A new day, a new thing

My goal to learn something new every day

Day 73: KWHL charts

Today, I attended a small conference in the city of Gwangju, which is in the south west of Korea. One of the talks I got the chance to see was by Hyeong Jun Chae on Moving Learning Forward in the Korean EFL classroom. I’ve known Hyeong Jun, who is an elementary school teacher at a school near Daegu, for a while after meeting at the monthly reflective practice group we both attend. This was, however, the first time I got to see Hyeong Jun present.

His talk drew on Vygotsky’s ZPD, and was about helping his students move from what they can do now, through the what they can do with help (ZPD) to reach their potential. Hyeong Jun is a proponent of using graphic organizers in class, and recently wrote a magazine article on his experiences with them, which I’d like to share with you, but unfortunately the digital copy of the magazine is not available online yet. For anyone in Korea, who may have access to it, it was the Winter 2014 edition of TEC.

During Hyeong Jun’s talk, he mentioned KWL charts. You can search Google to find lots of different examples and posts about them (or have a look here for an example). But essentially a KWL chart is a simple three-column chart with the headings know, want to know, learned. Students complete the know and want to know columns before doing an activity, such as a listening, and then afterwards complete the learned section with new information that they’ve found out. I use this type of activity a bit in my classes, especially when reading news articles, although it normally takes place as more of an informal chat after reading the headline, but before reading the text.


However, during Hyeong Jun’s talk today, he suggested a modified version of the KWL chart, which I’d not seen before. It was a KWHL chart. The additional ‘H’ stands for how, as in ‘How can we find out what we want to learn?’ This was not something that I’d thought about before, but searching Google, it appears that it often comes up in discussions of KWL charts.


I’ve obviously not used KHWL charts yet, but I do really like the idea of introducing the how section when asking students to research a new topic. It puts the control more in their hands, and lets them take more responsibility for their learning. The how section encourages them to plan their learning more effectively by thinking about the resources they will use to find out the information they want to know. I think it’s also a helpful reminder for teachers because often I’ll take something in to class, a reading perhaps, and expect students to read it. But what if (as the case often is) one of the things that the students want to find out is not covered in the text? Surely, from the students’ point of view, the whole exercise of discussing what they want to find out it pointless then, if they’re not actually going to go and find out.

I’ll reserve judgement for how well the additional how column works for now, until I have a chance to try it, but it’s something I can see as being useful, and I’ll be particularly interested in seeing what ideas the students come up with  that perhaps I hadn’t thought about before.

5 comments on “Day 73: KWHL charts

  1. Zhenya
    March 15, 2015

    Hi David

    Thank you for this post: I love KWL charts and have used them on courses for teachers in Korea. I have never tried the ‘How’ part and agree that it is a good step towards more autonomy for the learners (or the learning teachers) I am wondering if using the ‘How’ part can be either ‘how I will find out’ or ‘How can/could I find out’ (to avoid a potentially defensive ‘I don’t know’ in reply) Would be great to read about how your experiment goes with the language students!

    Keep this great blog – learning a lot together with you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • David Harbinson
      March 17, 2015

      Hi Zhenya, thanks for your comment. I think the idea of the ‘How could/can I’ sounds like it would open up a lot more suggestions from students, and I think that’s something that I might like to give a go. I have a class tomorrow that I could use this with, so I’m hoping to give it a go then. I’m just hoping that the students don’t get put off by the sudden change in routine, it might take a bit of time getting used to.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Josette LeBlanc
    March 16, 2015

    Zhenya, I was happy to find your comment here because as I was reading, I was thinking about our recent discussion about “knowledge” vs “awareness”. I started visualizing ways to use this KWHL chart as a kind of course feedback-loop of sorts. So instead of using the chart with a reading, they would use it with certain goals set forth in the course. This helps me learn what they know already about that goal, what they want to know, how they might enjoy learning about it, and finally, what did they learn.

    David, thank you so much for putting this out there at the perfect time for me. You are really helping me visualize this course. I also want to thank HyeongJun. I only saw him at one RP meeting. I hope you have a way of sharing your post with him. 🙂

    And as Zhenya said, love the blog. Such a great idea. We’ve just seen live learning happen right here thanks to it. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • David Harbinson
      March 17, 2015

      Hi Josette, thanks for the comment and for reading. I love how you are able to see this and adapt it for what you do! And I too am thankful to Hyeong Jun for sharing it.

      Anne, Hyeong Jun and I had a good chat at the January RP meeting, and Hyeong Jun has said that he is planning to join us this Sunday as well, so you’ll hopefully have a chance to thank him yourself 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Revising KWL Charts | ELT Blog.net

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This entry was posted on March 14, 2015 by in ELT and tagged , , .


March 2015

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