Holly May Writes

The stuff of Life

Literacy Strategies: KWL Charts

kwl charts

An oldie but goody and one of my favorite strategies is the K-W-L chart.
K-W-L charts are a type of graphic organizer. They give a way to activate students prior knowledge of a topic, help students to set a purpose for reading, and monitor their learning.
First start by taking a sheet of paper (can be horizontal or vertical) and form three columns either through folding the paper or just drawing lines. Then at the top of the first column write a “K” or “KNOW”, in the second write a “W” or “WANT”, and in the third write a “L” or “LEARNED”.


k-w-l chart

Before reading on a topic ask students to write down what they think they already know about the topic in the “K” column. This can be done individually, in a group, or as a class. However you see fit. Then in the “W” column ask students to write down what they would like to know about the topic. (Answering Who, what, when , where, why, and how may help them to come up with questions.) Having them come up with these types of questions will give them a purpose for reading the article (other than because I said you must read it). It has been documented that having a purpose for reading aids greatly in comprehension. You may want to fill out a chart yourself in front of the class to help guide them in the direction of things to look for.

After reading the text students can then fill out the “L” column which shows what they have learned. This will show what they were able to comprehend as they read. Sometimes they will be able to answer the questions they wrote down prior to reading. Sometimes they will have learned things that they hadn’t thought about asking in the beginning. Hopefully if they still have unanswered questions they will further their reading with other resources. There are various adaptations to this chart one of which is the K-W-H-L chart where the “H” stands for “HOW” you can find out, for example: at a library, on the Internet, at a museum… adding the “H” would help them think of where to find resources to answer their question but now in the days of Google I don’t generally put in that step as most students will just do an Internet search if they are motivated to find out more. I know I am guilty of just searching the Internet for most things. At this time students may also want to review their “K” column in case they had any misconceptions at the beginning and see if “what they knew” still holds true.

This strategy works well with expository texts. So textbooks, biographies, newspapers… all make for great reading material to use with this strategy. After using this strategy a few times I found that I internally do these things when I am about to read. If you haven’t already used this I highly recommend it. Any age group can use it. If you have students that can’t write yet they can totally draw pictures to represent their ideas. This is also a great strategy for ELL/ESL students.

If you found this post helpful please leave a comment and let me know if there is a specific topic or strategy you would like me to highlight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *