5 Es or 7?

A recent #SciTeachJC was spent discussing a paper extolling the virtues of the 5Es. It’s also known as the 7Es, slightly confusingly, and many teachers will be familiar with the process if not the vocabulary. It was pointed out during the session that both CASE and Wikid follow some similar principles. I thought that as it’s the season for (re)writing schemes of work, that it would perhaps be useful to put together a quick ‘how to’ guide. Linked resources are going to be mostly science-related, so apologies to teachers of other subjects.

If, of course, you are involved with York Science you may already be using this approach! If you’re not, I strongly recommend you check it out – I would still be contributing if I had time, but I’ve managed to over-commit myself with all kinds of teaching-related stuff. Oops.

Anyway, the 5/7Es. The original version, as put together by an American curriculum development group, started with the backward design concept. They identified five useful stages for a lesson which contributed to effective learning. These – or the overlapping seven Es, if you prefer – can be used as a checklist for a scheme or lesson which works. Here’s my interpretation of it, apologies for any misunderstandings/oversimplifications (and please comment to identify my mistakes!). Ideally we as teachers should start at the end, asking ourselves the question:

How will my students demonstrate to me and themselves that they understand this idea?

EDIT: A simplified, quick-reference version of this quick-reference post is now available in a single page pdf – Hope it’s useful!

Engage (and Elicit)

Get their attention and find out what they know. This will mean in some way making it relevant to them. Invoke curiousity, excitement, wonder. Make them feel as well as intellectually recognise the relevance. It will often mean identifying pre- or mis-conceptions. This will probably be your lesson starter, perhaps in the twin stages of setting the scene and gauging their current level of understanding.

  • video clip, perhaps from BBC Class Clips or similar.
  • quick demo, ideally one with a surprising outcome (eg dropping a nearly empty and a full water balloon from the window to test the ‘heavier objects fall faster’ assumption).
  • This is the equipment, what might we be doing today?
  • This is a scientist who did this experiment, what might have been his/her reasoning?
  • Label the apparatus and identify the control variables.
  • Two minute discussion of how X idea links to Y (mobile phone, internet, what they had for lunch…)
  • Surprising statement to make them question something (eg diagram of atom labelled ‘This is a lie’)
  • Unusual prop (radioactive rock, rusty nail or a brick with a piece of string attached for them to prove isn’t ‘alive’)
  • Question and three answers for them to grade as Good, Okay and Wrong, then justify choices and/or correct mistakes.

I’m in the process of putting together a powerpoint for these starters to cover every topic in KS3. It’s ongoing, for obvious reasons, but by adding a bit a week I’m making something with a variety of activities that wil be there as a back-up. It’ll stop me having to invent a question on the spur of the moment


The ideal method for students to learn science is by discovery, right? Hmm. Well, I’m not disagreeing – but it’s very important to remember that we need to give our classes just the right conditions so that they ‘discover’ the right things. If you doubt what I’m saying, think about the times you’ve had to finish a practical with “And what was supposed to happen was…”

Nevertheless, all good science teachers will try to make sure that as much as possible, students are exposed to real-life situations which demonstrate or illustrate scientific principles or facts. Of course they can’t ‘see’ everything with their own eyes during their own practicals. But we give them tasks which allow them to explore the ideas, with as much ‘hands-on, minds-on’ activities as possible:

  • designing and carrying out their own investigations
  • taking part in demonstrations
  • considering hypothetical situations (thought experiments)
  • discussing advantages and disadvantages of methods or technologies
  • observing the natural world
  • describing events and experimental results
  • drawing conclusions from recorded material, whether sample data, industrial processes or BBC documentary footage


Our role is to help them put these facts into a useful context. As much as possible, we should not be giving them answers – instead, we give them the language to describe what they have found out. This might be the literal words, such as current or evaporation. It might be more figurative, helping them to turn the patterns they have identified into clear mathematical relationships. This is scaffolding, supporting the students – who will demonstrate a wide range of understanding in most classrooms – to turn facts into knowledge. We relate it back to previous lessons or topics, hopefully drawing these connections from them whenever possible by the questions we ask and the reminders we offer. We may reword their ideas to produce a ‘class definition’, or have particular students share their explanations (which we have discreetly checked while they’ve been exploring).


