Sunday, November 7, 2021

Upgrading the KWL Chart

There are many strategies at the disposal of a teacher to help students learn.  The anticipatory set functions as a hook at the beginning of the lesson for motivation, while closure ties everything together. Routine checks for understanding provide valuable feedback as to whether or not instruction is hitting the mark. Turn and talk allows for needed discourse.  While all of these are pedagogically sound, they don’t matter much if kids are unsure of where the lesson is going.  Learning targets provide valuable clarity on expectations.

  1. Why did we learn this and what will I be able to do when I’ve finished this lesson?
  2. What idea, topic, or subject is important for me to learn and understand so that I can do this?
  3. How will I show that I can do this, and how well will I have to do it to demonstrate that I have learned something new?

Here is something I shared in Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms:

Developing learning targets does not go far enough, though. Learners need to understand the point of a lesson just as much as a teacher or administrator. Imparting relevance through a specific context and appli¬cation helps achieve this. However, everything must be tied together from the learner’s point of view. This is why closure and reflection at the end of the lesson are crucial. Either or both of these elements can be tied to the use of a KWL chart. 

There are variations of this resource, but for the most part, it is commonly structured in the following way:

K – What I know.

W – What I want to know or what I wonder.

L – What I learned.

There is always an opportunity to build upon existing resources to make them more effective and meaningful.  Hence the evolution of the KWL to KWHLAQ. Below, you will see what this chart looks like as presented in the book and the various question stems to spark and cultivate disruptive thinking. While I have developed some question stems for each category, educators can expand on them to align with local curriculum. 

From a pedagogical standpoint, it is essential to build reflection into daily learning activities to bring the learning process full circle. Bottom line: everyone—especially our students—should understand the point of a lesson. The KWHLAQ chart not only connects to prior learning and interests but also provides the means to showcase learning.  


  1. Really hard to answer these questions for low-level fact nuggets and procedural skills...

  2. I agree. I'd be more inclined to stick with the BHH structure suggested by Beers and Probst, and their signposts. Much more manageable.

    1. I believe the point Scott is making is that this chart has value as it empowers educators to move away from low-level questions and tasks.