5 Whys In 4 Corners, For Groups To: Search, Answer, Present, & Give Feedback

Student groups do timed rotations around a 4 cornered room answering "Why?" 5 times to find the root cause to an event or situation.

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Students are tasked with answering "Why?" to each others' previous answers. They present their responses to the class, then move to a different station, continuing through this cycle, with 5 stops in search of root causes to the original problem. 

Warm Up:

  1. Discuss Digital Citizenship topics.  
  2. Explain in a simple diagram, drawn on a board, of how the 5 Whys and station rotation will work.

Digital Citizenship might start to be better understood about by having students discuss and ask "Why" it's important. Topics to ask "why?" about might be looked up online or presented as part of a prompt, with choices such as: Internet Safety, Privacy & Security, Relationships & Communication, Cyberbullying & Digital Drama, Digital Footprint & Reputation, Self Image & Identity, Information Literacy, and Creative Credit & Copyright (source).


  1. Divide the class into groups, ideally 4 groups, and set them at different stations or locations around the room.
  2. Give them a specific example as a prompt, or problem related to Digital Citizenship. Let them discuss and write their answer to why this happened. They should also cite a source from wikipedia.org to support their answer.
  3. After ~10 minutes, as a time limit might be necessary, they can share their conclusions with the class.
  4. Groups Rotate Stations: Student groups leave their first answers at the station, then move onto the next station and answer "Why?" to the last group response.
  5.  Repeat steps 3 & 4 until each student group has answered "Why?" 5 times. (In a 4 cornered room they will rotate back to their original station to answer "Why?" the 5th and final time. 
  6. Groups present findings to the class, and complete the statements "I like.., I wish..., I wonder...," as a type of feedback during the final presentation. 

Worksheet Design:

Print on 2 sides of a paper, 1 side with a 5 Whys example and Wikipedia reference, the other side with a labeled 4(column) x 5(row) table for students to write in including: Your Names, Why Questions, Your Answer, & Wikipedia Reference (I accepted Wikipedia page title names, like "5 Whys" for example).

Follow Up Activity Possibility: 

A S.M.A.R.T. goal could be set by students related to a digital citizenship project. 

A Final Thought: 

This process might be applied in a classroom to other problems, not only Digital Citizenship. 

Example 5 Whys:

How 5 Whys works, from www.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Whys

"5 Whys is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question "Why?" Each answer forms the basis of the next question. The "5" in the name derives from an anecdotal observation on the number of iterations needed to resolve the problem.

For example:
The vehicle will not start. (the problem)
Why? - The battery is dead. (First why)
Why? - The alternator is not functioning. (Second why)
Why? - The alternator belt has broken. (Third why)
Why? - The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced. (Fourth why)
Why? - The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule. (Fifth why, a root cause)"

Share research or student experiences that informed your idea!

I made it up based on these: Lean Startup (It's a good book and methodology about how to start a company.) 4 corners (fun vocabulary game for kids) S.M.A.R.T. goals (These challenge students to think creatively and to become more responsible for project development.) I like..., I wish..., I wonder... (It's a friendly way to give feedback. Ideally someone records the feedback for later reference, project development, or project iteration.)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Gabriel Jones

Thanks for the ecouragement Paul and Patrick. I got some decent results so far, enough to make me want to fine tune the process for future use.

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