The 5Ws activity

This simple technique involves putting up an interesting picture on the whiteboard as a stimulus for a new topic and then inviting students to spend 5 minutes in pairs coming up with Who, What, Where, When, Why and How questions to ask about the image.


You will almost certainly not know the answers to all the questions that are generated, but it doesn't matter as you will not be answering them all.

Pictures you find on the Internet will usually be accompanied by explanatory text, so when learners have generated the questions, make this text available to them.

Now ask them to consider which of their questions:-

a) can be answered immediately (share a few of these)
b) could probably be answered with further research (you might set a few choice questions as homework or as a research task)
c) could probably not be answered definitively with any amount of further research (some of these may be suitable starting points for a Philosophy for Children enquiry)

The beauty of 5Ws as an activity is that the learners have helped set the direction for the forthcoming unit and articulated what interests them about it.  Of course, you could use a story, poem, piece of music, artefact, anything instead of an image.

15 comments:

  1. Cordelia11:53

    Year 3 History / The Romans
    10 – 20 minutes to prepare

    I used this tool for a History lesson in the Romans. I put four different pictures of various things in the time of the Celts on four different tables. For example, a picture of thatched houses, interior of a Celtic house, Celtic clothing and lastly, Celtic helmets and fighting equipment. Then I split the children in mixed ability and asked them to come up with five questions they would like to know about the pictures. After 2 minutes, the children moved onto the next table so that they all had a turn at coming up with questions for each of the pictures.

    The other adults in the room assisted by making sure that all of the children were involved in the process.

    The learners really enjoyed this activity and were very involved in coming up with questions. It enabled the children that don’t normally scribe to take part in coming up with the questions and be praised for it.

    Tips: This activity is great for getting children to work as a team and gives every single child in the class a role. Those who normally feel they don’t contribute as much can play an active role in this activity. Make sure that you have a timer or clock or something that the children will be able to recognise when it is time for them to move on so that the teacher does not have to keep watching the clock. The teacher can observe the children in class participation.

    I would rate this activity:

    Pupil engagement = 4
    Pupil enjoyment = 4
    Pupils meeting learning objectives = 4
    Sustainability of tool for content being taught = 4
    How much I enjoyed = 4 (more emphasis on the children learning allowing the teacher to observe and give feedback)

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  2. Clare11:56

    Time taken to prepare (in minutes) – 10 minutes
    Year 2 PSHE/Class rules

    I took a photo of our classroom and discussed that we wanted to learn about our new classroom. I wanted them to think of questions that they may have about their new environment. I then told them that they must start with w – what, when, why, where, who and how?

    Once we had discussed the above, the children went off into ability groups and thought of the type of questions they would ask. We then came back to the carpet and wrote the questions that they had thought of around the photo on the IWB. The children came up with a good range of questions and they were pretty similar to each other, where do we find so and so or what is in this area of the room etc.

    Tip: I would make sure that when using a picture there is enough information in the picture for the children to use to make questions up.

    Rating scale: (1) very negative (2) negative (3) positive (4) very positive

    Pupil engagement [4 ]
    Pupil enjoyment [ 4]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives 4[ ]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [ 4]
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique [ 4]

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  3. Hannah11:57

    Time taken to prepare (in minutes) - 20
    Year 3

    I used this idea during the first week of school. On the board, I wrote five different questions about one rule from our classroom rules, e.g. We keep our hands and feet to ourselves. In talking partners, the children discussed a what, why, where, when and how question about the rule.

    I used the strategy as the basis for a whole lesson. I began with a joint discussion about one rule as a starter. Then the children answered questions about other rules and finally drew a picture of themselves following the rule. There was a good response from the students.

    With younger children, I found that I needed to make my questions quite specific to meet the learning objective of the lesson.

    Pupil engagement [3 ]
    Pupil enjoyment [3 ]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [ 4]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [4 ]
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique [3 ]

    (1) very negative (2) negative (3) positive (4) very positive

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  4. Carol12:00

    Nursery - behaviour
    Time taken to prepare (in minutes) – 10minutes
    PSHE week

    Each year we make a code of conduct book for the nursery outlining the way we behave and work in the nursery.

    I put different pictures of the nursery on a flip chart and the 5 w’s around each picture.
    The children discussed the picture and the reasons for the ‘rule’ that accompanied it e.g. Why do we walk around the nursery?
    What do we wear when we are at the water tray, painting?

    We worked in small groups and discussed the picture and the rules and then shared our ideas as a whole class.

    This is a very good activity for nursery children as it generates a lot of questions and reasons for doing the right thing.

    Pupil engagement [4 ]
    Pupil enjoyment [4 ]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [3 ]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [4 ]
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique [3 ]

    (1) very negative (2) negative (3) positive (4) very positive

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  5. Will12:01

    Year 9 ICT - Excel
    Time taken to prepare – 5 minutes

    I showed the class a selection of RAW DATA in Excel taken from the questionnaires they took a few weeks ago. It was not really a picture, but something which they all were quite confused about at first

    It was used as a starter. It took the class about 3 questions before they realised what they were looking at. Once they did they were surprised to find out it was their answers to the questionnaire (the questions were not displayed). I think that because the pupils were not expecting this – they did quite take to it that well – if it became a regular thing it would be a lot more effective, I believe.

