You may have heard and may feel that it is good to give your child input and choices in what he or she learns. This is a great practice and often makes learning so much more fun. However, maybe you are sure where to start or how to include student choice into your lessons and education journey. A KWL chart is a wonderful way to encourage student input.
What is a KWL Chart?
KWL charts are often used at the beginning of a unit or topic study to help children brainstorm and get excited about a lesson. They are split into three sections with a K over the first section, a W over the second section, and an L over the last section. The K stands for “What I know already”, the W stands for “What I want to learn”, and the L stands for “What I did learn”.
Why Use a KWL Chart?
Not only are KWL charts great for brainstorming and motivating, they are also great for organizing and giving children responsibility in what they learn. Often children like that they are asked for input on what they are learning. KWL charts are often used as informal pre-assessment tools as well. They also help give the teaching and learning of the subject a direction and an outline.
How to Use a KWL Chart
KWL charts are used in steps. First, put the topic of study on the top. Then, in the first space, students brainstorm what they already may know about that particular topic. If students are younger, teachers may do the actual writing.
Second, in the second space, students brainstorm what they want to learn about that particular topic. These two steps can be done at the same time or during two different settings. However, both are done prior to any real study.
Notice that there isn’t much space in each section, so often this is done in abbreviated or note taking form and not in complete sentences. A phrase or a word or two often suffice, as long as students and teachers both know what is meant.
Next, as the topic is being studied, the “What I want to learn” are checked off as they are learned. The goal isn’t to keep learning merely to “what I want to learn” but to learn many things about the topic of study.
Last, students (or teachers) write what is learned about the subject in the last space. Since the “what I want to learn” is checked off as it is learned, it may only include other things that are learned or it may include all things that are learned.
Uses for Finished KWL Charts
The great thing about KWL charts is that they are useful even after they are completed. They make great summaries and remembrance sheets of topics of studies and can possibly help you decide what to put in a portfolio. Students can look back on these KWL charts and remember what was studied, what was learned, what was done during the study, and what improvements were made.
Finished KWL charts can also be used as notes for a student report or final project on the topic. So much information can be stored on a KWL chart.
I have a few bonus suggestions for you, if you want to use the KWL chart as part of your teaching strategy. The “chart” doesn’t actually have to be a chart. Especially for younger students, it is sometimes best to give them more room to work and ask them to write in complete sentences. Include a page of resources used during the study or spot to write a summary of what was done during the study. If you create your own chart, consider leaving a space for students to answer questions like, “What is the most interesting thing you learned?” or “What was the worst part of the study?” and “What would you like to do different on the next study?”
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