A close up of a student writing on a piece of paper.
Teaching Strategy

K-W-L Charts

Educators will help students assess what they already know about a topic and what they want to learn.

Published:

At a Glance

Teaching Strategy

Language

English — US
Also available in:
French — FR

Subject

  • English & Language Arts
  • History
  • Social Studies

Grade

6–12

Overview

About This Teaching Strategy

K-W-L charts are graphic organizers that help students organize information before, during, and after a unit or a lesson. They can be used to engage students in a new topic, activate prior knowledge, share unit objectives, and monitor students’ learning.

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Procedure

Steps for Implementation

Pass out the K-W-L chart handout to students. Alternatively, you can distribute a blank sheet of paper and ask students to create their own chart.

Have students respond to the first prompt in column 1: What do you Know about this topic? Students can do this individually or in small groups. Often, teachers create a master list of all students’ responses. One question that frequently emerges for teachers is how to address misconceptions students share. Sometimes it is appropriate to correct false information at this point in the process. Other times, you might want to leave the misconceptions so that students can correct them on their own as they learn new material.

Have students respond to the prompt in column 2: What do you Want to know about this topic? Some students may not know where to begin if they don't have much background knowledge on the topic. Therefore, it can be helpful to put the six questions of journalism on the board as prompts (Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?). We suggest that students’ responses and questions be used to direct the course of study. As students share what they want to learn, this step provides an opportunity for teachers to present what they hope students will learn in the unit.

Throughout the unit, students can review their K-W-L charts by adding to column 3: What did you Learn? Some teachers have students add to their charts at the end of each lesson, while others have students add to their charts at the end of the week or the end of the unit. As students record what they have learned, they can review the questions in column 2, checking off any questions that they can now answer. They can also add new questions. Students should also review Column 1 so they can identify any misconceptions they may have held before beginning the unit.

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Facing History and Ourselves is designed for educators who want to help students explore identity, think critically, grow emotionally, act ethically, and participate in civic life. It’s hard work, so we’ve developed some go-to professional learning opportunities to help you along the way.

Using the strategies from Facing History is almost like an awakening.
— Claudia Bautista, Santa Monica, Calif