K - W - L

 
        I just spent a rewarding and unusual week at school. I was there all week, but I was largely "off duty" as my student teacher took over all responsibilities for her solo week.

        Sheís very capable, so I knew the children were in good hands. And it also gave me an opportunity to see her combine not only what she has seen me do, but what she has learned recently in her university classes.

        When she taught a unit on plants, she began with a lesson many of us teachers use: the "K-W-L" chart. I reflected on the wisdom of using such a tool to get children engaged in learning.

        Itís really a simple concept. The "K" stands for what the children Know. In a group discussion, individual students shared what they already know about plants. Some children were already learning because they didnít have the knowledge that their classmates had.

        When learners take the time to think about what they already know, they undoubtedly continue by connecting new information to previous knowledge. This makes reading a thoughtful activity.

        It also encourages children to ask themselves if what they are reading makes sense. How can they retain information if it doesnít make sense? They must find or make ways for the material to be logical to them.

        The "W" represents what they Want to learn. This way, children donít enter a field of study following somebody elseís lead. They begin by considering what questions they have for which they would like to find answers.

        The "L" portion of the chart is reserved for the end of the study, as the "L" indicates what the reader has Learned. This is a crucial factor when a student reads or studies. It signals a time of reflection and can have three purposes:

  • The student reacts to what she read. This can take many different forms, including discussion, writing, or illustrating.
     
  • The student talks about what she remembers. We usually call this reading comprehension.
     
  •  The student puts this information to use.

        If parents understand this approach, perhaps they can put it to use when they are working with their children at home.

  

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