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Above Image: A group of students and a teacher learn about earth science © Steve Debenport, Wikimedia Commons

What is it?

The K-W-L learning strategy provides students with a basic framework for recording prior knowledge, inquiry questions, and reflections on learning from inquiries. The letters stand for the following:

K – What I know
W – What I want to know
L – What I learned

Why use it?

  • To help students record what they know about a topic and encourage them to think about how they want to focus new inquiry
  • To provide a place to record students questions that can lead to inquiries
  • To help students to monitor and record their comprehension and learning and make conclusions based on inquiry

How do I use it?

  • Before using this strategy, introduce its purpose to the students and provide a structured example to teach and model expected behaviours.
  • Ask students to first think about what they know about a selected topic from experience or research and record this knowledge in the What I Know (K) section of the chart. This may be in the form of words, drawings, etc.
  • Have students generate questions that they have about what they are interested in learning about a given concept or topic and record these questions in the What I Want to know (W) section of the chart. Use these questions to help students initiate the development of inquiries.
  • Encourage students to continue to record questions before, during, and after their inquiries.
  • Revisit the K-W-L chart at the end of student inquiries and have students record their new learning in the What I Learned (L) section of the chart and encourage students to make conclusions and reflect upon their learning and understanding.

Tips for Success

  • Provide sufficient space for students to record on K-W-L charts.
  • Emphasize to students that assessing prior knowledge, asking questions and reflecting on what they learned are critical to science inquiry.

Variations

  • K-W-L charts can be completed as an individual student task or as a group task.
  • Other columns could be added to the K-W-L chart, for example:
    • “Why is this information important?” (Column I)
    • “Where did I find this information?” (Column F)
    • “What do I still want to know?” (Column S)

Tools and Templates

K-W-L Basic Chart - Template pdf doc

K-W-L Research Chart - Template pdf doc

K-W-L Prediction Chart - Template pdf doc

K-W-L - Seed Investigation pdf doc