IntelAssessing Projects : Gauging Learner Needs
Know-Wonder-Learn Charts


Tapping Prior Knowledge
A Know-Wonder-Learn (K-W-L) chart is one of the most commonly used graphic organizers to tap learners’ prior knowledge. The chart consists of three columns, one titled “Know,” another titled, “Wonder,” and a third titled, “Learn.” This simple chart activates learners’ prior knowledge by asking them what they already know about a particular subject and helps them to make personal connections before the content is deeply explored. Learners begin by brainstorming their ideas on the Know section of the chart. Then, independently or collaboratively brainstorm questions they have about the content in the Want to Learn section. Finally, as learners begin to answer these questions during the project, they record the information on the Learn section of the chart.

K-W-L charts require learners to construct meaning from what they’ve been learning, compare their new knowledge to what they already know, and to clarify their ideas. They also keep learners focused and interested in the content and provide a way to keep track of what they are learning. Ultimately, the chart can be used as a document in an assessment portfolio to show what a learner has learned.

K-W-L charts can be used across the curriculum at any grade level. They can be used to start a new project and referred to throughout the project. They usually are not a graded document but rather a place for learners to write down their ideas and questions without the fear of being judged. These charts also may help with learner organization and can be a starting point for peer-to-peer or whole-class discussion.

Example K-W-L Chart This sample K-W-L chart is from the Project Plan, African Adventure Safari.


K-W-L Chart
for the Cheetah

Write about what you know about your African animal. Then write questions about what you want to know. When we have finished the project, you can write about what you have learned.  

What I Know: What I Want to Know What I Learned
A cheetah eats antelope. 
How does a cheetah kill the antelope? Where do antelope live? How many antelope will a cheetah eat in one week? Do antelope ever escape from the cheetah?
Cheetahs will run at 120kph to catch the antelope. They find the antelope grazing on the African savannah. The cheetahs have to suffocate the antelope because they have small jaws and can’t kill in one bite.

< Return to Gauging Learner Needs