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What is a KWL Chart?

KWL Chart

A KWL chart (Ogle, 1986) is a graphic organizer designed to activate students' prior knowledge, facilitate questions about a topic, and confirm or disconfirm information about a given topic. The KWL chart can be modeled during whole group instruction, or can be implemented in small group settings or with individual students. The KWL chart consists of three columns, which include:

  • K: What I Know About _____
  • W: What I Want to Know About _____ (questions)
  • L: What I Learned About ____

 Steps for the KWL:

  1. Sketch the KWL template on chart paper or butcher paper.
  2. Upon introduction to a topic, ask students what they know about a given topic and write student responses on the "Know" section of the KWL graphic organizer. It's important to write both accurate and inaccurate information on the KWL template in order to determine students' prior knowledge about the topic. Misconceptions about the topic will be addressed later on the "Learned" section of the KWL chart.
  3. Ask students to identify questions that they have about a certain topic, or something that they might be wondering. In cases where students may have limited prior knowledge about a given topic, teachers may need to "think aloud" and model questions that they may have about the topic. Write student questions on the "Want to Know" section of the KWL chart.
  4. Teach students about the topic. As you teach, you will return to the KWL chart frequently to determine whether students' prior knowledge was accurate, misconceptions have been addressed or whether any of the student questions have been answered. Write what students have learned about the topic on the "Learned" section of the KWL chart.

KWL charts are an excellent way for teachers to activate prior knowledge about a given topic prior to teaching the unit. Student responses provide teachers with the opportunity to build additional background knowledge about a topic, or link to more advanced study of a known topic. A blank KWL worksheet can also be later given to students to assist with the inquiry process during student research, investigation and writing assignments. 


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