Summarizing a Newsela article using 5Ws and How with Elementary Students

Students annotate a text and fill in a 5Ws and How graphic organizer in order to write a summary of the text
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5Ws and a How Overview Using Newsela

About This Strategy

When students get to discover the who, what, where, when, why, and how of a particular event or topic, they gain a much deeper understanding of the content. This strategy allows students to investigate a topic independently focusing on the 5Ws and a How of the article they are reading. As they read, students can search and annotate key information related to the 5Ws and How. They they can chart this information on a graphic organizer. Students can then use what they've learned to complete a short summary.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Select a Newsela article or use one of the examples provided in the resources section below. If choosing a different article, be sure to fill out the 5Ws and How Blank Graphic Organizer ahead of time to confirm that the article and the strategy will work well together.

  2. Photocopy the 5Ws and How Blank Graphic Organizer and 5Ws and How Writing Response Paper for students (included in the resources section below).

  3. Gather chart paper (or a similar resource) to write the example paragraph. Referencing the example graphic organizer while writing the paragraph is necessary.

Student Preparation:

  1. To establish background knowledge about the 5Ws and a How summarization method, have students connect to an event that has recently taken place in your classroom or at school and ask students to provide you with information about the event. Place their details in the appropriate boxes on the 5Ws and How Presentation graphic organizer (in the resources section below).

  2. Explain that when journalists write, they ask themselves these questions to make sure they're fully investigating and explaining an event or topic.

  3. Introduce the topic of the Newsela article.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Assign a Newsela article and allow students to adjust the Lexile as needed.

    • Provide the following instructions:

      • Highlight the WHAT in red

      • Highlight the WHO in yellow

      • Highlight the WHY/HOW in purple

      • Highlight the WHERE/WHEN in green

    • Explain to students that there will likely be information in the article that isn't directly related to the topic. This information does not need to be highlighted. (For instance, at the end of the compasses article it discusses solar compasses, but the graphic organizer is about magnetic compasses.)

    • Keep the example organizer up so that students can use this as a reference for both the color scheme and the types of information that go in each section.

  2. Monitor student highlighting as they work and provide additional support as needed.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Provide students with a copy of the 5Ws and How Blank Organizer (see the resources section below) and have them fill it in using the information they have highlighted.

  2. When everyone has finished, review the information on the graphic organizer as a class. Fill in the information on slide 2 of the 5Ws and How Graphic Organizer in the 5Ws and How Presentation (see in the resources section below) and allow students to add/edit information as needed.

  3. Model writing a paragraph using the original graphic organizer from slide 1 (about a class/student event) from the beginning of the lesson.

  4. Hand out the 5Ws and How Writing Response Paper ( in the resources section below) and allow students time to complete the assignment, leaving your paragraph on the board as a reference.

  5. Provide closure by asking these questions and allowing students to engage in a "Think, Pair, Share" (To learn more about the Think, Pair, Share strategy, consult the BetterLesson Lab):

    • How did asking yourself the 5Ws and How help you to more thoroughly investigate the event/topic?  

    • How did this strategy help you to improve your summary?

    • Where else could you use this strategy?

Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets

What is a compass?

  • Essential Question:  What is a compass?
  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: Sci/ELA

The job of the president

  • Essential Question: What is the job of the president?
  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: SS/ELA

Happy 200th birthday to our nation's song

  • Essential Question: How did "The Star-Spangled Banner" become the national anthem?
  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: SS/ELA

Creative Writing Assignment: 5Ws and How

Using the information from the 5Ws and How Graphic Organizer, students develop a creative writing piece.

Implementation Steps:

  • Explain that now that students have an understanding of the event/topic, they can better imagine what it would be like to experience it themselves.  

  • Assign a creative writing task. Below are possible ideas based on the Newsela article examples provided.

    • Write a narrative about a child who used a compass to find his/her way home after getting lost in the woods.

    • Imagine you were elected president for the day. How would you spend your time?

    • Pretend you were there to see Francis Scott Key write the national anthem or were a journalist reporting on the day Congress approved "The Star Spangled-Banner" as the national anthem.

Questions to Consider

  • Is your student population capable of highlighting the various categories and filling out the graphic organizer independently? You may consider completing this activity once as a whole group and then assigning a second article independently afterwards if needed.

Teacher Tips

Christine Scoppa
Newsela Master Teacher
  • Make sure the article you select doesn't have too many topics/events included. The 5Ws and How Graphic Organizer works best for a single event or topic. Provide students with an overview of the article before they begin highlighting and point out and subtopics that should not go on the graphic organizer. (Example: there is a section about why "The Star-Spangled Banner" is hard to sing. This is not relevant to how it became the national anthem.)