The i5Es – How To Use Explain In Your Classroom

The Explain phase of the i5E instructional model has students synthesize and share the information and findings that they gathered from Engage and Explore phases.

What is the purpose of Explain?

The purpose of the Explain phase is for students to communicate what they have learned in a clear and concise way. Deeper learning and retention happens when students have opportunities to synthesize information from multiple sources (e.g., books, their investigation, expert interviews, internet, etc.) into other forms (such as a drawing, a Powerpoint slide, poster, graphic illustration, or metamap) for presentation.

This phase helps teachers assess whether students have gained enough of an understanding of that information that they can explain what it means and how it works.

What does Explain look like in the Classroom?

Going back to our example from previous blogs, we mentioned having students experiment with different chemical reactions like baking soda and vinegar and other substances. Students can demonstrate this understanding in a variety of ways such as using a T-chart, a metamap, a poster, powerpoint, lab journal, or even a diagram along with some verbal explanations. You may need to scaffold the investigation by giving students multiple opportunities to stop, process, and explain what they are doing.

You can guide their explanations using questions and statements such as:

  • What did you find from your experiment?
  • What else might have caused _____ to happen?
  • What do you think is happening and why? Was this different or the same as what you had predicted? Why or why not?

Challenges You Might Face

During Explain, you are facilitating the discussion rather than participating in it. Students should be given the opportunity to explain and discuss their findings with each other, so they can build on their shared knowledge. When students are on the wrong track, gently guide them back with questions such as, “Are you sure about this? Have you looked ….(here) to see whether your explanation makes sense?”

Students may not be used to backing up their claims with evidence. Hence, the question of, “How do you know?” is helpful, or “Can you say more about this?” with breaks or silent pauses to give them space to think about their answer. While you expect your students to back their claims with evidence, be careful that you aren’t accidently dulling their interest (or questioning their abilities) by making this requirement seem like a correction.  

You can facilitate the Explain phase (which also overlaps with Evaluate) by teaching students how to give constructive feedback to their peers. It may be important to teach students that positive feedback helps their peers incorporate negative feedback, which is something most of us learned when we became teachers.

Another issue you may face is students making claims without supporting evidence. Emphasize the importance of explaining why they came to a certain conclusion and help them work through whether or not their conclusion was evidenced-based. If it is not, you can help them understand that they may need to do more research or experimentation to support their conclusion.

Please check out our other blog posts for a more in depth look at each of the 5Es:

i5E Overview – How To Use the i5Es In Your Classroom

Engage – How To Use Engage In Your Classroom

Explore – How To Use Explore In Your Classroom

Explain – How To Use Explain In Your Classroom

Evaluate – How to Use Evaluate In Your Classroom

Elaborate – How To Use Elaborate In Your Classroom 

How To Engage Your Students With “I think, I wonder”

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