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5E lesson plan: Explain & Elaborate

Updated on September 1, 2017

5E Elaborate Phase Activities

Students may complete an elaboration activity in workstations or in cooperative groups, though they may typically be thought of as independent exercises. Kids learn from each other and extended learning helps.
Students may complete an elaboration activity in workstations or in cooperative groups, though they may typically be thought of as independent exercises. Kids learn from each other and extended learning helps.

5E lesson plan: Explain and Elaborate Phases

How do you have your students explain in a lesson?

Explain is the 3rd E in the 5E lesson plan model, after the child has engaged, and explored, the next step is to assess rather or not the student is understanding. There are several ways to check for understanding by having students explain what they are learning. In the "Nitrogen cycle lesson" the teacher simply has students fill out a graphic organizer where the students are required to write why they choice their answers. Students are collectively showing that they understand by answering questions about what they saw the previous phases in the lesson. The teacher is scanning student’s faces and monitoring them as they write. Also students are free to learn from each other as they are working as a whole group. They are expressing themselves as they participate and explain what is occurring in the nitrogen cycle. As the lesson continues some steps seem redundant but they are necessary to be concise.

Now here the teacher should clarify anything that he observed that the students struggled with and students should experience discussion about the what, how, which and why in pairs or groups.The activities should also include independent practice with guidance as needed.


  • independent practice
  • completing a graphic organizer
  • writing prompt
  • cooperative group assignment
  • authentic work samples


Now that students have practice with the concept with a gradual release of guidance they can now do extensions to practice more in depth. Elaboration can include more practice with less teacher guidance and more student led ideas. Elaboration can also mean more time to just practice in a higher thinking skills format.

The 4th step is the reteaching at hopefully a higher level. Elaboration can be just simply reteaching or adding an extension or just a challenge activity. A teacher has to decide how this should go depending on the students' learning needs. In this nitrogen cycle lesson, the elaboration was basically changing the skit up by making the cycle unbalanced. It was also an opportunity to make sure all the students had a turn. Depending on how well the students explained their understanding in the previous step the teacher can gauge how much to advance the lesson.

Student 5E work sample

The student can independently or cooperatively complete a task in the explain and elaborate phase of the lesson.
The student can independently or cooperatively complete a task in the explain and elaborate phase of the lesson.

Challenges with The 5E lesson plan: Explain and Elaborate Phase

Oftentimes too much time is spent in the precedent phases: Engage, and Explore and the daily schedule has only so many minutes that can be dedicated to each subject. One thing that I have learned that sometimes the 5E lesson should be broken up between two days other times it is more practical to find a shorter video or a quicker hands on experience to have time to get to the explain and elaborate. Students have to be able to show their level of understanding in order to be able to justly evaluate.

Many times because of time constraints and student deficits many teachers struggle with giving students extra time to practice what they have learned and then they test them before they are ready. Work with other teachers and adjust time and make it a goal to fit meaningful practice in before getting to the last phase of Evaluation.

One way to get kids ready for the last phase is through intentional preparation of cloned questions and activities that are worded similar to what students may see in the evaluation. Many times teachers teach good but the kids feel tricked and confused when faced with testing wording and formats, this can be combated with the Explain and Elaborate phases being thoroughly aligned to the evaluation and most of all the phases before being scaffold to build metacognition effectively for all students addressing their individual academic needs.

Furthermore, kids can practice together. Imagine feeling still not too sure about a new idea and just needing to hear it again from some one who thinks like you. A kid explaining what they did to another kid is music to a teacher's ear because who better to think like a kid than another kid? Allowing students to build there reasoning together not only fosters understanding it motivates those kids that would not work otherwise, because of their deficit, or lack of confidence. Amazingly throughout this type of cooperation more students become less withdrawn and more confident to share their input and reasoning.


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