K-W-L Charts

Strategy #21


Teachers can use a K-W-L chart to help students combine the new content with their background knowledge, and help to develop vocabulary related to the theme of the unit. It also makes students become more curious and interested in what they're about to learn. Although the teacher directs and monitors the activity, the students are responsible for making the strategy effective and powerful for their own learning.


1. Post or make a K-W-L chart. Either the teacher can post a big chart on the classroom wall, or students can create their own. Divide the paper into three columns and label them K (What We Know), W (What we Wonder), and L (What We Learned).

2. Complete the K column. This is where the students use their background knowledge or past experiences related to the topic and write down a bulleted list. This occurs at the beginning of a thematic unit. If information that students suggest is incorrect, then those statements can be transformed into questions and added to the W column.

3. Complete the W column. This is where the teacher/students write questions before exploring the unit. They can continue to add questions during the unit.

4. Complete the L column. At the end of the unit, the students will reflect on everything that they have learned in this section.

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English Language Learners can examine pictures, artifacts, and other visuals when filling the K and W sections of their chart, drawing illustrations to share what they learned in the L section. Connecting pictures with words is an effective method when introducing new vocabulary and concepts to ELL students.

Upper Level Students can create their own K-W-L charts on a foldable that they take notes on throughout the thematic unit, and also answer their own questions. By doing this individually instead of with the entire class, students can be ultimately responsible for their own learning.



Reading: Informational Text-

  • Students recall information from print and digital sources.
  • Students identify main ideas and related details.
  • Students determine relationships among main ideas.


  • Students use K-W-L charts to gather and organize ideas as they investigate nonfiction topics.