Home > Our Design Lab > Learning Activities > What-Why-How Strategy

What-Why-How Strategy


In this activity, adapted from Teaching That Makes Sense (www.ttms.org), students will make predictions, provide reasons, and use evidence from the text as support. Students will then write prediction statements that incorporate all three elements. The purpose of this activity is for students to engage deeply with the text and to practice the thought process behind making arguments. This can be an effective pre-writing activity for an argumentative essay or as a preparation step for a debate.

Learning Strategies 

  • Determining Importance
  • Inferring
  • Metacognition
  • Questioning
Writing Informational Text

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline
  • Metacognition
  • Staircase of Complexity


  • Select a text (fiction or non-fiction).
  • Read the text or a portion of the text prior to this activity .
  • Create a graphic organizer or have students create their own in a notebook.
Activity Steps 
  1. Introduce What-Why-How strategy.

    Introduce the strategy by sharing the three fundamental questions: · What do you think? (Opinion) · Why do you think it? (Reasons) · How do you know? (Evidence) Give students a question to discuss in pairs. The question can be something engaging for students (e.g., “Who is the best athlete of your generation?” or “Who is the best actor/actress or musician?”). Ask students to discuss with a partner who they think is the best, why they think it, and how they know.

  2. Model the strategy for students.

    Think aloud as you go through a sample What-Why-How using the text. Reinforce that this is a prediction activity, so the What portion is an opinion that should be a prediction. · What do you think might happen next? · Why do you think it? Explain your reasons to students for making that prediction. Lastly, physically go back to the text and find evidence to back up your prediction.

  3. Have students practice independently.

    Students will complete two What-Why-How predictions based on the text. · What prediction can they make? · What are their reasons? · What evidence from the text supports the prediction and the reasoning? Students can write this in a notebook or you can create a graphic organizer for them.

  4. Conduct a mini-lesson on group feedback.

    Review the protocols for giving feedback. Remind students to be honest but kind. The purpose of the feedback is to evaluate the quality of the reasoning and the evidence. There is no right or wrong prediction, but the reasoning behind it and the evidence to support it can either be weak or strong. Discuss this question with the students: “How do we know when we have strong reasoning and strong evidence?” You may want to model this step prior to having students engage in the work.

  5. Obtain group feedback.

    After students have completed two What-Why-How predictions, have them work in pairs or small groups to give each other feedback on their reasoning and evidence. Give students examples of strong feedback. For example, a student could advise another student to use a passage in the text that is a stronger piece of evidence than the one the student initially selected.

  6. Model writing prediction statement.

    Introduce prediction statements as concise statements (two to three sentences) that are grounded in evidence. Review academic language that you want to see in the statements such as prediction, reasoning, and evidence. Use the sample you modeled earlier to write your own prediction statements. Be sure to think aloud as you model so students can follow your thought process.

  7. Write prediction statements.

    Students will write prediction statements for both of their predictions.

  8. Have the whole class share out.

    Have each student select their best prediction statement to share with the class.

  9. Reflect.

    Have students reflect independently on the process of What-Why-How. · How did this activity help you better understand the text? · How could this activity help you when writing or debating?

Downloadable Resources 
Login to See More