Strategy lesson: KWL
This lesson activates students' prior knowledge about famous North Carolinians and helps them organize thoughts and questions before they read biographies.
A lesson plan for grades 4–5 English Language Arts and Information Skills
Students will use KWL charts become active learners as they purposefully seek information about famous people from North Carolina.
Time required for lesson
- Chart paper
- Post-it Notes
- Fourth Grade Social Studies Textbook
- Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan In Pursuit of a Dream by Deloris and Rosalyn Jordan
- On the Court with Michael Jordan by Matt Christopher
- Amazing Athletes of the 20th Century by Mike McGovern
- Sports Illustrated for Kids. Volume 13, Number 8. August 2001.
Computer with internet access
- True/False Introductory Activity
- Teacher-created questions about Michael Jordan
Lesson One: 30 minutes
- What: “Today we begin our unit on biographies by learning how to use a KWL chart.”
- Why: “We use a KWL chart to organize the stuff we already know about a topic, the questions we have about that topic, or what we want to know, and finally what we learn as we research our topic.”
- How: Introduce the KWL strategy by explaining to students that when they begin to study new material, it is important to determine prior knowledge, or what they already know about the material. In this example, the new topic is the State of North Carolina.
- Display a KWL chart on the board. Explain what each initial stands for. Say: “What do you think the K stands for? (Pause for student response.) What I know. What does the W stand for?” And so on.
- “I will now model for you how I expect you to use a KWL chart. My topic today is North Carolina. I will begin by brainstorming all the information I know that is true about North Carolina.” Teacher thinks out loud and writes statements on the chart under K:
- North Carolina was one of the original 13 colonies.
- Raleigh is the Capital of North Carolina.
- A major industry is tobacco production.
- RTP stands for Research Triangle Park.
Teacher will ask for a couple of suggestions from the class. Information will be added to the chart.
- “Now, it is time to move to the W column, which stands for What I want to know.” Teacher thinks out loud and writes statements on the chart under W:
- What is the largest city in North Carolina?
- What is the state bird? flower? dog? tree?
- How did NC get its name?
- Where did the nickname Tar Heel come from?
- What are the major universities in North Carolina?
- What sport is NC known for?
Teacher will ask for a couple of questions from the class. Teacher will add these to the chart.
- “Now I will need to research these questions in order to answer them and put the information learned in the L column of the chart. I may utilize the resources right here in the classroom to do that. I can also do this research on my own. For example, let’s look at the question, what is our state flower? Where might I find this information? (Pause for student response.) I think I will use www.infoplease.com.” Teacher will model internet skills and take the class to the website where the information will be found using the keywords NC State Flower.
- Following the demonstration, the teacher says, “I could have used the social studies book. Let’s open our textbooks to the index and look up state flower.” The teacher models and finds the answer which is then put on the chart under the L. Using the resources listed above, the teacher will model the process by which information is found and answers are recorded on the chart paper under the L.
- Lesson Wrap Up: “Today I have demonstrated how to use a KWL chart to organize my prior knowledge, thoughts, and questions about North Carolina. Under K I listed what I already knew about this topic.” Teacher will choose a couple of statements from the K column to read.
“I then brainstormed questions that I wanted to know about North Carolina. Where was that information posted? Finally, I used resources in the classroom, books and websites, to investigate and research the questions I generated. I found the answers to these questions. Where was that information posted? Good readers use their prior knowledge, or the stuff you already know, to formulate questions to help you learn more. And the KWL chart is a good place to start.”
Lesson 2: 50 minutes
- What: “Today we begin to use a KWL chart in order to find out what you know about famous North Carolina people. We will also find out what you want to learn about them. When you study new material it is important to determine prior knowledge or what you already know about the topic.”
- Why: “KWL helps you brainstorm what you know about a topic and what you would like to know. At completion of the unit you can record what you have learned.”
- Display pictures of famous North Carolinians on the board. Number them 1-10. Have students number their paper 1-10. Give class 60 seconds to look at the pictures on the board. “Students, look at the pictures on the board. Now number your paper 1 to 10 and identify the famous North Carolinians that you know. I don’t want you to guess, so just concentrate on the ones that you absolutely know. You have 60 seconds. GO!”
- At the end of 60 seconds say: “STOP! Students, by a show of thumbs, how many of you absolutely know the identity of number 1?” Teacher counts and tallies on the board under the number of each picture. Teacher will count the tally marks and determine the most famous North Carolinian know by the majority of the class.
