The Who, What, When, Where, and Why of Reading

Kristy Persson 

Reading to Learn Lesson Design


Rationale:  It is important for a child to comprehend what he is reading.  Without comprehension, the child will have no clue what he is reading about.  Comprehension is the ability to understand the meaning or importance of something.  Summarization is one method used to help students comprehend what they are reading.   This lesson is designed to help students build summarization skills that will build comprehension, which will help them read to learn.



The five w’s of reading poster

Sentence on chart paper saying, “Taylor went shopping at the store today to buy some milk to go with his cookies.”

Copies for each student of James and the Good Day

five w’s paper


Copies for each student of Red Gets Fed





1.  Begin the lesson by saying what a great job they have been doing on developing their reading skills.  “Good readers understand each individual sentence and the structure of each writing.  In order to understand each sentence when you read, you must have comprehension.”


2.  “Today we will be talking about summarization.  Summarizing what you are reading is remembering the most important parts.  While you are reading, it is a good idea to ask yourself questions.  This is one way to help you understand, or comprehend, what you are reading. 


3.  I will display the big poster of the five w’s of reading.  “Here are the 5 w’s in summarizing.  There is who, what, when, where, and why.  These are the five main questions you should be asking yourself when you are reading.  These five questions pick out the main points in your reading. (Point to each section on the poster.)  Who are you reading about?  What are you reading about?  When and where did it occur?  Why did it occur?  These are the five w’s.  It is alright if you cannot answer the questions of every w in every reading, because not all readings answer all of the questions.  It is also good to ask questions of your own, to help develop your reading skills on a higher level.”


4.  I will now display the sentence on chart paper.  “Students, please listen carefully to the sentence.  We are going to summarize the sentence.  (Point to each word on the chart paper.)  Taylor went to the store to buy some milk to go with his cookies.’  Who can tell me who the sentence was about?  Right, Taylor is who the sentence is about.  That answers our first w.  Now, who can tell me what Taylor did?  Very good.  The sentence is about Taylor going shopping.  When did this happen?  Yes, it happened today.  Where did Taylor go?  Very good!  Taylor went to the store.  Lastly, why did Taylor go to the store?  Great job!  Taylor went to the store, because he needed some milk to go with his cookies.  This, boys and girls, is how you summarize what you are reading.  These five w’s help pick apart the important parts of the reading.  Does everyone understand the five w’s?”


5.  “Now that everyone understands the five w’s, we are each going to read a story and answer these five questions by ourselves.”  I will pass out the books to every student.  I will give them five minutes to read.  After they are done, I will pass out the five w’s papers to each student.  This paper will state, “Who, what, when, where, and why” down the paper.  Since this is a new thing for the students, I will read the story once again.  Then I will pass out the pencils.  I will have the students fill out the five w’s on the paper by themselves.  I will explain to them that it is alright if it is ok if they cannot answer each question. 


6.  If the students need help, I will demonstrate the first question to them.  I will point to who, and say, “Students, who is the story about?  Good, the story is about James.  Now, write James next to who.  Now do the same thing for the next four questions.  That is how you complete the questions.” 


7.  When everyone is done, I will go over the five w’s to the story James and the Good Day.  This will allow all of the students to get every answer, and understand the story on a deeper level. 



Students will be given a copy of Red Gets Fed.  I will also hand out the five w’s questions paper to each student.  I will give them two days to read the book and answer the five w’s for homework.  When the two days are up, I will collect the papers and look at each child’s answers. If they answer the five w’s correctly, then they understand the five w’s to summarizing, and they are comprehending the story on a deeper level.





Beck, Isabel L.  Making Sense of Phonics: The Hows and Whys.  New York: Guilford.


James and the Good Day.  Educational Insights, 1990.


Red Gets Fed.  Educational Insights, 1990.

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