Teacher Toolbox Tip- Great Study/Reading Method-KWL


I like to give sporadic study skills tips (the last one was SQ3R) to help students become more efficient and effective at learning the material and preparing for evaluations and exams.  As a former middle school Language Arts teacher, I believe this strategy is especially helpful for fiction reading and non-text book material, but is very helpful for textbook based concepts as well (science, social studies, etc.)  Today’s tip is K-W-L….Know– what the student already knows about the subject- What– what the student wants to know- Learned– what the student has learned (Ogle 1986).  This exercise is intended to help students understand the material they are reading in class, and it can be used to work alone or in groups.  There are only three steps, so unlike more intense study strategies, this can be applied to younger learners as well.  In fact, I think that as a group and with strong teacher guidance, this exercise can be used with Pre-K and Kindergarten students.

Begin by putting the three elements into columns-

KNOW                   WHAT                        LEARNED

This way you can categorize each in an easy to read chart.  This is a good visual tool for students.

K stands for KNOW

  • This step helps set a purpose for reading and allows students to monitor their own comprehension.
  • Brainstorm about the subject.  For instance, if a student is studying a fiction novel, he can discuss what he might already know about the topic with other students, a tutor or a family member.
  • Review the book, related study materials, related readings, etc. that might help bring the material to life.
  • Record anything/everything that is known about the topic into the KNOW column.

W stands for WHAT

  • Come up with a series of questions about what one might want to know about the subject.
  • Again access a book, study guides, handouts, etc. to form questions about the topic and become more familiar with it.
  • Think about what might be important to learn about the topic.  For example:  it might be important to learn the story’s main characters.
  • Turn all statements and inquiries into questions.  For example- who are the main characters in the story?
  • Think about listing questions by importance.
  • Doing this will help students read with purpose and stay focused during study sessions.
  • Some example questions:
  1. Who are the main characters?  Oh- we did that one already ( :
  2. Why are they important?  What are important facts about each one?
  3. What is the author’s point of view?
  4. What are main events in the story?
  5. What is the main conflict?
  6. How do characters deal w/adversity/conflict?

L stands for LEARNED

  • Answer questions.  If the student cannot answer them- who can she go to for assistance?  Teacher, librarian, family member, study partner, etc.
  • Check answers against the W column to see if all have been answered.
  • Discuss important points with classmates and/or a family member.  Make sure all material on handouts, etc. has been covered.
  • Make up some “prediction” questions that might take learning to a more abstract level.  For example, “After the book ends, what happens to the main characters?  Why?  Discuss answers using information the student has already learned.

As a mother and teacher, I want to lead students (and my own kids) toward independence AND a life long love of learning.  In order to do that, I feel we need to equip them with tools and strategies so they have solid skills to fall back on and utilize when no one is around to assist them.  Helping children learn sound and structured study skills that they can apply to many areas of life….can’t you see how this concept could be applied to “life lessons” as well?….will move them one step closer to the independence we want them discover and embrace.

What works well for your kids?  Students?

Happy questioning!!!

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