Using the constructed understanding – a synthesis of what they have explored, put in the context and language of our explanations – students check that they grasp the concepts. This may consist of straightforward exercises, or more open questions. It could be something more imaginative – to explain their ideas in a podcast or video, or produce a poster summing up the main points. To challenge them this should include parallel examples which require them to base their examples on concepts, not just words or mathematical methods. During this time some will realise that they don’t understand it as well as they thought, and will (or should) ask for help. You may use the 4Bs method here to encourage independant problem solving, or have some students assigned as mentors. Further explanations may be needed and sometimes you may have to pause their work to give more examples to some or all of them.

Homework can be an effective way to continue this checking, but if they have not been able to identify difficulties with you there thay may hand in a blank sheet of paper. This is where encouraging self-assessment and being clear about feedback in terms of steps to progress, rather than scores, is essential.


In many ways this should be the focus of the lesson (or series of lessons, more often). Students should be able to describe their progress, and tell you how they can measure their improvement. A ‘split-screen’ plenary where they can comment on both content and methods means that they start to consider how they progressed, not just whether they did. I find it useful to have them grade themselves in terms of confidence and competence – the latter based on data. This can be particularly powerful if they started the lesson with a similar self-assessment, so can articulate their progress. This automatically tells them what they need to do next, setting themselves targets for further lessons.


Guest post: #YorkTU

A guest post from @MissMolecules.

A couple of weeks ago a few teachers were chatting away on Twitter, generally bemoaning the fact that we would be unable to attend @alomshaha’s book launch for the Young Atheist Handbook. The book launch is in London and on a school night. Within a few tweets, and in the spirit of taking responsibility for our own CPD, Mary Whitehouse (@MaryUYSEG) and I suddenly found that we had volunteered to organise a teachmeet and social event in York during the summer holidays. I remember Alom suggested at the time that we should save the thread of tweets to show how powerful a tool Twitter can be for organising CPD events. Needless to say, I didn’t save the tweets and now I wish I had!

I am a complete novice at this kind of thing, so at Alom’s suggestion I started a poll on www.doodle.com in an attempt to narrow down a date. Mary was unavailable at the start of the holidays and Alom had limited availability, so the dates were quickly narrowed down to the last couple of weeks in August.

Promotion of the event was simple; tweet it. After a couple of announcements and a few RTs, there had been a lot of interest. I asked people to DM email addresses and I just sent out an email with the link to the doodle poll and some information about the event. I don’t want people to think I’m being selective in any way, or this is an event by invitation only, everyone is welcome. I just need to keep track of who wants to come, and the poll is an excellent way to do this. We also now have a hashtag thanks to Linda Needham (@NeedhamL56) which is #YorkTU.

The event will be based around a teachmeet at the University of York during the day. The idea is that anyone attending can do a short (5 minute) presentation. This is informal and the subject matter can literally be anything the delegate finds interesting or pertinent and would like to share and discuss. If people feel that they would like to attend and just listen to speakers and meet the other delegates, then that’s fine too. I would really like the event to be fun, relaxed and to be an opportunity for people to chat, share ideas and good practice. We have suggested that lunch can be bring and share. There will (hopefully) be people travelling some distance to the event and this way we should have enough food for everyone.

The evening event will really be an opportunity to socialise and have fun, something we scientists are good at! Once we have a better idea of numbers, I will look at venues in York. I do have a couple of places in mind and room hire is usually free but there may be a small cost involved for any catering.

The date for #YorkYU has been finalised now for Wednesday 22nd August. I am still hoping more people will attend so if you are interested, please tweet me at @MissMolecules or leave a comment below and I’ll be in touch.

CPD via Favourites (up to 23rd May)

The observent among you will have noticed that I’ve tweaked the title. That’s because I’m broadening it slightly, as I’m now looking at items I’ve saved as favourites in Twitter, through RSS and Pocket (Read it Later as was). I’m trying to use RSS feeds to reduce the amount of time I spend browsing webpages instead of working. I can synchronise them when I’ve got WiFi and read in spare minutes rather than wasting time at my desk. Saving interesting items to Pocket works the same way, and I now use ifttt.com to send any items from all these applications to the same folder in EverNote. Basically, 2012 is great.

