“Levels of Why?” Graphic Organiser

Levels of Why – click to download a pdf

This is a graphic organiser developed to help students move from outline or describe into explain.

  1. Begin with stating the situation, change or process.
  2. What is the surface explanation or reason?
  3. Why does that occur?
  4. What about that?

And so on…

You might reframe it as ‘because, because, because‘ and challenge students to see how many “levels of why?” they can get to.


For example, with enzymes:

Situation: As temperature increases, the rate of reaction increases, until the temperature passes 37C. At this point the rate of reaction drops.

The student can do at least two threads of “levels of why?”: one for the increase in rate of reaction and one for the later decrease.

“As temperature increases, the rate of reaction increases…”

  • This is because more reactions are taking place and releasing the products
    • (Which is because) more substrates are connecting with the active site
      • (Which is because) the substrates and enzymes are moving more quickly
        • (Which is because) they have more energy as a result of the temperature increase

“… after 37C the rate of reaction decreases sharply.”

  • This is because the enzyme is no longer active and cannot facilitate the reaction
    • (Which is because) the active site has been denatured and the substrate no longer ‘fits’
      • (Which is because) the hydrogen bonds holding the 3D structure of the active site have been broken
        • (Which is because) the high energy of the added temperature has broken the weak hydrogen bonds apart
          • (Which is because) increasing temperature increases the energy (and vibration) in the bonds and so stresses their attraction.

As you can see above, the “levels of why?” as they are brainstormed are pretty clunky, but the student can now take the steps and synthesise them into a single prose passage.

If you try this out in your class, please let me know how it goes in the comments, or on Twitter.


Other Graphic Organisers

This GoogleSlides document is growing with sample ATL-connected graphic organisers. To make your own copy, click here.

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