What is K-W-L?
Know - Want to Know - Learned

K-W-L is an introductory strategy that provides a structure for recalling what students know about a topic, noting what students want to know, and finally listing what has been learned and is yet to be learned.

What is its purpose?

The K-W-L strategy allows students to take inventory of what they already know and what they want to know. Students can categorize information about the topic that they expect to use.

How can I do it?

  • On the chalkboard, on an overhead, on a handout, or on students' individual clean sheets, three columns should be drawn.
  • Label Column 1 K, Column 2 W, Column 3 L.
  • Before reading, students fill in the Know column with everything they already know about the topic. This helps generate their background knowledge.
  • Then have students predict what they might learn about the topic, which might follow a quick glance at the topic headings, pictures, and charts that are found in the reading. This helps set their purpose for reading and focuses their attention on key ideas.
  • Alternatively, you might have students put in the middle column what they want to learn about the topic.
  • After reading, students should fill in their new knowledge gained from reading the content. They can also clear up misperceptions about the topic which might have shown up in the Know column before they actually read anything. This is the stage of metacognition: did they get it or not?

How can I adapt it?

Hill, et. al. (1998) have modified the K-W-L chart to include a fourth column at the end, W for "Further Wanderings." In their K-W-L-W chart, this column is for students to pose new questions they have as a result of their research. They also suggest that the first column be filled in individually first and then knowledge and questions from the entire class are pooled second. Throughout the unit, students add to the columns as they encounter new information. Different colored markers or pencils can be used to visually represent new learning. Margaret Mooney suggests adding a fifth column, H, (K-W-H-L-W) for "How" the students intend to gather the information once they've determined what they need to learn. The K-W-L chart (and its modifications) helps students organize their thoughts about a topic.

Possible additions to chart and/or topics for discussion:

  • What we think we know, but aren't sure about
  • What's our evidence for what we know
  • How we might find out what we want to know (what would be evidence?)
  • What could we find out by interacting with or observing the materials/phenomena, rather than by reading or asking experts?
  • What questions do we still have?

Assessment & Evaluation Considerations

  • Observe students' ability to focus on a topic or task in a group situation.
  • Note students' participation in the oral expression of ideas.
  • Monitor listening behaviours. (Do students take turns speaking? Do they ask for clarifications?)
  • Periodically record students' oral language strengths, weaknesses and development in their files.

Teacher Resources


© 2004-2009 Saskatoon Public Schools, All rights reserved.