Topic Planning – KWL Sheets

Some of you might be preparing to start your first job soon with others looking forward to getting stuck into your next school experience. Within this waffle I’m going to talk about using a KWL sheet to support your planning and to involve the children more in the process. This encourages you to personalise the topic to the children within your class rather than just following a generic plan.

The National Curriculum provides us with what the children should be learning in a specific age range. This is statutory and needs to be followed. However, there are many skills, areas and questions associated with a topic that are not apparent within National Curriculum content. Often there would be questions or areas that that the children would like to know more about within a topic that was not considered within a National Curriculum. This was when the KWL sheet would be used.

Using a KWL sheet

One way to plan the children’s learning within a topic is to utilise a KWL sheet. This is abbreviated from “Know, What to learn, and learnt”. Essentially, it is a table that allows the child to demonstrate what they already know about a topic, what they would like to learn about a topic and then, once the topic is completed, what they have learnt. There are many of these available online, although the most effective ones are the ones your create yourself – especially of you can adjust them so that they reflect the topic – even if this is just some images of pirates for the sheet about pirates.

  • In the beginning – When starting a new topic, I would also introduce the KWL sheet at the end of the last topic or at the end of a half or term. This will allow me to take the information away when I am actually planning. This of course does not work at the beginning of a year, unless you have had a ‘transition’ time before the summer holidays, in which case, this activity can be introduced then.
  • Variety of recording – I always use a plain piece of paper with the three columns on. This encourages the children to record their questions/thoughts in any way they want. Often I would get spider diagrams or images that represent the children’s understanding of what they already know and/or the skills which they use within this topic. Within the second column – “What do I want to learn?” I encourage the children to present this in the form of questions. Remember this is just a form of recording, so help can be provided by adults to support the recording process – or the use of technology can be employed – as long as it does not detract from the information which is gathered.
  • What you want to learn? – These should have been recorded as questions so they can be collected and presented on the working wall ready for the duration of the topic. These can be written on post its (loads of different shapes are available) or even in speech bubbles which can be photocopied onto different coloured paper and then added to the display. Within the first week, you can also get the children to take photographs of each other which can be used to attach the speech bubbles to. These will also be reused throughout the year. These questions should then be used to plan the content of the topic – including any homework activities. This is very important since the children will need to recognise that their questions are being answered and that they are valued. Otherwise, they will feel that completing the initial work would be pointless.
  • Have we learnt anything? – Often, the KWL sheets are forgotten about by the time the topic has finished. It is important to ensure that referring to these become a regular activity through out the topic. Rather than only looking at the final column at the end of the topic, I would often use these after one or two sessions as an assessment for/of learning activity. This also demonstrated to the children what they were learning. The questions were also answered throughout and the answers displayed on the wall. Questions could be answered at any time, and often this would lead to ‘experts’ being identified within the topic – something that often would be referred to within the “Purple Book”. (something else that I need to waffle about at a later date)

    These sheets form a record of what the children have been investigating and learning about, as well as providing something for the children to look back on throughout the year to see what they have learnt. These can be used to create a stained glass window of the year’s activity (another forthcoming waffle post) at the end of the year. With the topic being ‘personalised’ to the children they can become more involved and engaged with the topic, as well as being able to reflect on their involvement to parents and visitors. Have a go at using the sheets for your future topics – send me any images or ideas you have or add them as a comment to this waffle.

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    Have fun and catch you later!