How to Use KWL Charts to Boost Classroom Learning

Updated on: 15 October 2023 | 7 min read

Education is an exciting journey, and every teacher wants to give students the best tools for success. KWL charts are one such effective tool that teachers can use to guide students through a three-step-process to gather knowledge about a particular subject, create purposeful learning experiences and help summarize what they learned. Using KWL charts in the education process encourages students to explore, question, and learn actively.

In this blog post, we unravel the mysteries behind KWL charts, exploring their components, benefits, and how to seamlessly integrate them into your classroom.

What is a KWL Chart?

What is a KWL Chart? Lets start by breaking down the acronym; KWL stands for ‘Know, Want-to-Know, and Learn’. KWL chart is a tool that helps students organize and reflect on their learning journey. It’s an effective method that connects what students already know, what they are interested in learning and what they have gained from a lesson.

For instance lets picture a history class where students delve into the topic of the Industrial Revolution. Before diving into the content each student fills in the “K” column with what they already know about the subject. The “W” column captures their curiosity by highlighting the burning questions they have about the Industrial Revolution. As the lesson progresses the “L” column serves as a living record of all the knowledge they have acquired.

How to Use a KWL Chart in the Classroom?

Step 1: Introduction and Engagement

The key is to start the lesson with an interesting introduction that captivates students’ attention. Present the topic in a way that piques curiosity. For example, if you’re diving into a science lesson on ecosystems, start with a thought-provoking question or a stunning image of a diverse ecosystem. This initial engagement sets the stage for an active and participatory learning experience.

Pro Tip: Encourage students to voice out their initial thoughts before jotting them down on the KWL chart. This not only encourages sharing but also sparks meaningful discussions.

Step 2: Filling in the “K” Column

In this phase, ask students to share what they already know about the topic. It could be information from previous lessons, personal experiences, or even tidbits gathered from casual conversations. The goal is to activate their existing knowledge and create a foundation for the upcoming exploration.

Real-World Example: In a geography class exploring different cultures, students might list cultural practices, traditions, or even famous landmarks they already know about a specific country.

Step 3: Brainstorming the “W” Column

This step is where curiosity takes off. Challenge students to think about what they want to know about the topic. These are the burning questions that fuel exploration and inquiry. This step not only tailors the lesson to the students' interests but also sets clear learning objectives.

Pro Tip: Encourage students to share their “W” column with a partner or in small groups. This fosters collaborative learning and may lead to questions that others hadn’t considered.

Step 4: The Learning Journey Begins

Now that you know what students already know on the subject and what they are eager to learn, it is time to dive into the lesson. This is where the “L” column sees action. As the lesson progresses, students fill in this column with new information, discoveries, and answers to their initial questions.

Real-World Example: In a literature class exploring a novel, the “L” column could be a collection of key plot points, character developments, and literary devices uncovered during the reading.

Benefits of Using KWL Charts in the Classroom

1. Engagement and Ownership

KWL charts turn passive learners into active participants. By involving students in the process of setting goals and driving their learning, you’re building a sense of ownership. This shift from being recipients of information to active seekers of knowledge enhances engagement and retention.

Real-World Example: In a high school physics class, students expressing curiosity about the concept of gravity are more likely to be invested in understanding the topic deeply.

2. Metacognition and Reflection

The reflective nature of KWL charts promotes metacognition—the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes. As students track what they knew, wanted to know, and eventually learned, they develop a heightened sense of their own learning journey. This metacognitive awareness is a valuable skill that extends beyond the classroom.

Pro Tip: Encourage students to revisit their KWL charts periodically, reflecting on how their understanding has evolved over time. This reinforces the idea that learning is an ongoing, dynamic process.

3. Customization for Varied Learning Styles

Every student is unique, and KWL charts provide a versatile framework that caters to diverse learning styles. Visual learners benefit from the chart’s graphical representation, while verbal learners can articulate their thoughts through writing or discussion. This adaptability makes KWL charts an inclusive tool for classrooms with a mix of learning preferences.

Real-World Example: In a middle school history class, a student who excels in visual arts might choose to illustrate their KWL chart, adding a creative dimension to their learning experience.

How to Use Creately for Education with KWL Charts

Leveraging Technology for Enhanced Learning

In the digital age, traditional tools meet their tech-savvy counterparts. Creately an online diagramming and collaboration tool, seamlessly integrates with the educational landscape, providing a dynamic platform for KWL charts.

Step-by-Step Guide

Create a Workspace: Begin by creating a workspace on Creately. This eliminates the need for physical paper, and students can access and collaborate on their charts from anywhere.

Drag-and-Drop Elements: Creately offers an intuitive interface with drag-and-drop functionality. Students can easily add elements to their KWL charts, making the process efficient and enjoyable.

Collaboration Features: Foster a collaborative learning environment by allowing students to work on KWL charts in real-time with asynchronous editing and comment threads. This not only encourages teamwork but also facilitates peer learning.

Templates and Customization: Creately provides templates for various types of charts, including KWL charts. Students and teachers can choose a suitable KWL Chart Template that best suits their learning style and customize it to make it uniquely theirs.

Real-World Example: In a virtual classroom scenario, students using Creately can collaborate on a KWL chart about a historical event, simultaneously adding information and discussing their findings in real-time.

Empowering Education Through the Use of KWL Charts

Implementing KWL charts is not just about teaching; it’s about empowering students to become lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and active contributors to their own education. So, go ahead, dive into the world of KWL charts, experiment with creativity, and watch your classroom come alive with the energy of discovery.

Are you ready to revolutionize your classroom experience? Embrace the power of KWL charts and witness the transformation in how your students approach learning. Whether you opt for the traditional pen-and-paper method or embark on a digital journey with tools like Creately, the key lies in fostering active participation, curiosity, and reflection.

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FAQs About KWL Charts

Can KWL charts be used in subjects beyond the humanities?
Absolutely! While KWL charts are commonly associated with subjects like history and literature, they are incredibly versatile. In science, for example, students can use KWL charts to explore topics ranging from the scientific method to complex ecological systems. The key is adapting the tool to suit the content and learning objectives.
How do KWL charts cater to different learning styles?
KWL charts are inherently flexible, making them ideal for accommodating diverse learning styles. Visual learners can illustrate their charts, kinesthetic learners can engage in hands-on activities related to the topic, and verbal learners can articulate their thoughts through writing or discussion. This adaptability ensures that every student can find a personalized approach to using KWL charts.


Hansani Bandara

Hansani is a content specialist at Creately. She loves reading and writing about tech innovations. She enjoys writing poetry, travelling and photography.

View all posts by Hansani Bandara →