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How to Use the 5Ws to Teach Text Evidence

Comprehension, Literacy

Written by: Jess Dalrymple

How can we get our students to naturally refer back to a text for evidence to back up their answers to questions? With habit-building text evidence activities! One of the easiest ways for kids to start this habit is to use the five Ws to teach text evidence. (Who, what, when, where, and why.) The best part about this approach is that you can easily use fiction or nonfiction text!

Model Text Evidence With a 5W Graphic Organizer

Use graphic organizers, like this one included in our Lucky Little Toolkit to introduce the concept of text evidence with the 5W questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Model Text Evidence With a 5W Graphic Organizer

Download Questions Organizer HERE

1- Start with a short read aloud, and model going back into the text to find answers to the 5W questions. 

2- Fill in the text evidence anchor chart with specific information you found in the text. Read this post: Ideas to Help with Teaching Text Evidence, for more text evidence anchor chart examples.

Repeat this process as many times as needed to show your students how to refer directly to the details in a text to better understand it, and to answer questions in a more specific way.

Guided Text Evidence Activities

When your students are ready to apply this skill to their just right text, practice text evidence using the 5 Ws with short reading passages.

Read the passage one text chunk at a time with each group and search for answers to the 5Ws. Refer to the 5W graphic organizer as needed.

Guided Reading Example Using Fiction

1- Prepare leveled reading passages for each of your groups.  

Above 2nd Grade Level Readers

Download Above Level Passages HERE

At 2nd Grade Level Readers

Download At Level Passages HERE

Below 2nd Grade Level Readers

Download Below Level Passages HERE

2- Read the first chunk of text. 

Note: Scaffold the reading as needed, depending on the reading abilities of each group. For example, you may need to read smaller chunks of text with your below grade level groups. Your higher groups may be able to read silently on their own.  

3- Go through the 5Ws one at a time using prompts to help kids search for evidence. 

Note: Allow your students to underline, highlight, or circle the evidence directly on the text.

WHO – Who is this chunk of text mostly about?

Get students into the habit of using details from the text to answer the 5W questions. A good way to do this is by asking the follow up question – How do you know?

Above 2nd Grade Level Readers
At 2nd Grade Level Readers
Below 2nd Grade Level Readers

WHAT – What is happening in this part of the story? 

It may help to tell kids to think of the what as story events. What happened first, next, and last?

Above 2nd Grade Level Readers
At 2nd Grade Level Readers
Below 2nd Grade Level Readers

WHEN/ WHERE: When/ where did these events happen?

By this point, students will be getting the hang of underlining specific evidence to answer questions.

Above 2nd Grade Level Readers
At 2nd Grade Level Readers
Below 2nd Grade Level Readers

WHY – Why did the character react in this way? 

There are many different directions you can go with “why”. Different types of text will lend themselves to different “why” types of questions. Scroll to the next section for examples of different “why” questions you could ask your students. For “After School Clubs”, a question about why the main character is reacting a particular way will help with comprehension most. 

Above 2nd Grade Level Readers
At 2nd Grade Level Readers
Below 2nd Grade Level Readers

Prompts to Help Kids With the 5Ws


  • …is mentioned most often? 
  • …does the passage mainly talk about? 
  • …are the characters?


  • …is happening in the passage?
  • …details help us understand what is happening in the passage? 
  • …happened? 
  • …events happened? 
  • …is this passage mostly about? 
  • …is this passage teaching us about? 

When & Where: 

  • Where and when does the story take place? 
  • When did it happen? 
  • Where did it happen? 
  • When and where did this take place? 


  • …is the character acting in a particular way? 
  • …is the text giving this information?
  • …are things turning out this way? 
  • …did the conflict/ problem happen?

Independent Text Evidence Activities

Reading Passage Comprehension Questions

Ask students to answer the comprehension questions  for the same guided reading passage.

The comprehension questions are leveled as well so you can copy them on the back! 

Take a look: 

Reading Toothy

Reading Toothy helps kids practice grade level reading standards – in a fun game-like format. There are 360 high-interest reading passages and/or scenarios to go with each reading skill – text evidence included! 

Your students can also use devices to play Digital Reading Toothy!

Check out the video to see Reading Toothy in action: 

Use the image below to save this post to your Pinterest board for future reference.

1 Comment

  1. Sherree

    Thank u


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