    I think explaining explicitly what is going to happen at the start would have made my starter more useful I think this would come with repeated attempts with the same class.

    Pupil engagement [3 ]
    Pupil enjoyment [4 ]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [3 ]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [3 ]
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique [ 3]

    (1) very negative (2) negative (3) positive (4) very positive

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  6. Cheryl12:03

    Year 7 RE - Holy Spirit
    Time taken to prepare (in minutes) approximately 10 minutes

    I used this tool to help students prepare their own description of the ‘Coming of the Holy Spirit’ as it is described in the Bible. The students read the story from the Bible and then using the 5 W’s were required to re-tell the story in their own words.

    This was used as a main activity and it helped provide students with a good framework as to what had to be included . I found it particularly useful when students then as the plenary used the 5 W’s to peer evaluate work . They were immediately able to identify what was missing from the story and were able to make constructive comments on how their partner could improve the description .

    It is helpful if you give examples to the students about the type of questions so that they focus their answers .

    Pupil engagement [4 ]
    Pupil enjoyment [3 ]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [4 ]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [4 ]
    How much I enjoyed using this technique [4 ]

    (1) very negative (2) negative (3) positive (4) very positive

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  7. Helen12:05

    Year 9 Music
    Time taken to prepare 10 minutes

    I had a picture from a musical (Oliver) on the IWB. This was a starter for a revision lesson on musicals

    It was a starter. Response from most was very good. From all was good

    Tips: To find as interesting a picture as possible

    Pupil engagement 3
    Pupil enjoyment 3
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives 2
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered 4
    How much I enjoyed using this technique 4

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  8. Janis12:07

    Year 9 Science - Insulation
    Time taken to prepare (in minutes) 10 minutes
    Period 1 (of a double lesson)

    I used a drawing of an energy efficient house which I downloaded from google images. I pasted the picture into a flip chart with the instructions on the side. The pupils have been preparing for coursework which will test their ability to work scientifically (to understand about variables, to know how to evaluate evidence etc). The point of this activity was to introduce the context of the investigation on INSULATION. I then went on to show them pictures of real energy efficient houses in order to identify different measures and the idea of INSULATION and how INSULATORS work came across very strongly from their questioning and from their answers to their own questions.

    I gave them 5 minutes in groups of 3 to come up with the questions. They were completely stumped and did not have any idea what sorts of questions they could ask. It was difficult to get them started without “giving the game away”.

    As Paul (see other comment) about targeting a particular student to get things moving.

    Pupil engagement [3]
    Pupil enjoyment [3]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [3]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [4]
    How much I enjoyed using this technique [3]

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  9. Paul12:09

    Year 9 Music - Notation
    Time taken to prepare (in minutes): 15

    I used a sample of sheet music I found on the internet (Google images) to build a page on ActivStudio. The piece notated was Twinkle Twinkle.

    I used this activity as a starter to a revision lesson to get the class focussed on the aspects of music notation. The class worked in pairs for 2 minutes and I went around the room listening to and commenting on the quality of the conversations. I then selected individuals to share some of the questions they had generated in their pairs. I offered praise slips for the most thoughtful questions. The students responded very well to this and exceeded my expectations for the quality of the questions they generated

    My advice would be to be careful who you choose first to share their answers i.e. be sure to choose somebody who will provide a thoughtful answer to set the tone. I tried this activity with classes; on the first occasion (by chance) I selected somebody who provided a very thoughtful answer and the exercise worked VERY well, on the second occasion the person I chose to start sharing did not give a very thoughtful answer and the rest of the class (even able students) followed suit.

    Pupil engagement [3]
    Pupil enjoyment [3]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [3]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [3]
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique [4]

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  10. Jane12:11

    5 W's used to introduce The Highwayman.

    Illustration from poem was slowly revealed each time they able to give me a word for 'said' eg whispered etc- these written up on board for later use. Then in pairs initially then for main activity they discussed and recorded questions.

    Children came up with- Where does he come from? Why does he look angry? What is his name? Why does he dress like that? Why is he wearing a mask?Where is he going? What does he do for a living? Really interesting way to start the poem with a visual. And then we discussed how we could answer these questions. In later lesson I showed them web page about highwaymen and then the poem itself and we decided which of our initial questions we could answer.

    My advice: plan in an extra session where children research from e.g. web page or poem or other text type and see how many questions they can answer. Then discuss why we can't answer the ones left. Helps with realising that quality of questions is essential.

    Pupil engagement [4]
    Pupil enjoyment [3]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [4]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [4]
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique [3]

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  11. Year 5 English (Grammar/Writing) /Themed learning (Ancient Greece)
    5 W's used as a lesson starter
    10 minutes to prepare

    To introduce the class to the story of the Fall of Troy, they wrote as many questions as they could about about a picture of the Trojan Horse. Children were encouraged to think of unique, imaginative questions that others may not have thought of. Children shared their questions, and then we read a basic version of the story. The children were asked to use ideas based on their questions, and adverbs and adverbial phrases (our grammar focus) to edit the piece of writing and rework it, creating a more interesting and creative piece of writing.

