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KWL Chart: Example Graphic Organizer and Classroom Applications

KWL Chart: Example Graphic Organizer and Classroom Applications
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  • 0:01 KWL
  • 0:41 Uses
  • 2:25 KWL in Action
  • 3:07 KWL Variations
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Marin Carlson
This lesson will explain what a KWL chart is and illustrate how to use this graphic organizer in a variety of ways to push students' thinking around new content.

KWL: A Simple Acronym with a Big Job

KWL is a graphic organizer with three columns that is used during the beginning, middle, and ending of a lesson. The 'KWL' stands for what students Know, what students Want to learn, and what students Learned from the lesson.

It was created by Donna Ogle in 1998, for the purpose of helping students become more active readers of expository, or non-fiction, text. This graphic organizer has since been adopted across content areas, because it requires much less preparation and explanation than more complex organizers and is appropriate for a variety of ages and student performance levels.

Uses for KWL Charts

KWL charts have a number of uses that engage students in the learning process.

At the beginning of a lesson, KWL charts:

  • Activate students' background knowledge and get students thinking about what they already know about the topic to get them ready to connect prior knowledge to new learning.
  • Establish the purpose for the lesson or unit and set the goals for the learning, letting students know what to anticipate from the lesson.
  • Engage students in asking questions about the new content and pique their curiosity, giving them the chance to share their questions with one another.

During the lesson:

  • Students recognize that the lesson is answering their questions. These answers can be written down as soon as they learn them.
  • Students can keep track of their learning by seeing that they have unanswered questions to follow up on.
  • Students may add new questions that pop up during their learning as they deepen their understanding of the new concept.

When closing the lesson:

  • Students use KWL charts to summarize their learning using simple, easily expressed ideas.
  • Students can compare their take-away learning to their classmates' and add ideas that they left out to make a more comprehensive list.
  • Teachers can use KWL charts to review the day's learning before changing topics. This is a way to scaffold learning for students who process new information more slowly and to make sure they have a high quality list of important points from the lesson.
  • Teachers can use KWL charts as informal assessments to determine whether students really got it and how to modify their instructional approach for the students who struggled with the new content.
  • Students can use KWL charts as a study guide for unit exams.

KWL in Action

KWL charts can be used with students as young as preschoolers, who use pictures to fill in the boxes. This is practice for young learners in organizing new information and connecting new learning to prior knowledge.

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