Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 3: Research and Discovery - Shirley Sterling and Laura Tohe
Authors and Literary Works
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
K/W/L Chart
Student Work
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.

Teaching Strategies
K/W/L Chart


K/W/L stands for:

What do I know or think I know?
What do I want or need to know?
What have I learned?

Teachers use K/W/L charts to stimulate and record students' prior knowledge, experience, and attitudes about a topic, and to encourage further questions about it.

K/W/L Charts in Sally Brownfield's Classroom

Sally Brownfield uses a whole-class K/W/L chart to "prepare the students for reading by having them examine the framework that the author is using." According to teacher educator Jerome Harste, "She's given them a 'leg up' toward being successful readers because they can build from this experience."

Because the three flexible categories organize student learning, K/W/L charts are often used throughout the study of a particular topic or unit. In Brownfield's class, the students share their knowledge regularly on a whole-class chart and keep individual charts for private observations. The students note what they are learning as they learn it, and then have a graphic record of their progress. In Brownfield's class, the chart also builds community, because the students pool information, compare notes, and refine questions together.

For teachers using an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning, K/W/L charts can be particularly useful. For example, in Brownfield's class, the K/W/L chart grounds inquiry into the topic of Indian residential schools. She asks the students to identify questions for individual research projects under "What I want to know." Teachers can help students refine specific, personal questions into larger, more general questions, if need be. The students look at questions to determine which have factual answers (dates, statistics, etc.), conflicting answers, or no answer. (See Student Work.)

Benefits of K/W/L Charts

  • K/W/L charts help students activate their prior knowledge and identify their current attitudes. They also provide teachers with valuable information about what the class may already know (or think they know) about a topic.

  • Organizers like K/W/L charts provide graphic documentation of student learning that both students and teachers can easily understand, and thus can involve students as partners in the learning process.

  • Because they can be individual or collaborative, K/W/L charts are very flexible formats for homework assignments, small-group work, or individual journals.

  • K/W/L charts support students in the inquiry process of identifying and refining questions, and provide space to record research.

  • K/W/L charts give every student a "way in" to a class discussion, and to looking at his or her own learning.

  • K/W/L charts allow teachers to see what cultural and/or historical misconceptions students may have. (The first category is deliberately titled "What I Know or Think I Know" so that students will list as many things as they can while recognizing that these "facts" may be subject to question.)

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