Boring stuff over; on with the show. What caught my eye in the last week or so?


The echoes and responses to Wilshaw’s unfortunate comment on teachers’ stress levels continue, as these letters in the Observer testify. I find myself particularly agreeing with one suggesting that independant schools should lose charitable status. Private hospitals remain businesses, companies which provide charitable funding (and for most private schools, this is a tiny percentage of turnover) do not benefit unduly. Why should schools be different? (Thanks to @teachitso for the link, but the opinion is obviously mine!)

Tom Nennett is at his ranty best in Soylent Green is Teachers. Some of the issues discussed there are illustrated by the recent story about Mossbourne. This is a successful (and much feted) academy which have declined to accept a student with (physical) special needs and claim they are not legally obligated to do so.

Readers of this blog, or my twitterfeed, will probably know I’m an Android person. However, that is not why I liked this post from @mattpearson: iPads do not have magic learning dust coming out of the back vent. A great post discussing the difference between shiny gadgets and effective learning, despite the obvious disappointment when I looked for magic dust. Or, indeed, a back vent.

@myGCSEScience is producing revision videos and putting them online, for free. Which can’t be bad. I like the ones I’ve seen, but still believe that getting kids to produce their own – or at least script them – would be even more successful. This, however, is a nice addition, or would be a great way to introduce the idea to a class. And free.

I retweeted at the time, but once more recommend @Bio_Joe‘s survey results on why students choose science. Is it @ProfBrianCox‘s fault, Leonard and Sheldon or something a little more sophisiticated?

And while we’re talking about science students, A Rough Guide to Evidence-Based Medicine by @jdc325 would provide an excellent reading assignment. They should get a lot out of it even if they’re not planning a career in some medical field, as it links so nicely with a more general model of how science works.


Politics affecting schools


Other stuff

I’m playing around with some ideas for what might be a book at some point, putting together a couple of sample chapters and a summary. So this infographic fills me with terror.

@gurumag: Have you read #TheHungerGames yet? No, don’t scoff – here’s why you should: http://gurumagazine.org/book-reviews/book-review-the-hunger-games-trilogy-by-suzanne-collins/ (I enjoyed them but not sure they deserve the hype, FWIW.)

@ProfFrancesca, according to most observers, was the star of last weekend’s ‘The Big Questions‘ on BBC, about the distinction – if any – between a religion and a cult. I shall leave today’s last words to her:

For the record, I don’t feel threatened by new religious movements. Or mainstream religions. Thanks. #bbctbq #atheist


#SciTeachJC (22nd May) – Designing Curriculum Materials

It’s hard to tell whether the fairly low attendance was due to the good weather or colleagues watching Eurovision. Aren’t you all glad we don’t need a note from your mothers…

The paper discussed was about using the 5Es model to design a science curriculum and the materials for it. This follows on from the concept of ‘backward design’, where the starting point is how we will measure success before producing activities to prepare our students. Due to general incompetence on my part – and having to work from my in-laws’ place – I had to moderate from my own account rather than @SciTeachJC, but the session went well.

1 How do your stu­dents demon­strate (or when unsuc­cess­ful, fail to demon­strate) the three prin­ci­ples of learn­ing sug­gested by pre­vi­ous research? How do you try to ensure your teach­ing ful­fils the require­ments of address­ing these?

It was agreed that some mis- and pre- conceptions are common; as well as Driver’s work, referenced in the paper @Alby shared a list of frequent issues according to the C3P project (no, I don’t know either). Following a reminder from @A_Weatherall about the availability of the National Strategies I’ve also found this from the National Strategies and this summary from the GTCE (now stored at the TLA). Clearly identifying misconceptions – and how to address them – is key to helping our students make progress in science. While looking around I’ve found this American site which has some very interesting ideas, reflecting those in the paper about inspiring cognitive conflict – see 2: Dos and Don’ts for example.

2 What are the biggest chal­lenges of apply­ing the 5Es model (more expla­na­tions by @hrogerson here and NASA here) to your cur­ricu­lum design process, for exam­ple new schemes of work? With­out com­plain­ing about exam boards, Ofsted or the Depart­ment for Edu­ca­tion, how might we improve our use of this model?

