Designing Effective Projects : Tapping Prior Knowledge
Know-Wonder-Learn Charts


Learning About Know-Wonder-Learn Charts
A Know-Wonder-Learn (K-W-L) chart is one of the most commonly used graphic organizers to tap learners’ prior knowledge. This simple chart activates learners’ prior knowledge by asking them what they already know about a particular subject. This allows the learners to make personal connections before the content is deeply explored. The learners brainstorm their ideas on the Know section of the chart. Then the learners independently or collaboratively brainstorm questions they have about the content in the Want to Learn section. Once learners begin to answer these questions during a project, they record this information on the Learn section of the chart.

By using this chart, learners are constructing meaning from what they’ve been learning, comparing their new knowledge to what they already know, and are able to clarify their ideas. This also keeps learners focused and interested in the content and is a way to keep track of what they are learning. Ultimately, the chart could be used as a document for an assessment portfolio to show what the learner has learned.

A K-W-L chart can be used across the curriculum at any grade level. It can be used to start a new section of work or project and referred to throughout the process. It is usually not a marked document but rather a place for learners to write down their ideas and questions without the fear of being judged or marked. This chart also helps with learner organization and can be a starting point for peer-to-peer or whole-class discussion. It is, however, a document that is used by the teacher during diagnostic assessment, to establish prior learning.

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

What I Know:  

A cheetah eats antelope.
What I Want to Know: 

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?
What I Learned:

Cheetahs will run at 120 km/h 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.

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