KWL: Know/Want to Know/Learned


KWL is a strategy that encourages students to think about what they already know about something and what they wonder about it or what want to find out. A KWL table or chart helps students to organize their information for reference throughout the inquiry process.

Why use it?

  • To encourage students to draw on their prior knowledge.
  • To encourage students to keep a running record of what they know, their wonderings/ what they want to know and what they learned.
  • To help educators to see students’ preconceptions about a particular interest area and identify any misconceptions.
  • To provide authentic opportunities for students to ask rich, higher –order questions that lead to inquiries.

Tips for success

  • Provide opportunities and time for students to share what they know, their wonderings/what they want to find out, and what they learned.
  • Use the Question Matrix as a tool for students to help them develop rich questions that will lead to inquiries about their wonderings.

How do I use it?

Example of students working with a KWL chart about cats Source: photo by Let’s Talk Science
  • Use provocations to encourage students to make connections to prior knowledge.
  • Model with students how to use a KWL chart or table to record their prior knowledge, their wonderings/want to knows, and what they learned.
  • Identify and document any preconceptions/ misperceptions and/or misconceptions that may present themselves as students share what they know and have learned.
  • Encourage students to think about new questions that they might want to investigate as a result of what they learned.


  • Use a Think/Pair/Share learning strategy to have students share with each other what they know and what they wonder about/would like to know.
  • Have students use different coloured markers, pencils or crayons to record and represent visually, their new learning.
  • The KWL strategy can be incorporated with other learning strategies (e.g., Collaborative LearningQuestion Matrix, or Inquiry Journal learning strategies).

Related Skills


Ogle, D. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher, 39, 564-570.

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