As outlined in Classroom Assessment in Action by Shermis and De Vesta, the KWL procedure accomplishes a variety of educational purposes. In my internship placement, I have the tendency to rush into material in order to cover a wide range of curriculum. Sometimes this urgency to dive into content without proper preassessment and a platform for questions can hinder the learning potential for students. The KWL procedure is an effective method to begin a unit and assess progress. Sherman and De Vesta state, “Instruction is sometimes viewed as a single event. It goes on for a class period or continues over many weeks as an ongoing event. However, more current views analyze instruction in terms of phases or stages, each phase with its own demands for instruction, student participation, and assessment” (Chapter 11). This highlights the importance of accessing prior knowledge, engaging students during their learning and evaluating after instruction, all phases encompassed in the KWL procedure.
My mentor teacher and I utilized the KWL procedure several weeks ago. We were transitioning into our next text, The Absolutely True Diaries of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Before we handed out the novel, we wanted to evaluate students’ prior knowledge of Native Americans, including general background, history and modern developments. We selected a student to be the scribe for the class and call on students to fill-in the “what students Know about the topic?” We allowed students approximately five – seven minutes to record some information they know about Native Americans, and questions they have to further their understanding in certain areas/subjects. This not only provides useful information for the level of knowledge entering the unit, but it helps guide us as educators in order to align content with the interests of students.
Lastly, KWL procedures are only effective if educators follow-through with the entire process. This means systematically checking the KWL to note progress or discourse. At the very least, teachers should revisit the KWL at the end of a unit to see if students were provided the information they desired. If not, this presents an opportunity to cover that material. This not only involves covering more content, but displays to students that the educator listens and genuinely cares about their interests.