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K-W-L (Know, Want to Know, Learned)


K-W-L (Ogle, 1986) is an instructional reading strategy that is used to guide students through a text. Students begin by brainstorming everything they Know about a topic. This information is recorded in the K column of a K-W-L chart. Students then generate a list of questions about what they Want to Know about the topic. These questions are listed in the W column of the chart. During or after reading, students answer the questions that are in the W column. This new information that they have Learned is recorded in the L column of the K-W-L chart.   


The K-W-L strategy serves several purposes:

  • Elicits students’ prior knowledge of the topic of the text.
  • Sets a purpose for reading.
  • Helps students to monitor their comprehension.

How to use the K-W-L strategy

  1. Choose a text. This strategy works best with expository texts.

  2. Create a K-W-L chart. The teacher should create a chart on the blackboard or on an overhead transparency. In addition, the students should have their own chart on which to record information. (Below is an example of a K-W-L chart.)












  3. Ask students to brainstorm words, terms, or phrases they associate with a topic. The teacher and students record these associations in the K column of their charts. This is done until students run out of ideas.

    K Column Suggestions

    • Have questions ready to help students brainstorm their ideas. Sometimes students need more prompting than, “Tell me everything you know about _____,” to get them started.

    • Encourage students to explain their associations. This is especially important for those associations that are vague or unusual. Ask, “What made you think of that?”

  4. Ask students what they want to learn about the topic. The teacher and students record these questions in the W column of their charts. This is done until students run out of ideas for questions. If students respond with statements, turn them into questions before recording them in the W column.

      W Column Suggestions

    • Ask an alternative question for generating ideas for the W column. If, in response to “What do you want to learn about this topic?” your students are either having trouble coming up with ideas, or are saying, “nothing,” try asking one of the following questions instead:

      “What do you think you will learn about this topic from the text you will be reading?”

      Choose an idea from the K column and ask, “What would you like to learn more about this idea?”

    • Come prepared with your own questions to add to the W column. You might want students to focus on ideas in the text on which the students’ questions are not likely to focus them. Be sure not too add too many of your own questions, however. The majority of the questions in the W column should be student-generated.

  5. Have students read the text and fill out the L column of their charts. Students should look for the answers to the questions in their W column. Students can fill out their L columns either during or after reading.

    L Column Suggestions

    • In addition to answering the W column questions, encourage students to write in the L column anything they found especially interesting. To distinguish between the answers to their questions and the ideas they found interesting, have students code the information in their L columns. For example, they can put a check mark next to the information that answers questions from the K column. And they can put a star next to ideas that they found interesting.

    • Have students consult other resources to find out the answers to questions that were not answered in the text. (It is unlikely that all of the students’ questions in the W column will be answered by the text.)

  6. Discuss the information that students recorded in the L column.

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


Following is an example of a completed K-W-L chart that students might complete if they were reading a text about gravity.











It keeps us from floating around.

It makes things fall.

There is less gravity on the moon.

Isaac Newton discovered gravity.
What is gravity? 

Why is there less gravity on the moon?

How did Newton discover gravity?

What determines how fast something will fall to the ground? (teacher question)
Gravity is the force that pulls objects towards Earth. 

The amount of gravity there is depends on the masses of the objects involved. The moon is a lot less massive than the earth, so there is less gravity on the moon than there is on earth.

Air resistance determines how fast something will fall to the ground.


* The students’ question about Newton was not answered in the text. Students should be encouraged to consult other sources to find out the answer to this question.