How to Use a KWL Chart for Preschool Learners

How to Use a KWL Chart for Preschool Learners
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What is a KWL Chart?

Preschooler learning about beans by The Little House (Montessori)/Wikimedia Commons (GNU)

The preschool teacher recognizes a KWL chart as a (usually) three-column graphical organizer of information. The initials stand for ‘what we know,’ ‘what we want to know’ and ‘what we have learned.’ In simplest terms, it presents the current status quo of understanding, invites asking of questions relevant to the topic and interesting to the students, and then it provides a visual field that summarizes information that has been given. A KWL chart for preschool is a must, since pre-readers are intensely visual and thrive on this kind of organization system for knowledge building.

How to Use a KWL Chart with Young Learners


It is important to draw the children into the learning experience buy initially inviting a class-wide sharing or pooling of knowledge. For example, if the teaching topic involves turtles, ask the children if anyone owns a pet turtle. Allow the children to share their observations. Other children may also know some turtle facts, either from personal experience, via second-hand knowledge or through observation on television or at an aquarium or zoo.


Before long, the collective knowledge is sure to spawn some questions. Sticking with the turtle example, a preschooler may know that the tortoise at the zoo eats vegetables but might wonder what the sea turtle likes to eat. These questions should be included under the W-section of the KWL chart and serve to shape the learning experience and the topics the preschool teacher emphasizes during instruction times.


When a question from the W-section is answered, the result should be placed under the L-section. There are two schools of thought when it comes to filling in the L-section. On the one hand, the preschool teacher may fill in this section as learning progresses. On the other hand, she may wish to wait until the learning unit is finished and then – similar to the initial fact finding for the K-section – allow a second brainstorming session to supply the information to place in the L column. Depending on the maturity of the preschoolers, it may be wiser to add to the L-column as learning progresses and then allow the children to assist in a recap of the learning that took place.

Finding a Basic KWL Chart Printable

You can generate your own KWL grod online. Access the Teach-Nology website, (a link is provided in the resources section), and fill in the teacher’s name, the subject, and the topic. The KWL chart generator does the rest. Alternatively, there is a printable KWL sample sheet here.

When filling out the class chart, use one to two words per line and augment them with visual clues. For example, for the answer to the question how turtles are born, add a picture of a hatching turtle. For the children’s individual charts – should the preschool teacher encourage this setup – suggest that the kids draw pictures that express their understanding of the lessons learned.

Why a KWL Chart for Preschool Makes Sense

When using a graphic organizer, KWL charts offer the opportunity for the youngest learners to share their personal knowledge and actively participate in shaping the learning process. It is a good choice for specific theme lessons. The preschool teacher will be wise to consider that one child’s ‘K’ might represent another child’s ‘L.’ This underscores that KWL chart learning not only takes place in the collective classroom setting, but also in an individualized manner.