Most people liked the model and several had found it very helpful already. Applying it in the classroom on a lesson by lesson basis is fairly straightforward, but greater gains can be seen by being more systematic. Now, at a point in the school year when we may be examining schemes of work, seems a good time to bear it in mind. (I’m planning a quick guide to the model for the next week or so, if that helps.)

@DrDav: Not revolutionary. Think they help to make good teaching explicit, and can be useful framework for planning. Ideas are simple enough to sum up quickly. Although could also spend several days getting to grips with them! (2 tweets combined.)

@hrogerson: I think 5E is similar to CASE, so it won’t be “new” to many. But I can remember 5Es, concrete prep anyone….

3 How might we repli­cate the col­lec­tion of evi­dence about stu­dent learn­ing in the UK school sys­tem? What changes if any might we need to make to the meth­ods to accom­mo­date our sys­tem (with sum­ma­tive exams at the end of the 9–11 time period)?

This question wasn’t really addressed during the session, perhaps because we focused more on how we might use the 5/7Es process. @snapshotscience suggested that as Wikid uses this model, we might look at the results compared to other schemes. This data has been collected, it will just be about collating it. The TEEP scheme which has some similar methodology has been evaluated – thanks to @DrDav for the link.

4 It is inter­est­ing to see teacher learn­ing addressed in the same con­text as that of stu­dents. How might we best share these ideas more widely with pro­fes­sional col­leagues — both dur­ing ITT and as CPD — assum­ing that we chose to do so?

This is of course a regular issue, and those colleagues who spend time doing things like #SciTeachJC are unlikely to be the same ones sitting reluctantly at the back of a staff meeting reacting to a new idea with a cynical “That’ll never work.” This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t engage with them, and this approach is perhaps one of the easier ones to be enthusiastic about – perhaps because for many of us it is a modification of the ‘standard’ structure. I must confess that I don’t recall reading about it before in so many words, but the idea of these stages fits in well with the planning I already do. @DrDav pointed out that TEEP follows a similar constructivist structure, for example.

I suggested that it would not be hard for each of us to talk for 5-10 minutes at a staff meeting about using the 5Es while lesson planning, and sharing the ideas and summaries while colleagues write or adapt schemes of work. @snapshotscience suggested that @hrogerson’s presentation would work very well for this.

So if we think it’s a worthwhile approach, maybe we should try it out. Why not use the comments section to feedback about your use of the 5/7Es, either in lesson planning, SOW writing or sharing with colleagues?

Getting Nominated (the easy bit)


Several posts should be arriving soon, including a summary of the recent #SciTeachJC, a quick guide to quick use of the 5/7Es when writing a lesson plan or a scheme of work, and ‘my fortnight on twitter’. This is a really quick one and is basically about me being selfish.

This site has been nominated for this year’s Education Blog Awards, in two categories: Teacher Blog and Influential Blog. You can see the list of nominated blogs here and in the spirit of fairness – and sharing – I strongly recommend you have a look at them. Recognising several names in these categories is rather startling, so the competition looks pretty fierce.

Firstly, I’d love to think that through this post you’ve found other useful, relevant and well-written blogs. That’s why I write and it’s why I have a list (often a bit out of date, it’s true) on the right. Secondly, it would be great if you vote. Obviously, if you think I deserve it, I’d like that vote to be for me. But if not, then please believe I’d rather you voted for a colleague (in the wider sense) than not vote at all. This is the kind of thing, apart from comments and shares, that makes us bloggers feel appreciated. Feedback and encouragement keeps us at our computers and off the streets. Trust me, you want that.

Thanks for your time.


This week’s post about what I’ve learned via twitter will have to wait. It’s daunting enough considering this short post on a tablet, tethered via my phone. But I need to rant.

I’ve tweeted and blogged before about my idea of #policybasedevidence, where politicians look for anecdotes or trials that support what they wanted to do anyway. It happens at a school level too, sadly, and I experienced an example of this today in a meeting.

A colleague fed back an idea from a committee, suggested by a teacher working on a masters. Apparently, if you give kids a grade as well as a comment then they ignore the feedback, arguably the more useful bit. Now, I knew this and thought most teachers did. (When I’m on a proper computer I’ll find a link, or maybe someone’s got a url they can put in a comment?) But it was shared as if it was news.

