K-W-L (Instructional Strategy)

In 1986, Donna Ogle created a new learning and teaching tool, known as KWL, which was introduced into classrooms to help facilitate learning. KWL is an acronym for "what we already Know," "what we Want to know," and "what we have already Learned." Organized into a table or chart, KWL is divided into three sections, one for each of those goals. The chart is used as a tool to organize information that will help students prepare for tests. It can be utilized in for individual students or entire classrooms.

The main goal of the KWL chart is to help students categorize their stored and background knowledge. The first thing that the teacher must do is to divide a sheet of paper into three sections or columns, labeled K, W and L. In the section marked K, students write down all that they know about the given subject matter, before they begin to read a text.

In the section marked W, students write down what they would like to learn about the subject. This is also done before the students begin to read. In the final column marked L, the students write down what they learned about the subject after reading about it. The KWL chart is very useful before a new chapter or unit is introduced.

There are a number of advantages to using a KWL chart. The first and foremost is that it stimulates the student's knowledge about the topic and informs the teacher about what the students do and do not know. Thus, the teacher can prepare the lesson without repeating familiar material. By asking students to write down what they have learned, the teacher encourages them to begin thinking more deeply about the topic.

The KWL chart also helps to motivate students. By getting students to identify what they want to learn about the topic, KWL makes the students active participants in the learning process who will engage in discussion. The KWL chart also allows the students to be creative and expound their ideas above and beyond the scope of the written text. By discovering what students would like to learn, the teacher will be able to assign projects that the students will enjoy.

The creator of the KWL chart maintains that it is beneficial to both teacher and student. Using the chart makes students more proficient at reading critical and informative material and aids teachers in becoming more interactive and aware of students' expectations. The KWL chart facilitates the learning process by pushing students to examine a range of concepts and reflect about what they have read.

The KWL chart utilizes the teaching strategy known as metacognition, which involves using conscious control and monitoring cognitive process. Employing the metacognitive strategy of self-questioning helps the teacher determine whether the student has understood the material learned. Students become greatly motivated and become active readers when they have taken the initiative to read about a particular topic. Each student has a different way of viewing things. By setting personal objectives, the student will become more involved and interested.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Developing More Curious Minds
John Barell.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2003
Librarian’s tip: "The KWL Strategy" begins on p. 104
Content Area Reading and Learning: Instructional Strategies
Diane Lapp; James Flood; Nancy Farnan.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of KWL begins on p. 280
Elementary Literacy Lessons: Cases and Commentaries from the Field
Janet C. Richards; Joan P. Gipe.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Reading Instruction"
Literacy and Bilingualism: A Handbook for All Teachers
María Estela Brisk; Margaret M. Harrington.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "K-W-L" begins on p. 142
Kwhhl: A Student-Driven Evolution of the Kwl
Szabo, Susan.
American Secondary Education, Vol. 34, No. 3, Summer 2006
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