Bryant Foreman
Reading to Learn

Who, What, Where, When, Why, and…How is this strategy used?

        Learning to read fluently greatly affects comprehension.  Once reading fluency has been achieved, a reader can then focus more on reading comprehension strategies.  These strategies can be learned to help improve comprehension. The goal of this lesson is to improve comprehension by teaching students to use the Story Grammar strategy. With this strategy, students ask themselves the questions who, what, where, when, why, and how (the “W” questions) while reading a story.  To help sort out these questions, readers can make a map or outline of the main elements of the story, which will help them keep track of important information.


        1) Who is/are the main character(s) in the story?
        2) Where and when did the story take place?
        3) What happened to the main character(s) that caused a problem?
        4) Why did the event(s) take place?
        5) How did the main character feel?
        6) How did the story end?

1. Introduce this lesson by explaining that comprehension is the overall purpose of reading, and that understanding what you read is essential for learning.  Today we are going to work on improving our comprehension skills by using story grammar so that we can become better readers.  This means that we are going to ask ourselves, while we read, the questions, who, what, where, when, why, and how.  We will also be making a map or an outline of the main parts of the story.  This makes it a lot easier to remember all the important details of the story.

2. Before we practice the story grammar strategy, let’s learn how to make a quick and easy story map.  We make story maps because they help us keep track of all the questions when reading.  It can be hard to remember all the important information when reading.  These story maps will help record what information you feel is important.  There are many ways to make a story map. (Model step by step how to make the map on the board and explain to the children that not all story maps are going to look the same).  Also, model using a story.  Show the class how you would think about the main character, where the story takes place, etc. as you are reading.  Show them how when someone reads, he or she keeps these questions in mind.

Example story map:

Characters: Time: Place:
The Problem:
The Goal:
The Outcome:

Specific “W” Questions:
What did the main characters do?
Why did the event(s) take place?
How did the main character feel?
How did the story end?

3. For a review, have everyone practice their silent reading skills and read the short story in their Highlights book.  “Remember that when we read silently, we may begin by whispering or just moving our lips, but soon we will be able to read without any noise or movement”.  While reading silently, have the children complete a story map for practice.  Explain that stories have a pattern.  “Most stories have a beginning that can include information about the time of the story, where it took place, and the main characters. Then usually an event introduces the goal or problem, which is followed by several attempts to reach the goal or to solve the problem. Finally the goal or problem is resolved. This is called story structure.”  Knowing this information will help everyone more easily find the answers to the “W” questions and will help to complete his or her story maps.  “You may now begin your silent reading.  We will go over the story maps as a class when everyone is finished.”

4. “Now that we are all finished with our story maps, we are going to complete a story map as a class using everyone’s ideas.  I am going to model how I would do a story map from the Highlights article all of you read and also using all your ideas.”  Begin with the setting.  Take children’s answers and write them on the board.  Then move on to the problem, then action, then outcome.  Once that is completed, have the students help answer the specific “W” Questions.  “Now that I have modeled how I would do my story map and what information I would include, everyone should be able to do the same.”

5. For and exercise, have the students read The Bremen Town Musicians silently.  While reading, have the students write down questions using the “W” questions as a model.  When they have a set number of questions completed, have them pair together to swap questions.  Each student will answer the questions and also make comments on whether he or she feels some were good questions, fair questions, hard questions, etc.  Make sure there is no criticizing or put downs.  The paper with the questions will be turned in.

6. For assessment, have the students create a story map of The Bremen Town Musicians or of any short story of your choice.  Each child will create his or her own version of the story map.  Once all of the story maps are completed, have the students hand in their maps.  For an added assessment, pass out a worksheet with a list of comprehension questions.  This will help determine if the children understood the story or if they were just concentrating completely on finding the specific “W” questions.


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