The next sentence was “But as it’s against department policy I doubt we’ll be using that idea.” This is crazy. If the policy is against the evidence, surely we should at least consider changing the policy? Because the point of the policies, the way I understand it, is to help the students learn.

No wonder I’m not getting promoted…

CPD via Twitter (up to 15th May)

As yesterday’s post shows, I favourite way too many tweets. Some of them, of course, have absolutely nothing to do with teaching. (I’ve still linked to some of them.) But a lot of the time, it’s a way for me to save links or ideas that I can use at work, or links to useful CPD that I want access to. Now that I’ve set up ifttt.com so that every time I favourite a tweet, it arrives in an Evernote folder, life is even better. Thanks to @cleverfiend and LifeHacker for the prompts to this service.


There have been two fantastic responses to Wilshaw’s comments (that I’ve seen – I’m sure there have been many more) I wanted to link to. Time For a Change is, as @infernaldepart tweeted, ‘A superb and must read blog post from @mwclarkson‘. I wonder whether a lot of this is a reaction to the media coverage as much as the original comments. @daviderogers produced a post about ‘monitoring and Ofsted bashing‘ which I found really helpful in reminding me what monitoring is supposed to be about; making teaching better. It’s something I feel strongly about, partly because I think in many departments we need to be better at supporting colleagues to share their own examples of best practice.

I’ve managed to unfavourite (and therefore lose) the original tweet, but this article on recent psychological research is very interesting, especially as it applies Dweck’s mindsets ideas to real life situations. Worth reading for all teachers.

This piece from @ng_dave on the (hypothetical) evolutionary biology of the unicorn is interesting, and might be good for able GCSE students or AS/A2 biologists. It would provide interesting discussion and link natural selection pressures with the (distant) potential of GM.

If you don’t already read John Scalzi’s writing (@scalzi on twitter), then go out and buy some. Start with Old Man’s War or The Android’s Dream. While you’re waiting for it/them to arrive or download, try this. Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is would make a fantastic starter or stimulus for a PSHE lesson or, if you have time, form-time discussion.

This great display produced by @hrogerson, presumably with input from her class(es), links in with the book proposal I’m trying to put together. Because I’m not busy enough. She’s kindly given permission to include the photo.

And for all of us currently teaching Physics exam classes, maybe these flash animations will make life easier. Linked by @alomshaha who possibly felt left out of the last blog post. 🙂

Pedagogy and CPD

Stressed Teachers and Mobile Phones

Wilshaw managed, in one week, to annoy us all yet again. There were two main issues; he questioned whether we should support ‘stressed teachers’ and also implied that mobile phones should never be used in a classroom. As someone who’s livetweeted from #ASEconf and seen some very powerful uses of mobile phones by adults, I’m surprised by such a close-minded attitude. How are students going to learn responsible uses of mobile phones in a ‘work’ context without doing it at school first? (I wonder how many journalists would like to work without their phones?)


Two tweets tagged with #science140 – a great revision method, by the way – caught my eye, both from @garwboy:

At any point in time, half the plants on the planet are not photosynthesising. But look on the bright side…

A travelling electron saw some particle physicists watching it, so it turned to wave.


There is a certain irony that I suspect @tom_hartley got a lot of the traffic to his blogpost (about the point of twitter) through twitter. That’s how I heard about it, from @professor_dave: Great post from my York colleague @tom_hartley about why academics should get on twitter! http://thermaltoy.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/what-is-the-point-of-twitter/ #tweetingtotheconverted?

  • @MsMonroe15: Eg of how private sector want to squeeze our NHS for profits. 1000s of NHS Staff told “take a pay cut or be sacked!” http://goo.gl/ZUUmc
  • @GarethAveyard: So, I quickly scribbled this “thing” down about depression, no idea if it makes sense, you can read it, if you like… http://j.mp/M4V1Zn
  • @TimHarford: Anodyne anonymity, thought provoking article by @doctorow http://dlvr.it/1Z206


My aim is to repeat this each weekend or so, hopefully with rather less to try to include. And yes, I know I’ve not hotlinked all the tweeters. Those that are linked pasted that way from twitter. I shall investigate quicker ways to list them, possibly as a Storyify of some kind. We shall see. If you’ve found any of the links useful, please comment below – that will massively increase the probability of me doing it again.