The Ws and the H
Who, where, when, what, why, and how are ancient questions that form the starting point for all good stories.
The five Ws and the H are questions that have formed the basis of all information gathering and journalism since 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 pupils’ 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 pupils to stay focused on the story’s flow and other key story-making elements.
Who is it about?
“Who” helps the pupils to define the characters in the story, including each character’s gender, age, appearance, and profession. Do they have special attributes? Super-powers? Are they firefighters, technicians, teachers, mums, dads, or just the child 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 colours on the spinner. Designate a characteristic to each colour, 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 pupils are familiar with, such as the school or the local neighbourhood? Or will it be a place where they have to use their imagination to define the details, such as the Moon, an office, the Antarctic, or…?
The pupils 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 pupils 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.
“What”, as in “what happens” and “what happens next”, is the most important question for defining the plot. Here, the pupils define the events that make up the story and the order in which the events will happen.
Introduce and let the pupils work with the story arc The Hero’s Journey and other plot models according to their key stage level. This will help them to refine and make their stories more sophisticated as they develop their language and writing skills.
Why does it happen?
“Why” encourages the pupils to provide an explanation for why their stories unfold the way they do… “Nothing happens without a reason”. This will help to develop the students’ capacity to discuss and present 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 the pupils to go into detail about 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 the way it does. If the events in the story are related in some sort of domino effect, the planning of how each event happens can end up being a very complicated process.
Using the “how” also encourages the pupils to develop greater reasoning and become more analytical thinkers.
Use the spinner to reach agreement
It can sometimes be difficult for a group to come to a consensus on any of the 5 Ws and the H. To avoid drawn-out discussions within 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 pupils can use their original definition of the 5 Ws and the H as a checklist to see if they have covered everything – or to identify what changed on the way and if it was beneficial to the story.