually works quite well.

    You are being distracted by the term “hands-on”. This does not mean that it has to be something that they actually touch with their fingers, but rather that it is something they can manipulate and experiment with whether in their hands or just in their imaginations. I’ve never tried it with math or science, but if you start with very small chunks of the basics and slowly build towards complicated math and science, I bet it would work fine.

    And, by the way, you would do your students a disservice to present that document to them as Klingon. You would be teaching them to mispronounce almost all of the characters, since, as you say, “Klingon doesn’t sound like,” English.

  5. I cannot properly consider the thesis here, because I am totally put off by the fact that the examples used are all completely bogus. I don’t need to “assume no previous knowledge” of the subjects you chose, because the lack of such knowledge is amply demonstrated in your presentation of them.

    MATH: As RS points out, the “math equations” cannot be solved, because they are not equations.

    SCIENCE: One cannot produce nickel by burning a penny, because there is no nickel in a penny, and has not been since the 1800s. What one finds when a modern penny is *melted* is that the reddish color of the copper plating gets overwhelmed by the whitish color of the predominantly zinc core, which is actually rather toxic. Regardless, it does not “burn”.

    KLINGON: The “Klingon” text presented is merely English printed in an unusual typeface, and the sample “words” do not closely resemble true Klingon words. Someone with a high degree of fluency in Klingon might guess at what is intended (e.g. “Tchorrrrr” vaguely approximates the Klingon number {chorgh} “eight”), but it would be like teasing out the word “lunchbox” from a pronunciation of “rune she book kiss” with a strong regional accent.

    The missing of the mark is so complete that I find it hard to accept that you didn’t do it on purpose. It is much easier for me to conclude that you’ve set these examples up as a straw man so that it’s simple for you to make an argument against them.

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