W-W-W-W-What Do You Know?

 A Lesson Design for Reading to Learn
By Jessica Freeman




Rational:  Comprehension should be a major emphasis when students are learning to read.  Reading would be meaningless if not for comprehension.  Summarization is one effective strategy that helps students comprehend what they are reading.  This lesson is design to help students build summarization skills that will build comprehension and help them read to learn. 





  1. Ask students if they know why it’s important to read… Explain to students, “That’s right, it is important to learn to read so that we can communicate with each other and so that we can understand written language.  It is also important to comprehend what we read so that we can understand the full message.” 
  2. Express to the students the importance of summarization in relation to reading comprehension.  “Summarization is remembering the most important parts of something.  Summarizing information is a great way to comprehend what you’ve read.  When you read something such as a book, short passage, or article you should ask yourself questions as you read to help you comprehend the message.”   
  3. The teacher will review the 5 w’s (who, what, when, where, and why).  She will explain to the students that these 5 questions should be asked when summarizing a passage and picking out key points.  “When you read something, you should always ask yourself: Who is the passage written about or who did something?, What is it about?, When and where did it occur?, and Why did it occur?  These are called the 5 w’s.”  Explain to the students that not all questions will be answered in everything they read.  Also, explain to them that the questions may be altered to fit the text that is read. 
  4.  Next, the teacher will model the 5 w’s by saying a short message and helping the students answer and find key points.  “Students, please listen to what I am about to say.  Jim went shopping at the grocery store yesterday to buy his mother some milk.  Can someone please raise their hand and tell me who that statement was about?  Right, so for our first w (who) the answer is Jim.  He is the one that is doing something.  Now, when did this take place?  Right, yesterday!  What did Jim do yesterday?  Right, went shopping!  Where did Jim go shopping?  Exactly right, Jim went shopping at they grocery store yesterday.  And does anyone remember why Jim went to the grocery store yesterday?  Very good, he went to the grocery store to get milk.  Does everyone see how answering those 5 w’s can help you remember and summarize something?”
  5. “Now that you know what the 5 w questions are and you know how to answer them, we are going to practice reading a paragraph and answering these questions on our own.”  Allow a few minutes for every student to read the paragraph located at the top of the page about the little girl who is moving.  After students read, pass out a 5 w’s chart to every student.  (It might be helpful for teacher to reread paragraph for students as this is a new activity for them).  Briefly go over the rules to the chart and explain to them that the answers go to the right of the questions.  “Boys and girls, without looking at the paragraph again, use your chart to answer the 5 w’s.  Everyone please do this on your own.  It’s okay if you don’t have an answer for every question.” 
  6. The teacher may need to help students get the hang of the chart by asking the first question, who, by saying to the students, “Boys and Girls, who is this paragraph written about?  Who was the main person being mentioned?  Write that person’s name on the line beside the “Who” question?  Now, do the same thing for the other four questions.  Remember, it is okay if there isn’t an answer for all five!”
  7. Go over the answers out loud with students once everyone has had a chance to complete the chart. 



  1. Students will be given a copy of the following passage on Neil Armstrong, or if students have access to computers with internet, they will look up the information on the following website:  http://www.enchantedlearning.com/explorers/



Neil Alden Armstrong (1930- ) was the first person to walk on the moon. He piloted NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, which took off on July 16, 1969. Armstrong and Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr., landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, in the lunar module (landing in the Mare Tranquilitatis), while Michael Collins orbited the moon in the command module. Upon his first step on the moon, Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong and Aldrin explored the Moon’s surface for about 2 hours. Years earlier, in 1966, Armstrong and David R. Scott performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space on the Gemini 8 mission.


  1. Students will be given another copy of the 5w’s chart and be asked to fill in the chart accordingly after silently reading the passage.  For assessment purposes, students should be able to complete the chart and answer the 5w’s correctly. 




“Say W-W-W-W-Wh-at?”, by Susan Schaum, courtesy of the Reading Genie Website



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For questions or comments email me at freemjh@auburn.edu






The Five W’s Chart