Strategy 3: K-W-L

(before and after reading)

K – What do we know?
W – What do we want to find out?
L – What did we learn?

Students can use a three-column chart, labeled K, W and L, to record their brainstormed knowledge about the topic before reading, the questions they want to find out when they read, and the knowledge and insights they have gained after reading. This process helps students read the text carefully, asking questions of the text, themselves, and the author. This strategy has been around for quite a while and you have probably used it in your classroom. We included it in this course because often some of the "older" strategies fall by the wayside, and KWL is still an effective way to get students engaged in a text.

This is a great strategy for reading traditional science or social studies textbooks. Many textbooks are great repositories of knowledge, answering many questions about various topics, but the questions they are written to answer are not always explicit. For example, a textbook section on cell division might not clearly state that the important questions are “How do we grow?” and “How do our bodies heal?”

You can help the class focus on which questions will actually be answered by the text passages, and which will require other resources to answer. There is a natural connection here to Strategy 5: A Friendly Reading Guide.


Assignment: Have students use a K-W-L chart with two different reading assignments, then record any comments, stories, feedback from students, advice for other teachers, etc. on the discussion tab for this page. (Here's a chart you can download: KWL chart.doc)

A note: Sometimes students will say "I don't know anything about this topic!" or "I don't want to find out anything about this." That's when you have to peak students' curiousity about the subject a little. If you're reading a book by Hemingway, you can tell them a little about his life in Michigan or in Key West. If your topic is photosynthesis, and this is a totally new word for your students, talk with them about plants, and get them to write what they know about plants and what they want to find out (like Do plants need food? If so, where do they get it?)