5 E's lesson plan template

Try Out the 5 E’s Lesson Plan

The 5 E’s lesson plan template is relatively new, did not exist when I was in my teacher prep program (or at least to my knowledge.) It was specifically designed for math and science but is a great outline for any subject area. I previously blogged on this 5 E’s Lesson Plan – Explain Comes Third. As Stanford math professor Jo Boaler says “It is not our job to rescue students from thinking.” Check out this resource on productive struggle.

Link to Template


The Standard

Note that there is no standard to “identify place value” but rather to UNDERSTAND that one place is ten times the value of the other. Consider a quick and dirty for the standards is to analyze instead of memorize. Is the lesson we are teaching students something that may have been a lesson taught to us or is it actually a modern standard? How do we engage students in exploring and analyzing more?

The 4 C’s

Try to have at least one C of 21st century teaching. I would like to add an additional C of “Context.” If students do not understand (this is different than being told “someday you might build a bridge”) why they are learning something, the learning is less sticky. Students need to make meaningful connections between what they are learning and what it’s purpose is. Textbooks and worksheets are notorious for fake contexts (who is Bob and why does he have 40 watermelons?!) and fake numbers. It’s understandable in an age of textbooks but in the 21st century real data is all around us. How can we engage students in real contexts that use real data rather than contrived?


Math should not be struggling alone at your desk. Talking about learning, debating ideas, sharing different approaches are highly effective for learning. How will students collaborate in this lesson?

Critical Thinking

Following steps and getting the right answer is DOK 1. Most of the math book I taught from was DOK 1. DOK 2 is going to be where the student needs to deviate from the formula and figure out at least one step. DOK 3 is defined by strategic thinking. We would expect that students get it WRONG on their first attempt. If we expect that they would get it correct the first time then it doesn’t involve that much thinking. As Shelley Burgess says “live in DOK 2 and 3; visit DOK 1 and 4.”

Feedback Loop

A feedback loop is not one of the 4 C’s obviously but if we are wanting to teach students to be critical thinkers this is hard. It is time consuming to teach a student to be a critical thinker. You have to let students think, get feedback, and think some more. This may require multiple back and forth interactions to help develop the students thinking. And while it is challenging, remember to not do the thinking for the students. Ask them questions. Provide resources and help the students to figure it out. Teaching critical thinking means we must demand that it is the student doing the thinking.

Creative Thinking

Following steps is not creative thinking and it is not critical thinking. Creative thinking would be students looking at different approaches. That each student would turn in something different from their neighbor.

Clearly Communicate Ideas

Communicating ideas is not showing your work. It is not uncommon for a student to be able to calculate the math problem yet lack understanding of why what they are doing works. How are students communicating their thinking, including their wrong directions (an essential part of the strategic thinking process)? Are they explaining what they are doing?

The 8 Mathematical Practices

Previously I blogged that the 8 mathematical practices are what the students should be doing. Notice show your work is not one of the practices. “Math is about pattern finding.” – @youcubed

The 5 E’S

Engage: How do we hook student interest into the lesson?

Explore: Have students explore and discuss mathematical ideas.

Explain: What needs to be explained? Explain comes third after students have developed some concepts and ideas about the math. Again we want to resist the urge to do the thinking for the students.

Extend: Independent practice is essential. How will students expand and practice on the ideas they worked on.

Evaluate: Friendly reminder that evaluation does not have to be a test or a quiz. There are many ways for you to assess that a student has learned the concepts.

Tip from Diana Herrington

Instead of starting a new math concept at the beginning of class, start it in the middle. This allows students to think about ideas and come back the next day to extend and discuss before starting a new lesson.


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