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New Teachers New York:
Lesson Plans by New Teachers, For New Teachers
Creative Problem Solving: 
Using the 5 W's (Who, What, Where, When, Why)

Standards:  In discussing their readings, third graders will be able to:
  1. Talk about the authors' choice of words, meanings, and plot.
  2. Refer to both their own prior knowledge and to relevant information garnered during the discussions to explain, support, and justify their ideas.
  3. The children will respond to literature by making connections to their own lives. While students will be able to identify characteristics of fantasy, they will also reference that literature in making comparisons to real life situations.
Created by:
Mary Lawrence
Location: P.S. 202
District: 19
Grade: 3
Subject: Language Arts

If you have any questions regarding this activity, please contact Maryteach202@aol.com 

The students will seek answers to the 5 W's to generate solutions to provided by various authors; generate their alternative solutions to the problems outlined in the stories, while generating an action plan for the most effective solutions. 

  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Jack and the Beanstalk or any other story with which children are familiar 
  • Chart paper and markers
  • Crayons and drawing paper 

Although this would be a good lesson within a unit on safety, the context for this specific lesson was the children's ability to use the Language Arts prompts of the 5 W's to creatively solve problems presented from literature and from real life situations.
  1. Ask the children what they would do if they found a bear in their house.
    • Is it important to be safe? 
    • Why?
    • How do you stay safe at home? 
    • At school? 
  2. Read Goldilocks and the Three Bears to them and solicit predictions about what will happen next. Questions may include:
    • Who got into the house? 
    • How did the bears get into the house? 
    • Why would the bears do that? 
    • Is there a way to keep the bears out? 
    • How do you keep intruders out of your own home?

    Questions were asked intermittently throughout the readings. Often, a question arises from the children's answers. Incorporate the children's responses in the questions that follow, this keeps the discussion brisk and interesting. For lower functioning students, you may stop at any point and ask specific Who, What, When, Where and Why questions to ensure comprehension of the story. 
  3. Students will identify problems as they occur, using the 5 W's as the questions to be answered. For example, a problem for Jack (in Jack and the Beanstalk) was that his mother was upset with his decision to accept the magic beans.
  4. Students are then asked to offer solutions to those problems, including the solution to the story, and offering a solution to a potential real life situation (for example, as in Jack and the Beanstalk, when a parent is upset with a child's decision or choice). 

    Hint: Possible solutions might include keeping a dog for protection; putting a lock on the door; having Momma Bear or Poppa Bear stay at home. Accept all possible solutions!
  5. Have the class decide on the best possible solution for each 'problem' by consensus.
  6. Once the best solution is decided, students can then devise action plans. Children could verbally describežand then illustratežhow Goldilocks could prevent future visitors. 

    Hint: For example, Goldilocks could have a neighbor watch her house for the Bear Family and then "beep" her if a bear showed up at Goldilock's house. 

Final Activity: 
Have students identify problems and possible solutions to Jack and the Beanstalk, and to Little Red Riding Hood. An illustration and at least one sentence will suffice.

Hint: Solutions to Little Red Riding Hood might include the character e-mailing grandma instead of actually visiting or taking another friend with her when she would go through the woods to visit. 

Student Assessment: 
Assessment will be conducted throughout the class discussions. In this case, assessment is valuable if the children are verbalizing their thoughts and can plan out solutions. 

Children's evaluation of viable solutions is essential to emotional growth and to their sense of creative problem solving abilities. The actual number of creative problem solving ideas could also be used as an assessment. The written homework should be checked to be grammatically and mechanically correct, and class assessments are verbal. 

Teacher Notes: 
Stories can be adjusted to level of maturity: Caps for Sale, and/or Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day can be used. Faithful Elephants can be used with more mature children. 

The length and type of required follow-up assignment is also adjustable. 

I conducted this lesson with both my 2nd and 3rd grade students, and it was very successful. Some students preferred Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to the Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood stories because they preferred the illustrations. 

Class discussions were funny and creative. I also achieved some insight into the personal safety concerns of my own students and I was able to allay some fears. 

Warning: when trying to carry the problem-solving message to real life situations, it will require more lessons! Because we do not want to instill fear or apprehension into our students, it is best to focus on positive ways to feel safe and secure. Emphasize that these stories are fantasies and that children can always go to adults for help with problems.


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