The first time people saw this unusual abbreviation was in 1986. It was introduced by Donna Ogle. Since then it has been widely used by educators all over the world for teaching different subjects.
K-W-L charts are three-part graphic organizers to engage, guide and review. They help students organize information on all stages of a learning session, a lesson activity or even reading a piece of writing. Such tables are designed to help in learning and can be a part of the well-known constructivist teaching method which allows students to go on their own learning pace and unique style of obtaining a topic or idea. Using KWL charts is beneficial both for learners and for teachers. They assist teachers in activating students’ prior knowledge, inspiring inquisition and active research. KWL charts may also serve as an assessment method to monitor what students have learned during a unit of study. They can be easily used in a big or small group and in individual work. It is a good way to synthesize all sorts of information into a nice and clear visual aid. It keeps track of what students have already done and what they still would like, or need to perform.
What does it look like?
A KWL table is usually divided into three wide columns titled as Know, Want and Learned. Though some modifications are possible.
The Know column stands for what students already know on the topic, the Want (to know) column stands for what they want to learn from the text, unit, research, lesson, etc., and the Learned one stands for what the students learn as they read, research, analyze, listen to.
What materials are required?
You need just a board to write the table down or ready to use printed handouts.
How to use it?
Let’s see how we can use the K-W-L strategy in teaching reading comprehension, for example.
- Take a text. The method is best when working with somewhat expository texts.
- Draw a K-W-L chart on a board or paper.
- Suggest your students brainstorm ideas, words or phrases associated with a topic of the text. Prepare the questions to slightly lead the students to think in a definite direction. Record everything in the K column of the chart. This should be done until students run out of possible ideas. From time to time a teacher will need to correct false info, however, sometimes it’s better to leave minor misconceptions to let students correct them by themselves as they study the material.
- Ask your students what they expect and want to find out about this topic. Prompt them with 6 questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Focus their attention on the things you want or need them to depend on the educational goals. Complete the second part of the chart.
- Make the students read the text and look for the answers to the questions from the W column. Complete the third part of the chart with the information.
- Discuss the results altogether.
Watch this video about K-W-L charts:
This is a simple but efficient way which can be applied to most learning purposes. A teacher can transform and adjust it a bit if needed.