KWL and KWLS Charts

  • Written by: Taura Shams
  • Published: Monday, 14 March 2016
  • Tagged under: ESL reading | KWL chart | KWLS chart | reading strategies
  • Times read: 2882
  • KWL and KWLS Charts
  • This is an excellent activity that allows students activate their prior knowledge on a certain topic and make predictions about the assigned non-fiction (expository) or fiction text.

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KWL chart

The acronym comes from the key words in the following questions: What I Know? – What I Want to know? – What I Learned? This activity can be used as a group activity (what we know? – what we want to know? – what we learned?) or independently by each student.


  1. Decide if the language/reading level of the students will allow them to benefit from this activity.
  2. Identify concepts and ideas that you want your students to discover in the text, and organize your work around them.
  3. Distribute the handout with the chart to the students.
  4. Activating prior knowledge. Brainstorm with students what they already know about the topic. If they are going to read a book, they can look at the title, author, cover and look through the illustrations. Then students fill in the first column of the chart (“What I Know”) with their ideas.
  5. Making predictions. Ask students to make guesses and predictions about the topic (book). For example, students can wonder why the book has that title, what the names of the people in the picture are, or why a person in the picture is crying (climbing over the wall, standing on top of a hill, etc.). You can have students work in pairs at this point discussing their predictions. Finally, students fill in the second column of the chart (“What I Want to know”) with questions about the topic (book).
  6. Reading. Now students are ready to start their reading. They are more likely now to stay focused on their reading since they want to find out the answers to their questions.
  7. After-reading discussion. Ask students to compare their background knowledge and their predictions to what they actually learned from the text (book). Students fill in the third column in the chart ("What I Learned”). Discuss students’ finding as a class.

Extension - KWLS chart

A fourth column can be added to the chart (“What I Still need/want to learn”). After the final discussion, ask students what they still want to learn about the topic. In this column they can also include suggestions on how they can find the answers to their new questions. For example, they can suggest getting another book (some books) in the library or interviewing someone who might know the answers to their questions.

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