Strategy to connect prior knowledge to future knowledge.

What is it?

KWL charts assist teachers in activating students' prior knowledge of a subject or topic and encourage inquisition, active reading, and research. KWL charts are especially helpful as a prereading strategy when reading expository text and may also serve as an assessment of what students have learned during a unit of study. The K stands for what students know, the W stands for what students want to learn, and the L stands for what the students learn as they read or research.

How it's used.

An ideal time to use KWL charts is before the class starts working with a new concept. Begin by modeling the use of a KWL chart. Project a blank KWL chart on an overhead projector or write on the board, and write the topic of the concept or text name at the top of the chart. Fill in the chart as you think out loud, describing your thought process. After completing the "Know" and "Want to Know" sections, read aloud a brief expository paragraph. Complete the "Learned" section of the KWL chart after reading the text, once again thinking out aloud and describing your thought process.

To guide students in completing a KWL chart, choose another topic, place a blank KWL on the overhead, and distribute a copy to each student. Allow the students to independently complete the "Know" section of the chart. As a class, share individual answers, brainstorm other ideas, and discuss responses. This allows students to benefit from their collective experiences, jog some prior knowledge, and reveal any misconceptions students may have. Students often believe they have factual information about a subject that is proven incorrect through reading, researching, and exploration. Be cautious about correcting students in the initial completion of the "Know" section of the chart as discovery of information often leads to long-term retention. Encourage students to correct their "misinformation" as they complete the "Learned" section of the chart, and model this strategy for them. Next, collect all information that is known, and fill in the "Know" section on the chart based on student responses.

Content Modifications


Have students write in the Know section of how to solve the problem or explain the concept. (Math understanding). In the "Want to Know" section have them write questions they still have, and in the Learned section, they write the answers they get to those questions from the teacher or their peers. You can also use the "learned" section as a exit slip to see they learned that day in class.


Introducing a new inquiry cycle or experiment, have them write what they think vocabulary means, what they believe to be true about the topic, etc. Their questions in the W column, and each day after the lesson they write in their L column correcting what was in their K column previously or adding the new information they gained that day. The L column can be used to study for tests.

Social Studies:

Use the strategy as is when discussion around articles, discussion topics, primary documents, debates, etc.

How to do a KWL - TeachLikeThis
Using a KWL Chart to Solve a Word Problem