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The 5Ws

The 5Ws

The 5Ws is a simple yet effective technique for encouraging your students to engage with historical objects.

Giving them an object and either asking them (or, better still, getting them to come up with, and try to answer, their own) Who? What? When? Where? and Why? questions is an excellent way into a topic and can really arouse their curiosity.  

Show your students an historical object (such as this one from Newcastle University Special Collections) and ask them the following questions:

  1. Who do you think it belonged to/ who made it?
  2. What do you think it is/was it used for?
  3. Where do you think it comes from?
  4. When do you think it was made?
  5. Why do you think it has survived/someone has kept it?

You may want to print out and use the The 5Ws sheet to record your ideas.

To find out more about this object, visit our Amazing Archives website: Joseph Swan’s Medals – Amazing Archives (

Image reference: GB 186 SWAN/08