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:
What I Know About _____
- W: What I Want to Know About _____ (questions)
- L: What I Learned About ____
Steps for the KWL:
- Sketch the KWL template on chart paper or butcher paper.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.