The Five W’s

We’re all terrified of diagramming sentences, but it doesn’t have to be so frightening.  There’s more than one way to do it too.  You may be diagramming for parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adverbs, etc.), or for finding the subject and predicate (subject = topic, predicate = what the subject does), or you could diagram in this fun, easy way – hunt for the five W’s.

5 w's on chalkboard

Write a sentence up on the board and then find as many of the five W’s as you can together.  You may even want to have a different symbol for each one, like draw a stick figure by “who” or a ? by “why.”

A Find The 5 W’s Example

Here’s a sentence to try:

“Mom cooks dinner at home today because we’re too tired to go out.”

Can you find the 5 W’s?

Who: Mom

What: cooks dinner

Where: in the kitchen

When: today

Why: because we’re too tired to go out

You can write your own sentences (kids love to be the star, so write some about your own family) or get sentences from their favorite books.  Some of the sentences may not include all 5 W’s.  To practice writing descriptively, add to the sentence until all five W’s are included.  Make it a game and write silly sentences so the kids won’t want to stop!  This is a great exercise in looking at sentences and how they are formed, and also in adding description and vividness to your writing.

This is the kind of lesson I would use for a mini lesson in writer’s workshop.  The whole mini lesson shouldn’t last more than 5-10 minutes a day, but you could teach it over several days if the kids wanted to keep going.  To read more about mini-lessons and the other parts of our Writer’s Workshop, read this article: Writer’s Workshop Basics.

More From Layers of Learning

Here are a few more articles to get you off on the right foot in your Writer’s Workshop.  You can also find lots of writing ideas from teaching spelling to writing poetry on our Writer’s Workshop page.


  1. Hi,

    I’m a teacher at an IT Tech Collage and would like to develop a section for the 5 W’s. I would really like to get some work sheets that I can print off and use in my classes.

    Thank you so much for you time and I hope to hear from you soon.


  2. Hi again,

    I should also add to this that the students that I teach are between 17 and 20 but they have a very low level of English. Imagine that the students are about 7 years old or less.

    Thank you again for your time!


    1. Are you looking for exercises (For example, a series of sentences that can be analyzed using this method)? Or are you looking for a generic form that can be used for any sentence?

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