KWL Chart Revisited
It was 18 years ago that the KWL chart was introduced to me and it took me 10 years of teaching to figure out why using a KWL chart is an important thinking tool. It was four years ago I discovered it was a thinking tool rather than a graphic organizer. I hope to encourage you to revisit your thinking of why this tool is important. A KWL chart should be used to support what students know, what they are puzzled about, and think about what they are learning. The structure of this one tool can be helpful to help students support their own thinking during a unit of study. I want to revisit this thinking structure as thinking activity at the beginning of a unit.
As students enter the room and sit with their learning group, each group finds four different primary source images from the Civil War. As the class begins, they are asked to examine one picture and write a statement related life during a war on a sticky note. Every day during history, students are use to beginning their day with some type of short quick write activity. After about three minutes, students share their picture and what they wrote with their learning group.
After I give a brief introduction to the unit on the Civil War, introduce the essential questions, and go over a handout with the content questions for the unit, I ask them to pull out the sticky notes. They have five minutes to brain storm what they know about the Civil War and any thoughts or knowledge that relates to the essential questions. They think and write silently for about five minutes and then they turn to their learning group and share. As they share they jot down new thoughts that are generated from their discussion. They put all their sticky notes on a large piece of construction paper because they know I want to see what they were thinking. They know that I will post their charts somewhere in the room.
One person from each table shares out. I encourage them to generate new thinking as they listen.
Second, I ask them to revisit and think about all they have heard. I get them to think about what they heard from the sharing that puzzled them. I have them think about questions they have about the Civil War? They have time to write the question first and then I have them make a chart of questions.
Both charts are collected. After school I typed out all their responses about what they know and their questions along with the essential questions and content questions. The content questions are the required for minimum learning based on the state standards and ends of course test.
I use all the information to guide instruction. The instruction that follows is based on inquiry.
As they move through the unit, we refer back to the chart and journal what we are learning. The KWL will not look like a traditional graphic organizer but the journal will capture what they are thinking along the ways.
Here is what you should observe happening in this scenario:
- Thinking becomes visible and there is evidence from charts and journals.
- Journals begin to show what they are learning.
- Students are highly engaged. Evidence will show those students not engaged.
- Create pathways and patterns for future engagement with the unit of study.
- Students are writing to learn.