Lesson plan

The Five W's of Notetaking

Thinking about who, what, when, where, and why isn’t just for detectives! Students will practice gleaning important information from texts using these questions and a few other tools.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

At the end of this lesson, students will be able to read a text and take notes about the important people, places, and events described.

(5 minutes)
  • Call students together.
  • Show students the newspaper.
  • Explain to students that journalists try to answer the 5Ws when writing their stories. Ask if any students know what these are. If not, explain to students that these are: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.
  • Read one of the newspaper stories. Ask students if they can identify the answers to these questions. At the end, do students know who was important? What was happening? When it was happening? And why it was happening?
  • Explain to students that one way of taking notes and getting the important information out of a story is recording the answers to these questions like journalists.
(10 minutes)
  • Pass out the 5W Notetaking worksheets to all of the students.
  • Go through the worksheet, pointing out each box and the question that students should be striving to answer in it.
  • Read the next several pages of a text that the class has been reading together out loud. Encourage students to raise their hands any time they hear information that would fit into one of the boxes. Demonstrate how to fill this information in on the chart.
  • Continue this process until it seems like students understand the different types of information they should be focusing on and how to place this information in the chart.
(10 minutes)
  • Divide students up into small groups. Have every group work together on filling out a 5W Notetaking worksheet on the next few pages of the text.
  • Come back together as a group to compare answers and discuss what students have written. Do students have similar things written for the who, what, when, where, why, and how? How much detail did the different groups include? Do students prefer more or less detail? What are the benefits and downsides to including more details? When should more or less details be included?
  • Ask students if they have any questions or if there is anything that is still confusing to them. Before sending students off to continue taking notes on the text independently, remind them of any applicable class rules. Tell students that if they run out of space, they can make their own who, what, when, where, why, and how boxes for more information on the back of the worksheet.
(15 minutes)

As students are working, any adults in the room should be circulating, monitoring student progress, addressing questions/areas of confusion, and redirecting students as necessary. If any students are working in partnerships, it can be helpful to set up a special area for this so that it does not disturb other students working independently who may need silence. If a teacher's filled-in version of the 5W Notetaking worksheet has not already been created, now is a great time for a teacher to do so in order to share it with the class later.

  • Support: For students who need a little extra assistance, it can be helpful to offer a partner as a form of scaffold. English Language Learners may benefit from access to bilingual dictionaries. Also, it can be helpful to offer students the opportunity to use pictures and drawings in addition to words on the worksheet as another way to express themselves and ideas from the story.
  • Enrichment: For students who need a greater challenge, it can be fun to try to write a newspaper story about the class text using the information from their 5W Notetaking worksheets. Not only does this encourage students to further think about the who, what, when, where, why, and how concepts, it can also help students realize where their notes might be insufficient or could benefit from more information.
(5 minutes)
  • An informal assessment can occur during the lesson as adults observe the level of enthusiasm and interaction from students during class discussions and activities.
  • For a more formal assessment, adults can review all of the students’ 5W Notetaking worksheets. All of the boxes should be filled out and include appropriate information.
  • For an additional form of assessment, students can be assigned a different text and given another copy of the 5W Notetaking worksheet to fill out for homework.
(10 minutes)
  • Call the class back together again.
  • Have students share the information on their worksheets. Do people have similar answers? Do some people have very detailed answers and others not as detailed? Can students see any benefits or detractions to these different styles?
  • If a teacher's filled-in version of the 5W Notetaking worksheet has been created, it can be a lot of fun to share this with the class and let them comment on it. What do they like and not like?
  • Remind students that there are many ways of taking notes. What do students like and not like about this style? What did they like and not like about this worksheet? How would they modify it for their own style of notetaking?
  • As a final conclusion, choose a new text as a class to try notetaking again.

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