Who, where, when, what, why, and how are ancient questions that form the starting point for all good stories.
These five Ws and the H are questions that have formed the basis of all information gathering and journalism since the ancient times. Today, they are a fundamental part of language arts in middle school.
They also play an important role in StoryStarter, where you can use them as catalysts for your students’ story building. It is a sound and structured way to get them started!
The answers to these classic questions will provide the structure of the story and are an important tool for defining the story arc. Throughout the story creation process, the answers will also help the students to stay focused on the story’s flow and other key story-making elements.
Who is it about?
“Who” helps the students to define the characters in the story. What gender, age, appearance, and profession will each of the characters have? Will they have special attributes? Super-powers? Are they firefighters, technicians, teachers, moms, dads, or just the kid next door?
If necessary, use the category spinner to define age, gender, profession, and other characteristics of each of the characters by using the four colors on the spinner. First, define what option each color stands for, and then spin to select an option.
You can also use the mood spinner to define each character’s mood.
Where does it take place?
“Where” sets the scene. Will it be a place the students know well already (the school, the neighborhood) or will it be a place where they will have to use their imagination to define the details – the Moon, an office, the Antarctic or . . .
The students can use the setting spinner to define where the story takes place – and then go on to use the category spinner to define more details if needed.
When does it take place?
“When” defines the time period in which the story is set. The students can define the time period based on their definition of the “who” and “where” – a knight or a castle would normally be situated in the past – or they can use the time spinner to select past, present, or future.
The “what” as in “what happens” and “what happens next” is the most important question for defining the plot. Here the students define the events that make up the story and the order in which each event will happen.
Introduce and let the students work with the story arc, the hero’s journey, and other plot models as their grade level allows. In this way, they refine and make their stories more sophisticated as they get better language and writing skills.
Why does it happen?
The reason “why” encourages students to provide an explanation for why their story unfolds in the way it does. Nothing happens without a reason; therefore, the students need to discuss and give a logical reasoning or argument. It will most certainly expand their vocabulary and deepen their understanding of the world when they share the ideas for the plot and have to stand up for them in front of the group.
How does it happen?
“How” encourages your students to get down into the details for each of the events in the story. Based on the “why,” they need to shape the “how,” so that it supports the reason for why each event happens as it does in the story. If every event in the story is related in some sort of domino effect, the planning of how each of them happens can end up being a very complicated process.
Using the “how” also encourages the students to develop greater reasoning and become more analytical thinkers.
Use the spinner to reach agreement
Sometimes, it can be difficult for a group to come to a consensus on any of the 5 Ws and the H. To avoid drawn-out discussions among the group, it’s a good idea to start the activity by suggesting that such disputes are settled with the use of the spinner.
Did we cover everything?
As well as the 5 Ws and the H being the starting point, they can also be the ending point. When the story has been created, documented, and shared, the students can use their original definition of the 5 Ws and the H as a checklist to see if they covered everything – or to identify what changed on the way and if that was for the better of the story.