KWL Chart Template

kwl chart

Anyone can read a passage of expository text. However, that doesn’t mean they will benefit from it or retain that information for long, which is problematic. Especially if the data is necessary, or there will be a test later, it becomes essential to recall what you read, but how do you ensure that students can do that? Using a simple tool like a KWL chart can significantly affect how much students remember because it turns reading into a more active and interactive experience.

By asking the reader to express what they know about the topic and what they want (or need) to know, it puts them in a mental space where they seek more complete information. After reading, students can input everything they’ve learned from what they read, whether it answers their original questions or brings new insight. Completing the process helps the reader comprehend and quantify the information they’ve just taken in, which makes it easier to visualize what the text was about and why that information is significant in a more memorable way.

What is a KWL Chart?

A KWL chart is a graphic representation or table used for learning, specifically in reading, though it can be applied to other data like the scientific method. The letters stand for Know, Want-to-know, and Learned. This chart helps people understand and retain information about various topics by organizing it into a more accessible format for visualization.

KWL Meaning

The KWL meaning, Know, Want-to-know, and Learned shows the process for comprehension. First, students write out what they know or already understand about a book or topic. Next, they list relevant facts they want to know or learn. Doing this helps you focus on the questions you are seeking information for when reading. Finally, the learned column is like taking notes because it helps students organize everything they recall about what they’ve read.

Is KWL an Active Learning Strategy?

KWL is an active learning strategy. This simple data collection and assessment tool helps students learn to think critically. Just as important, this type of chart can help with understanding and memory. By creating an interactive chart, students become more than passive readers. They must consider what they know about a subject and what they need to learn from studying it further. Ultimately, it helps them understand how to find information to answer their own questions.

Free Editable KWL Chart Template

The KWL chart template below will help you use this learning tool. At the top of the page, there is space for the student’s name and date. Below that, in large print, it should say KWL Chart. 

Below the chart name, is a place for the topic. This can be the subject a student is studying or even the title of a book they are reading, so long as it allows them to keep track of which sheet they are using for a given assignment. The title shows what the student is working on. Much like professional paperwork used in other aspects of adult life, the title makes the document accessible for filing and identifying at a glance.

Finally, there is a simple three-column chart labeled K (What I Know), W (What I Want or Need to Know), and L (What I Learned). 

Pro Tips for Creating Better KWL Charts

The easiest way to create a good KWL Chart is to use a professionally designed pre-formatted template like the one we offer. Downloading and using these documents is incredibly simple and can be done at the push of a button. Moreover, using our refillable, reusable templates will reduce wasted time. You can easily modify and customize them in MS Word, Excell, or a compatible open-source writing program like Open Office. Below are a few more tips for creating a better KWL chart.

  • Don’t Overcomplicate Things- The KWL chart doesn’t need a bunch of extra steps or additional information. Part of its effectiveness is in its simplicity.
  • Make It Interesting- If you are working with younger students, you may want to use a fun but easy-to-read font or add a little color to your sheets.
  • Set a Minimum- Ask your students to write a minimum number of questions in the W column.
  • Encourage Discussion- To engage students further and help them retain the information, have students work in small groups or engage the whole class in a conversation about what they put in each column.


Although a KWL chart is very straightforward, you may still have a few questions. Below we’ve answered the most frequently asked questions asked by people seeking information on how to create these uniquely effective charts.

What are the three steps of the KWL reading method?

The three basic steps are to fill out the first two columns, read and then fill out the final column. We’ve broken this into four simple steps below to help you give clear directions to students.

Step 1: Consider the topic and write down everything you already know or understand in the first column.

Step 2: Now add your questions. What do you hope to learn or understand better by reading about the subject?

Step 3: Read the text.

Step 4: Write the answers to your questions from the W column and any additional information you learned from reading.

Is a KWL chart critical thinking?

A KWL chart is a method of promoting critical thinking created by Donna Ogle in 1986. Critical thinking is a process that asks the student to provide objective analysis. Doing this allows them to come to a sensible conclusion, as demonstrated in the KWL chart, by first writing what they know and need to know. Then after reading, add what the student learned to answer questions and make a judgment call about the intention and information presented.

Is a KWL chart an assessment?

A KWL chart is an assessment in two ways. First, a teacher can look at what students know or believe they know about a topic and assess their questions and answers to keep on top of how well they are learning the subject and the thinking skills needed. Secondly, it is an assessment students do of the information presented to them.

When should KWL be introduced?

KWL is most beneficial when introduced between grades 3 and 8. This is the age when most students will benefit from this type of critical thinking and analysis. However, some advanced students may be able to utilize the chart sooner effectively, and older students may still benefit from this type of organized assessment later.

Final Thoughts

A KWL chart is a superb and accessible tool for early learning. Students become more active participants in their own learning and reading by organizing their thoughts and carefully considering what they already understand and what they need to ask. Choosing an active, critical-thinking activity to go along with any reading assignment fosters better understanding. It allows students to understand better and remember essential facts about what they read. Our KWL template is ideal for students of all ages and helps busy educators quickly create the documents they need to hand out in class with no wasted time.

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