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Resource Library  |  Learning Strategies  |  Grades 4 to 6, Grades 7 to 9, Grades 10 to 12

5W's and an H Inquiry Planning

Above Image: Five tomatoes labelled with the words when, where, how, what and why,

What is it?

The 5Ws and an H Inquiry Planning learning strategy provides small groups of students with a basic framework to establish key tasks and responsibilities for conducting an inquiry. Students make decisions based on the importance and logistical requirements of tasks and assign individuals or teams to specific inquiry tasks.

Why use it?

  • To enable students to practice the skill of planning an inquiry by having them actively involved in decision-making processes.
  • To have students understand and identify the key tasks involved in an inquiry.
  • To help students Identify who will be responsible for which tasks during an inquiry.
  • To have students work collaboratively in planning for inquiry.

How do I use it?

  • Prior to using the 5Ws and an H Inquiry Planning strategy, determine the key tasks for the inquiry that will be conducted. A list of tasks necessary to conduct the inquiry could be generated collaboratively with the students.
  • On the 5Ws and an H Inquiry Planning Template, insert the tasks into the top row of the chart.
  • Explicitly introduce and model the strategy using the Inquiry Planning Template you have created with the students.
  • Provide individuals or small groups of students with a 5Ws and an H Inquiry Planner to complete (fill in) prior to conducting an inquiry you are planning to conduct with the class. See Tools and Templates.
  • Using the planner, students should start with defining the tasks by first answering the “What is the task?” question.
  • Students can then proceed to complete that detailed logistics of conducting each task by answering the “Why?, When?, Where? and How?” questions on the Inquiry Planning template.
  • Finally, to answer the “Who?” portion of the planning chart, the students should work collaboratively to assign specific people (or teams) to each of the tasks.
  • Take some time to review and discuss the plans with individual students, small groups and/or the class. Be attentive to any potential safety or ethical issues that have been overlooked in the plan. Provide student with feedback and recommendations on improving the plans.
  • Have students revise the plans based on your feedback.
  • Once students are familiar with using the strategy, have them apply it in planning other inquiries. With each new inquiry, students should incorporate the tasks that they determine are essential to their specific inquiry protocols into their 5Ws and an H Inquiry Planning Tools.

Tips for success

  • When introducing this strategy to students for the first time, fill in the key tasks necessary to conduct the inquiry at the top of the chart.
  • Provide limited, clearly defined inquiry tasks for students that are new to this strategy.
  • Ensure that students define the tasks and logistics prior to assigning specific students (or groups) to perform the tasks and ensure that students have equitably distributed the tasks.
  • As students gain experience in conducting inquiries, increase their involvement in and responsibility for planning, from determining the key inquiry tasks to assigning student responsibilities to complete the tasks.


  • Individuals or groups of students could be assigned to complete (fill in) the 5Ws and an H Inquiry Planning Template for one task, and then the individual tasks could be combined in a final document.
  • Instead of using paper copies of the planning chart, use online tools such as Google docs or Google charts.

Tools and Templates

5Ws and an H Planning - Template pdf doc

5Ws and an H - Seed Investigation Planning Template pdf doc

5Ws and an H Inquiry Planning - Exemplar - Seed Investigation pdf