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 learning. KWHLAQ charts extend the range of a basic KWL chart to incorporate more metacognition, and follow-through towards continuing learning and related action.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Metacognition
  • Questioning
  • Synthesizing
Assessing Prior Knowledge, Metacognition

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Building Background
  • Investigation
  • Launching Into New Content
  • Reflection
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Numeracy
  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline
Activity Steps 
  1. K: Display large chart before beginning a book or unit. Students brainstorm what they already know about the topic or text. Teacher records ideas in first column, under what students Know.

    Different teachers have different policies on what to do if students report that they “know” information that’s actually incorrect. While still encouraging an open-ended brainstorm, consider adapting student comments so that whatever you record is correct.

  2. W: Students brainstorm a list of what they want to learn through a text or unit of study. Teacher records these ideas in the second column, under what students Want to know.

    Model curiosity and the generation of good questions. Reinforce the idea that good learners are constantly wondering, and that not knowing something isn’t a sign of any deficiency.

  3. (optional)H: Students identify strategies or tools they could use to find out what they want to know. These ideas are recorded in the third column, under How will I find out.

    Consider identifying a range of tools/strategies that students might consider in preparation for this stage.

  4. L: Periodically over the course of a reading or a unit of study, and at the end of the text or unit, students identify what they have learned. This information is added to the column under what they Learned.

    You can lead sessions of adding to this column in a whole-group setting, and you can also leave the chart available and encourage students to add information individually as it comes up.

  5. (optional) A: Considering what they have learned, students brainstorm a list of actions they could take that extend logically from this new knowledge. This information goes into the Action I will take column. They each commit to a certain action.

    This step may be most relevant when new learning is related to compelling real-world contemporary issues, but it can also be creatively applied to other types of texts or topics.

  6. (optional) Q: After everything they have learned, students consider what questions they still have. These are recorded in the final column.

    This step helps to reinforce the idea that learning is a lifelong, interconnected process, and that one question leads to another.

Adaptation for the Math Classroom 

Like all other subjects, a KWL chart fits seamlessly into the math classroom by providing a structure where students access prior knowledge about a concept or skill; set personal and/or class goals for learning; and then reflect on what was learned.

Downloadable Resources 
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