What is a KWHLAQ chart?

A KWHLAQ chart is an extended version of the very popular KWL chart. Both are teaching tools that help to organize thoughts and ideas, before, during, and after a learning exercise. First, students identify what they know about a topic. Then, they think about what they want to research or learn. After the lesson, they then reflect on what they have learned.

KWHLAQ asks the following questions:

  • K – What students already KNOW about a topic?
  • W – WHAT students want to learn or find out?
  • H – HOW they will research or find the information they want to learn?
  • L – What students have LEARNED about the topic after taking action?
  • A – How will students APPLY the knowledge they’ve learned?
  • Q – What QUESTIONS they still have or have thought of as a result of the learning exercise?

Who should use a KWHLAQ chart?

A KWHLAQ chart is useful for both group and independent learning and formative assessment. Teachers and trainers can use this technique to create customized, student-centric lesson plans while still linking to a curriculum or organizational learning goals. Independent researchers can use the model to organize their ideas and keep track of their progress.

Because the KWHLAQ methodology presents information as a sequence of scaffolded steps, it is especially useful for visual, young, and ESL learners.

KWHLAQ template

Why do a KWHLAQ chart?

The KWHLAQ chart is a simple but effective instructional technique which puts the student at the center of inquiry-based learning. In addition to the benefits of the basic KWL Chart, the extended version:

  • Provides teachers with valuable information as to what students already know about a given topic (diagnostic assessment).
  • Builds collective learning by helping students to learn from each other (peer-to-peer learning).
  • Enables teachers to create more enjoyable lesson plans that address the interests, questions, and needs of the students
  • Creates interest and curiosity and encourages students to expand their ideas beyond the lesson or training provided in the classroom environment.
  • Facilitates a more authentic experience by asking them how they will apply their knowledge.

KWHLAQ chart template

What I KNOW

Identify what the students already know. Complete before planning and delivery of the lesson.

What I WANT to know

Investigate what students want to know. Reinforce that knowledge gaps are not a deficiency but an opportunity to grow. Complete before planning and delivery of the lesson.

HOW will I find out

Assess strategies, resources, and tools available to help find the answers and create a plan. Complete before research or delivery of the lesson.

What I LEARNED

Information about what the students have learned. Complete during and after delivery of the lesson.

How I will APPLY this knowledge

Develop a list of how they can apply their new knowledge. Complete after delivery of the lesson.

QUESTIONS I still have

Identify questions that remain and new questions that arose as a result of the exercise. Complete after delivery of the lesson.

 

How to use a KWHLAQ chart

Set topic

Define the topic of the KWHLAQ chart.

Brainstorm (KWH)

Write down everything you know and want to know about the topic, and how you can learn.

Review (KWH)

Review results, discuss and prioritize.

Run Lesson

Students do the research, or the lesson is delivered.

Brainstorm (LAQ)

Write down everything you learned about the topic, how you will apply this knowledge, and any questions that remain.

Review (LAQ)

Review and reflect on the results, discuss.

Set the topic for the KWHLAQ exercise and define the objective and the scope. Discuss how the students will benefit from learning about the topic and why it’s important. Introduce information, concepts, and questions/prompts that could help students with the brainstorming process.

Students brainstorm what they already know about the topic in the “What I KNOW” column of the KWHLAQ template. This is a wonderful opportunity for students to share their current knowledge.

Students then consider what more they would like to discover about the subject and fill out the “What I want to KNOW” section of the KWHLAQ table. Teachers can also suggest those areas they hope students will learn by adding ideas to the list.

Ask students to populate the “HOW I will find out” column with ideas about how they will find the answers they need. This might include brainstorming Google Search Terms about the topic, questions to ask a person or ideas for experiments to test for understanding. This is a perfect way to check for student comprehension and to give them more guidance as to how to find reliable and accurate information.

Tips

Decide if students will brainstorm individually or collaboratively
Developing a single chart by gathering input from the whole group can be an engaging and interactive experience. However, if the objective is to create individual plans and provide each student with their own space to think without peer pressure, then set the brainstorming style to individually complete independent charts.

Decide if students will brainstorm anonymously or not
Access to an online tool such as GroupMap gives the teacher the ability to make contributions anonymous so that students can express their ideas without fear or shame. It also allows students access to update at any time, allowing for timely reflection.

Promote higher order thinking by collating and sharing all the ideas with the group for discussion. Give feedback, address misconceptions, and ask clarifying questions.

Discuss what happens next. For self-study, the plan could include the format of their research conclusions, submission milestones, etc. For classwork and training, this might include schedules and pre-class preparation.

Tips

Decide if students will vote on the top ideas
A recommended step here is to ask students to vote on their top questions to help focus their time and activity. Students can vote for their choices with a simple thumbs up or can use a dot voting system to distribute one or more votes across a the collated lists.

Students can now research the information, or the teacher can run the lesson as needed. Teachers and trainers develop their lesson plans based on the needs of the students and the overall objectives. Independent learners study and conduct research in areas where they need to learn more.

After the learning phase, have students brainstorm what knowledge they have gained and complete the.”L-What I learned” column of the KWHLAQ chart. Ideally, by the end of the study, all the areas in the “W-What I want to know” have been addressed, any misconceptions in column “K- What I know” are clarified, and the students have acquired the knowledge of the subject they want and needed.

Students should try and identify how they will utilize their new knowledge and what actions they should take moving forwards. Depending on the topic and outcomes, students may be able to apply the new knowledge to other subject areas, or even their personal lives. Document these ideas in the “A-How I will Apply this knowledge” column.

Finally, ask students to identify those areas they still have questions about, and reveal any new questions that have arisen as a result of the learning exercise. These ideas go in the “Q – Questions I still have” column of the KWHLAQ template.

A group discussion and exchange of ideas will likely clarify some knowledge gaps.

Teachers can use the final consolidated chart to inform and improve future lesson plans.

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