Increasing Reading Using KWL Strategies for Students with Autism

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KWL and Reading Projects

Most students enjoy reading books or doing research on what’s happening in their own neighborhoods. The real world application of applying reading strategies greatly increases reading interest and skill levels. For students with autism, using KWL (What You Know, What You Want to Learn and What You’ve Learned) strategies can make reading more accessible and fun in the classroom.

When KWL is applied to reading a book or googling a search on the Internet on a subject of interest to the student, the results can be astronomical for students to show what they already know about the topic and increase their capacity to learn more about a topic that they’ve chosen. When students are able to read and research a topic about something of interest in their neighborhood, city or state, the book reports and the group projects will suddenly become more visually vibrant and the presentations more focused as autism students are able to work more collaboratively in increasing their reading capacity and social skills.

Mapping the Neighborhood Using KWL Strategies

Use the template below to create a fun and engaging class activity for students with autism. By allowing them to map their neighborhood using KWL strategies, teachers will find that they know more than what they’re showing in the classroom. By allowing them to read and do research on their own neighborhood, teachers can increase their reading and comprehensive skills. Read on to see how KWL strategies can map your autistic students' neighborhood and increase his/her reading skills in the process.

Mapping Seattle: A KWL Lesson Plan

K What You Know, W What You Want to Learn and L What You’ve Learned

Mapping Seattle, Washington: Your Neighborhood

What’s in your city or your neighborhood: Make a list of the fun attractions in your immediate neighbor (i.e., local parks, nearby schools, interesting neighborhood history, age of your house, fun facts on the street where you live and nearest community center). Students can use the Internet to research this information, conduct neighborhood interviews with neighbors who have lived in the community for a long time (parents can help by going with them to conduct interviews), and create a poster with defined topics researched and information gathered for each topic area clearly labeled on the poster board — posting neighborhood pictures would be great, so giving students a $9.99 camera to take pictures is another great idea for this activity.

Topic Areas:

  • Neighborhood Name: Greenlake Villa
  • Local Parks: Greenwood, Greenlake
  • Nearby Schools: Greenwood Elementary, Mercer Middle School, Nathan Hale
  • Interesting Neighborhood History: research history of Greenlake — major two mile walking trail around a man-made lake
  • Age of your house: Built in 1911, four previous owners; Your family has lived in the house for the past five years.
  • Neighbor Interviews: Start with the oldest neighbor and end with the youngest. Ask basic non-identifying questions such as “How long have you lived in the neighborhood?” and “What do you like best about the neighborhood?” and “Least?”

Have students create visual posters of what they have learned and then present their project to the class. Imagine how much reading students with autism will do in this active learning project. Students will be able to work on communication skills, collaborative engagement, writing skills, and research and reading skills. KWL strategies can be powerful learning tools in creating reading based projects for students with autism.

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