KWLs serve many purposes in the early childhood classroom. They are a great way for children to think about what they know (or think they know) and for them to voice their opinions and ideas about what they want to know. It provides direction and meaning for an emergent curriculum and stimulates creative teachers as they go about their planning.
I also like a KWL as a means of communicating with parents/families about what has been happening during their child’s day in child care. It provides a format for children to talk to their parents about their school, what they do, who they do it with and what they learned. A KWL can be the basis for a conversation at home.
If you have never completed a KWL with the children, it is quite easy. Using a topic of inquiry (this can be anything the children are interested in exploring and learning about) have the children brainstorm things they already know about the topic. These may be broad ideas or very specific concepts. You write down all of their ideas under the “K”. You then ask the children what they want to know more about the subject. You write all of these ideas down under the “W”. This list provides a detailed map for exploration. Once your have explored all of the ideas on the list, the children can tell you everything they have learned. This list is put down under the “L”.
Usually, a KWL is written on a large piece of tag board that is left in the classroom for the duration of the exploration. All you have to do is copy it down on a regular sheet of paper and copy it for the families. If parents have never seen one before, you can write a simple cover letter that explains the goals and purpose of a KWL with a few talking points for families to use with their children. You may find this to be a great way to communicate with families in another meaningful way.