- “It appears that number 8 was the most identifiable. Who can tell me the name of this individual?” Pause for response. (Michael Jordan) “Now, lets complete a KWL chart on Michael Jordan.”
- Teacher removes all other pictures. Teacher places chart paper with column headings K W L on the board beside Michael Jordan’s picture.
- “Now, I am going to call on students to share what they know (teacher will emphatically circle the K on the chart paper) about Michael Jordan.” Students share what they know while teacher records information on the chart paper. At completion of sharing, the teacher will reread each entry under K.
- Teacher puts students into small groups with a designated recorder. In the groups, the students will come up with two questions about Michael Jordan. The recorder will write these questions on a Post-it note. Give the students three minutes to complete. “Take a moment to think about what you want to know (teacher will emphatically circle the W on the chart paper) about Michael Jordan. You have three minutes to come up with two questions your group would like to know. When the timer goes off, the recorder will post your group’s questions on the chart paper under W for what you want to know. GO!”
- After all questions have been posted, the teacher will read them aloud to the class. The teacher will review the resources available in the classroom that the students may use to answer their group questions. The class will have 30 minutes to research their questions. “Use the resources I have just reviewed to assist you in answering the questions you posted under W. You have thirty minutes to complete the two questions. You may begin.”
- At the end of the 30 minutes the groups will return to their seats. The recorder will post the answers they found to the L section of the KWL chart on the board. After all the postings have been made, the teacher will read the posted information.
- Lesson Wrap Up: “Today we have utilized a KWL chart to organize your prior knowledge, thoughts and questions about a famous North Carolinian, Michael Jordan. Under K you shared what you already know about Michael Jordan.” Teacher will choose a couple to share.
- “You brainstormed questions that you felt you needed to know and wanted to know about Michael Jordan. Where was that information posted?“ Finally, you used resources in the classroom, books, magazines, and websites, to investigate and research the questions you had. You came up with answers to these questions. Where was that information posted?”
- “Good readers use their prior knowledge, or the stuff they already know, to formulate questions to help them learn more.”
Lesson 3: 20 minutes
- What: “Today, we will practice the strategy called K-W-L. Remember when you use KWL you brainstorm information you already know, formulate questions about stuff you want to know, then research and answer those questions. (Hold up the demonstration KWL chart.) Today, independently, you will begin a KWL chart on a famous North Carolinian of your choice.”
- Why: Ask students to explain in their own words why using a KWL is a good reading strategy. “KWL helps you organize your prior knowledge, thoughts, and questions on a topic. Good readers do this kind of thinking and organizing to help them learn new things.”
- How: “Here are the pictures we used yesterday of famous North Carolinians. Please choose one that you have some knowledge of but are interested in learning more. Begin by filling in the K column of your chart followed by the questions in the W column. After you generate a number of questions, utilize the resources in the classroom, as well as, resources you may have at home, to answer your questions and post them under the L column.”
Teacher will carefully observe the students working independently on the KWL chart while taking notes regarding the completeness of the students’ chart. Additionally, the teacher will modify instruction and support based on individual student need.
This strategy was adopted from Reading and Learning Strategies: Middle Grades through High School by Susan Lenski, Mary Ann Wham, and Jerry L. Johns. It is called K-W-L and can be found on pages 28 and 29.
Our group thought this activity would provide greater motivation based on student realization of the knowledge they already have. We, additionally, incorporated the use of challenges, choices, and collaboration to motivate students to learn.
- North Carolina Essential Standards
- Information and Technology Skills (2010)
- 4.SI.1 Apply criteria to determine appropriate information resources for specific topics and purposes. 4.SI.1.1 Use various types of resources to gather information (including print and online media). 4.SI.1.2 Use relevant sources of information for an assigned...
- 5.SI.1 Apply criteria to determine appropriate information resources for specific topics and purposes. 5.SI.1.1 Use various types of resources to gather information (including print and online media). 5.SI.1.2 Use relevant sources of information for an assigned...
- Information and Technology Skills (2010)
North Carolina curriculum alignment
English Language Arts (2004)
- Goal 2: The learner will apply strategies and skills to comprehend text that is read, heard, and viewed.
- Objective 2.03: Read a variety of texts, including:
- fiction (legends, novels, folklore, science fiction).
- nonfiction (autobiographies, informational books, diaries, journals).
- poetry (concrete, haiku).
- drama (skits, plays).
- Objective 2.03: Read a variety of texts, including: