Last week, we took a broad overview of NGSS-aligned instruction using the 5E Model. This week, we are going to take a deep dive into the first two stages of the model – Engage and Explore. Specifically, in this post we will look at what activities are perfect for the Engage stage.
Designing Engage Activities
The first step in creating an Engage activity is to identify the phenomenon you will use to capture student interest and launch your instructional sequence. Remember, Engage activities have their place both at the beginning of a unit – with your anchor – as well as within storylines, like when we use investigative phenomena. Some of the ideas below are more relevant for investigative level activities – just something to keep in mind. For more on engaging your students with an anchor, check out this post.
The second step in this process is to identify the means through which you will draw your students into that phenomenon — developing the activity itself. One of the goals of NGSS-aligned Engage activities is to introduce the phenomenon (more thoughts on that here), but there are many ways you can do this. Below, I’ve listed a few of my favorite formats for the Engage stage.
Activities for the Engage Phase
Demonstrations are activities during which the teacher carries out a task and students observe what occurs. Demos are great to use when a phenomenon can be directly observed in action in the classroom.
If your activity is free of safety concerns and you do have some time, I recommend converting demo activities into lab experiences. Lab experiences are experiences — in the Engage phase, the intent is not to address things like hypotheses, variables, procedures, and conclusions. The goal is simply for students to experience something that sparks their curiosity.
Discussions can be a way to spark interest and draw out personal experiences.
Images are a simple and quick way to present a phenomenon and generate a discussion of student ideas and questions.
Videos are another simple way to engage students. Videos may present a demo you cannot carry out live in the classroom, they may outline a problem that needs solved, describe a current event (news broadcast, for example), or simply discuss the phenomenon students will be investigating.
Models, Graphs, and Data:
While it could seem like models, graphs and data may not be the most engaging of activities, presenting students with graphs or other visual representations of data can be used to spark conversations about a concept or phenomena. This is going to work best if the data lends itself to a visual representation and is particularly surprising.
When your content lends itself to it, a challenge can be an amazing way to involve your students in the phenomenon. Challenges in the Engage phase should be quick – students aren’t necessarily participating in an entire design process or investigation. Remember, the purpose is just to spark interest, generate questions, and tie to prior knowledge.