Defining a singular moment with help from “the 5 W’s”

By Lara Fishbane, 826DC Intern, Spring 2017

As the students began selecting the topics that they wanted to delve further into, they needed a way to translate the abstractness of their memories into stories. They began by identifying a singular moment. Narrowing the focus allowed the students to draw out the essentials of their experience more easily and also prepared them to work on their 5 W’s sheets.

The 5 W’s worksheet promotes intentional and directed brainstorming by having students identify the Who, What, Where, When, and Why of the piece. The focused moment became the “What.” The “Who” reiterated that memoirs, by nature, are about the student writing them. However, students had to think not only about their own role in the story, but also about their relationships and interactions with others. The “Where” and “When” helped to ground their stories in a particular time and place, so that the next week students would be ready to craft descriptions of setting. The “Why” challenged students to consider why their story is worth telling and to begin thinking about how it could be situated in a greater societal context.

As students parsed out the details of their stories, they had to also think about how their experience informed and was informed by their identities. This practice conditioned students to think of their memoir not just as an account of an isolated event, but also as an interaction between experience, identity, and culture.  

The sheets that the students worked on became a guiding framework for their writing. It gave direction to their first drafts and became the checklist that students held their final revisions up against to ensure that they hadn’t missed any essential details.


Lara Fishbane is a senior at Georgetown University studying English and Economics. She is passionate about writing, education reform, and exploring the relation between the two. She’s excited to be working as a Publishing and Production intern with 826DC because she wants to help students express themselves through writing and create meaningful impact. When she’s not interning or studying, you’ll find Lara on long runs, hikes, or just lost in a book.