    My advice: Because the children were so interested in discussing the picture and posing questions, we took much longer on this part of the lesson than I'd planned, and had to continue the writing in another lesson. This was fine - next time I'll allow for more discussion time in my planning, because it's an important part of the children's planning and generating language for the writing task.

    Pupil engagement [4]
    Pupil enjoyment [4]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [3] (because we didn't get on to the writing, but the talking was valuable)
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [4]
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique [4]

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  12. James (St Thomas')12:14

    5 W's used to stimulate discussion and character development
    Tool used – 5Ws
    Time taken to prepare (in minutes) - 20
    Class – Year 2

    I used this idea to develop a character and stimulate writing based on a book we had been reading as a class, Baba Yaga and the Stolen Baby by Alsion Lurie. I told the children that there was a woman similar to the Baba Yaga in the story who had been seen in the Ladbroke Grove area. The children were already familiar with the character and the story and this lesson fitted into a sequence on narrative storytelling where the known story would be slightly altered and we decided to alter the setting. I used the five w's to get the children to create the new version of the character which were asked in tandem with a picture I found on the internet of a suitably haggard old woman. In talking partners, the children discussed some what, why, where, when and how questions in relation to the old lady that I gave them, as well as generating their own. Example questions being: What is her house like? What does she keep in her house? What horrible things does she like to eat? Who does she live with? What does she like doing with her day? what else do you want to say about her?

    Speaking and listening in the starter was used as a basis for writing.

    I used the strategy as the basis for a whole lesson. The children responded enthusiastically as it captured their imaginations.

    Tip: Keep the questions open so that there is scope for the children to come up with their own ideas as much as possible and allow for them to compose questions.

    Pupil engagement [4 ]
    Pupil enjoyment [4 ]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [ 4]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [4 ]
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique [4 ]

    (1) very negative (2) negative (3) positive (4) very positive

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anne, Latimer Education Centre PRU12:16

    Year 11 English Intro to Romeo and Juliet
    5Ws used as a lesson starter
    10 minutes to prepare

    I used 5 pictures connected to the main events/ideas presented in the Prologue and asked the students to generate questions. I explained that they were connected to the play but did not show them the prologue.

    One student was worried about asking the "right" question. I explained that I would be able to help with the answers and that none of his questions would be wrong-he could ask anything that he wanted to explore. He was then happy to write many questions and really became involved in small details in the pictures e.g. Why is the boy wearing the same clothes as his Dad? Another student asked some very obvious questions e.g. What's going on in this picture? However they seemed to engage in and enjoy the activity.

    I then answered some of the questions I had answers for -one picture was a painting of Romeo and Juliet kissing. And we talked about the questions for which I had no correct answer. The most useful part was as an intro to some of the difficult language in the Prologue which we then went on to read.

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  14. Brad, LEC PRU12:18

    5 W's - Geography (Coasts)
    Year 11 intro to coastal management
    10 minutes to prepare

    I used a picture of a sea wall (form of coastal management) to introduce the concept of coastal management and defence to a group of year eleven students. It was a large sea wall with waves battering into it to display the power of the sea and the need for coastal management.

    The responses from the students was very positive with them generating some excellent questions and also a lot of topic related discussion. Some of the questions included 'Who would build that?', 'What is it used for?' and 'How is it built?'

    I answered some of these questions for the students and with the others I got them to research the answers themselves.

    Pupil engagement [4 ]
    Pupil enjoyment [3 ]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [ 4]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [4 ]
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique [3 ]

    (1) very negative (2) negative (3) positive (4) very positive

    ReplyDelete
  15. Paula12:20

    Year 3
    Time taken to prepare: 15 mins
    Subject and topic - One world week - Coexist project

    I used this idea for a lesson during one world week in October. As a class we discussed what coexist meant. I modelled a picture of an area of conflict on the IWB and children used the 5W's to record questions about the picture to help find out what they would like to know about it. I then choose 5 other pictures in colour and black and white such as peace lines in Belfast and the Berlin wall and placed them on A3 paper. Children were put into groups of 4-5 and each group had a different coloured marker and they had 4 minutes at each picture they had to record questions or anything that they wanted to know about the picture.

    The children thoroughly enjoyed the activity and managed really well going around the tables. They were very inquisitive and were able to think of questions and statements for all pictures. Some children even made an attempt to answer some of the previous questions that the other groups had recorded. Questions they asked were ' Why is the wall so big?' Why is there a wall? ' Who are those people at the wall?' 'Why is there conflict?'

    I answered some of the questions for the children.

    Pupil engagement [4 ]
    Pupil enjoyment [4 ]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [ 4]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [4 ]
    How much I enjoyed using this technique [4 ]

    (1) very negative (2) negative (3) positive (4) very positive

    ReplyDelete

(Please post when you have tried this particular tool - thanks!)
How did you adapt this tool for your classroom?
What was the response from your learners?
What advice would you give other teachers about this tool?