Embedding Formative Assessment into the 5 E instructional Model (Conservation of Matter)

Page Keeley
Type Category
Instructional Materials
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.




This article shows how formative assessment probes can be embedded into a sequence of  5E Instructional Model lessons for grade 5 students focusing on the conservation of matter. In the lessons, students make their thinking visible through a variety of formative assessments in each each stage of the 5E process: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate. This allows the teacher to modify instruction accordingly throughout the learning experiences.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 5
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

5-PS1-2 Measure and graph quantities to provide evidence that regardless of the type of change that occurs when heating, cooling, or mixing substances, the total weight of matter is conserved.

Clarification Statement: Examples of reactions or changes could include phase changes, dissolving, and mixing that form new substances.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include distinguishing mass and weight.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
To better meet this performance expectation, students should be given the chance to plan and conduct an investigation of their own (using different materials) after they complete the lemonade investigation. In this investigation, they could measure and graph the different quantities used, then construct an explanation based on their data (as well as the data from the lemonade investigation).

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
In the lessons described in the article, students create models as part of the 5E Explain phase to show what they think is happening to the sugar at the particle level when it dissolves in the lemonade. After students have shared their partner/small group models, the teacher could facilitate a science talk to try to come to consensus.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The lessons described in the article focus on the conservation of matter when a substance dissolves. During the Elaborate phase, the teacher assesses how well students can transfer their learning to novel situations. This is done using a card sort. Students sort a variety of cards (representing different situations) into 3 groups: changes in which the total amount of matter stays the same, changes in which the total amount of matter changes, and changes we are not sure about. To enhance understanding of the disciplinary core idea, the teacher could let students investigate the situations illustrated on the cards first-hand. They could then use this additional evidence to support/revise their explanations about the weight of matter when it changes forms.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
If students measure quantities during the Explore phase, they should notice the pattern that the individual weights of the components of the mixture summed are equal to the weight of the mixture.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The lessons are designed so that students build an understanding of the disciplinary core idea using practices such as developing and using models. The crosscutting concept of patterns will need to be made explicit by adding opportunities for students to measure and graph quantities during their investigations (which will go beyond the materials provided in the lemonade example), as well as giving students chances to discuss/share their evidence and construct explanations.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson engages students in a relevant and authentic scenario. They are given chances to share their ideas with the teacher via the formative assessment probes and with other students in some instances. Examples of how to specifically support different types of learners are not included. For students who are struggling with the concept that matter is made of particles, animations such as this may help: https://www.harcourtschool.com/activity/states_of_matter/.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The learning experiences discussed in the article elicit direct, observable evidence of student understanding of the disciplinary core idea and selected practices (such as developing and using models). However, the crosscutting concept of patterns is not explicitly included or assessed. To solve this problem, the teacher could ask students to provide examples of patterns they noticed in their investigations and explain what they think they mean.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.