What is the purpose of Engage?
As teachers, our goal is to get students intrinsically interested in learning — and this is what engage is all about. You are “engaging” your students when you present them with a common experience that intrigues and introduces them to a new topic. It is important to remember that the i5Es are not a model you teach to the students, especially early on in the learning process. Rather, use the i5Es to guide them as they engage with new scientific concepts.
The Engage phase works on two levels: you want your students to start thinking about the new topic and you also want to see what they already know. For example, when one teacher showed a picture of parallelograms to two different classes, the first class was able to identify the shape, but did not know the name of the shape, while the second class had students who were already familiar with the shape’s name and automatically named it when they saw the picture.
Thus, the second purpose for engage is to connect to students’ prior knowledge so that you can better assess what new knowledge they need to learn. Your focus as a teacher is to scaffold learning and build on the knowledge your students already have. This stage of learning can go hand in hand with explore phase of the i5Es. As we mentioned before, while the i5E instructional model is planned linearly by the teacher, students undergo the i5Es as science learners in a nonlinear fashion.
What does Engage look like in the Classroom?
If you have taught for a while, you have probably already done some form of engagement. Typically this phase starts with the teacher providing some kind of example or prop to spark interest.
For example, if you want to teach children about chemical reactions, you might have students each dump a spoonful of baking soda into a zip lock bag with some vinegar. From there, you can ask questions like:
- Describe what is happening.
- Why do you think that happened?
- What did you see?
- Did your bag look and act like everyone else’s? In what ways?
Challenges You Might Face
In this phase of learning it is important that the children are the ones noticing, learning and gathering information. Thus, we discourage the introduction of vocabulary as an engagement activity. Instead as a teacher you can probe them to scaffold their learning, but you should not be the primary source of information in this phase. During Engage, we are not trying to correct students — we are trying to get a feel for what kind of prior knowledge they have so we can build on what the students already know. Additionally, we are giving all students a common experience as the foundation to build upon the rest of the investigation.
By coaching them without completely leading them, you are helping your students learn to think about new information scientifically. You are also motivating them to be self-led learners who want to explore new ideas and concepts, rather than being led through them by a teacher or expert. Using Engage this way can help them form foundational skills which they can later use to think about the world in a scientific way and to possibly become scientific experts themselves someday.