The Best Way to Upgrade Your KWL Charts! - Miss Clark's Spoonful

The Best Way to Upgrade Your KWL Charts!

KWL Charts are a magical teaching tool.

These graphic organizers help students organize their thinking before, during, and after lessons. I particularly love using KWL charts when introducing a new non-fiction unit. From activating schema and prior knowledge (K), to asking thoughtful questions about the topic (W), to discovering new learning (L), KWL charts are a systematic way for students to document their journey through exploring a new and exciting topic.

Tip: Use post-it notes during whole group mini-lessons to make KWL charts interactive!

Remember that whole schema/prior knowledge collection part of the KWL? That K part isn't always so straightforward.

Sometimes, students think they know a lot more than they actually do abut a new topic.

I'll wait while you recover from your disbelief. ;)

As teachers, we want to honor all student ideas and encourage participation. We also want to provide accurate, factual information in our lessons. So, when little Johnny channels his prior knowledge to add to the "K" section of a class KWL by confidently saying, "Penguins only live in places above the equator," that might be an okay time to intervene and correct him by saying something like, "Actually, penguins only live in the southern hemisphere, below the equator! We'll find out more."

This way, you're providing a gentle correction and not spoiling everything in the lesson ahead.

Now here's where the "K" can get tricky.

One day, Susie chimes in to add to the "K" section of the Polar Bear KWL with, "Polar Bears have white fur." As the resident polar bear expert, you know that polar bears actually have fur that is see-through. 

What's a teacher to do??? 

This is an important concept that will probably be learned during the lesson, so you might not want to shut Susie down right away.

But the thought of writing "Polar bears have white fur" and leaving it there gives you palpitations. 

INTRODUCING.... The "Misconceptions" Section!

I know what you're thinking. You don't have to call it a KWLM chart.

All you need to do is stick another section or column to your KWL Chart labeled "Misconceptions." As students engage in the new learning, or "L" section of the chart, they may discover a new concept that corrected something mentioned in the "K" section. 

During your polar bear lesson, Susie will learn that polar bears have fur that is see-through. The lightbulb will go off. She'll plop that info right in the "L" section. At the end of the lesson, Susie will note in the "Misconceptions" section of the KWL Chart that polar bears do not have white fur. 

If you're using an interactive approach to the chart with sticky notes, all you have to do is simply move the sticky note from the "K" section to the "Misconception" section.

Providing space to record misconceptions can take KWL Charts to the next level. Plus, your students will LOVE learning and using the word "misconceptions!"

Remember, feel free to leave some of that slightly inaccurate information right where it is in that "K" section. Give students room to learn and adjust their schema. It's all part of a pretty awesome process!