Graphic organizers -KWHLR chart

Most of us understand and value the use of graphic organizers. It’s real value lies in the fact that it encourages thinking skills. A skill that can be learnt. However, the real value lies in its use. Deliberate and frequent use. And that is what students need practice in. Graphic organizers are like maps. They are a visual representation of our thinking and understanding.

Why use graphic organizers?

  • Graphic organizers serve as mental tools (Vygotsky, 1962) to help the students understand and retain important information and relationships.
  • Helps identify key concepts and connect related concepts, build subject vocabulary, understand relationships leading to critical thinking.
  • For sequencing and organizing information, adding new knowledge to what they know. Making a map for future reference and recall.
  • Develop a skill that they can start using independently at home, school, in class, outside class, in college and workplace.

How to use one?

  • Start with a simple graphic organizer. Although different types can be used for different functions, it is better to start with a simple one.
  • Explain to the students why they are useful for learning.
  • Select one for your subject or specifically for a topic. Explain the structure of the organizer
  • Share with them a worked example
  • Share with them a partially worked example as you start your teaching asking students to fill in the blanks.
  • At the end of the topic, ask them to work in groups to complete one organizer. You can use this exercise as a formative assessment task.
  • Display the graphic organizers and organize a gallery walk. Ask groups to explain their organizers to their peers. Allow groups to improve on their organizers when they see and hear an interesting point made by the other groups.
  • Once they have received sufficient practice, encourage them to work individually on their organizers.


KWL chart is one of the easiest, very frequently used graphic organizer. The basic format is called the KWL and that in itself is a powerful model to use. You can add more elements to it depending on the skill building that you have planned for the students.

What is KWHL?

This graphic organizer allows students to recall their thinking in context to what they are learning, evaluate that thinking, set their new targets of learning and then state their new learning.


K stands for What they KNOW,

W for What they WANT to know,

H for HOW they will learn,

L for what they have LEARNT

you can also add a R …

R for RESOURCES used for learning

Making it K-W-H-L-R

What next?

  1. Identify the topic which you would like the students to research on. Ask them to write down the questions they may have regarding the topic in column W. These questions can help direct research work that can be given to students.
  2. Then ask them to write down what they know about the topic in column K.
  3. When students identify their research question for the topic, we can explain to them the possible ways they can research. They can write their research method in column H.
  4. They can then be guided to write about their new learning in column L.
  5. Column R can be used for documenting the resources they have accessed. This list can then be used to write the bibliography.
  6. KWL chart can be used as a working document and not just a chart to complete at the start and end of the topic. This chart can show the process of of learning and be used for formative assessment.

Format of KWHLR.



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