KWHL grids are great way to elicit children’s thoughts on a subject, what they already know, what they do not know or have misconceptions about and what they would like to know. Ward (2016) stresses the importance of encouraging children to question the world around them to develop their understanding of it. Ward (2016) explains how using KWHL grids are an effective tool, even as a starting point to gauge what your students know and need to learn about the unit they will be studying. I have used Ward’s ideas from Ward (2016) and my own understanding of KWHL grids to create the following ‘pros and cons’ chart for this useful teaching tool.
• KWHL grids are a great way to activate prior knowledge about a new unit of study.
• Including students from the very first point of a new topic will more likely maintain their engagement throughout the unit.
• KWHL grids can be used as a whole class or as an individual activity. One large one displayed on a working wall throughout the unit for example or individual ones in workbooks.
• Helps teachers assess student progress from the beginning of the unit to the end.
• One of the few methods that really allows the children to take ownership of what they want to learn and ask themselves how they can find this out.
• Simple way to identify misconceptions at the beginning of a topic
• Students may become more interested in the topic if they have generated their own questions to investigate.
• Quick assessment tool for teachers to view and see children’s progress during and at the end of a unit
• Students can self-assess their own learning and progress from the what I know to the what I have learned stages
• If a student has no prior knowledge or struggles to remember this could be a deterrent to work, they may give up before the topic has begun
• Wards (2016) highlights how younger children tend to ask many questions, but older children may find it challenging because as we get older questioning is not as encouraged as freely and often. This can be overcome by giving older children some examples of questions and discussion as a class.
I used the KWL (error on my part that I did not include the ‘H’ How I will find out?) as a starting point for my year 4 Water cycle unit of study. We filled in the ‘K’ What I want to know on the first day without any class discussion first, I wanted to find out what they had retained from year 3, see could they activate their prior knowledge. The results were mixed, but I was largely impressed. Most students were using terminology linked to requirements of year 4 National Curriculum of science. Sc4/3.1c identify the part played by evaporation and condensation in the water cycle and associate the rate of evaporation with temperature. http://www.primarycurriculum.me.uk/year4/science
I have included some examples of the grids my class produced to support my ideas on using KHWL charts.
I found out that an important requirement for success in using these grids to elicit the learner’s ideas is, to know your learner. Looking at Fig.1 for example, this may not seem of much significance to someone who hasn’t worked with this child, however, this student struggles (often refuses) to produce written work in any subject, so to have his first section written out with this much, even without studying the content, is an achievement in itself. This taught me that by allowing this student the freedom to write what he already felt he knew and to ask his own questions without restrictions, worked in engaging him to participate, he was clearly engaged in this task.
Fig.2 is an example of how the grid allowed me to address a possible misconception and the need to use scientific vocabulary. This pupil talked about the water cycle going in a ‘circle’. I became aware that before even talking about the water cycle that some children needed clarity on the term cycle itself and to get them familiar with using this term. The students continues in her questioning, ‘when does the water start?’ Again highlighting the need to address what a cycle is, continuous no start or finish, so that her understanding of this as a process is clear.
Fig.3 questioning of, “How do clouds make shapes?” provides a good example of one of those questions not related to the requirements of the National Curriculum, or any of the notes I had in my lesson plan!! and for a moment had me thinking never to use these charts again because of my own failure to be able to always provide an answer on the spot! However, this is part of the importance of the questioning learning process, not all questions will be investigated or perhaps answered when using the KHWL chart but they still have a place.
KWL grids can be daunting as a teacher because they do allow for questions you may not be ready for to arise. From my experience, when using them again, I will try to think of all eventualities to at least try and have an answer or a better suggestion for how the learner could possibly find an answer for the query themselves, if only for the very reason to not discourage them asking questions in the first place. I never want a child to think a question they have asked is not ‘right’ to ask. As Ward (2016) states, the questioning process is an important way to learn that some questions can be investigated and answered, answered in a different way or perhaps there are questions that do not have an answer, nevertheless, the question itself is an important role in developing understanding of any topic.
Activites (2) the progression of scientific skills
When comparing the information detailed in the tables of ‘progression of procedural understanding in KS1 and KS2″,’ presented in Ward (2016) one of the key differences for me with learners of the early stages, in contrast with children in the later stages, seems to be the amount of adult support required. The early key stages require much more scaffolding from their teacher or supporting adult in their learning experiences, especially for example, in the reception years. Ward (2016) notes how in, methods of working, ‘adults scaffold the activites.’ (Ward, 2016, p. 82). Early learners are set questions, building up to raising their own from year 1. In the early stages the teacher and learners collaborate more in brainstorming, raising and answering questions, they work together choosing variables and activites are explicitly modelled by the teacher. From the table you see that from year 2, younger learner’s progress to more independent learning, for example, ‘independent usage of some equipment and smaller groups working on their own investigation’. (Ward, 2016, p. 82-83). As the learner progresses through the key stages, the learning process becomes less teacher and more learner involved. Scaffolding decreases in replace of a more independent form of learning. By year 6, ‘scaffolds removed’, pupils in this age group self-select equipment based on previous experience, test questions as a result of their own ideas, select their own variables. (Ward, 2016, p. 84).
I feel this video supported the difference of progression of skills between the early and later key stages discussed in the previous task. We see in clip one a lesson with 5-6 years exploring light. The lesson is teacher lead, questions, answer and activites scaffolded by the adults, questioning coming from the teacher not the student, the teacher in her questioning aiming to elicit vocabulary, so much so as, in want for a better phrase, put the word their mouth. In contrast in the next clip, we have students in year 6, posing questions to the teacher and explaining their findings. kibble (2006, cited in Peacock et al. 2017 p.15) defines progression in conceptual understanding as, “children moving away from descriptions to explanations”,” this was seen in the video when the teacher allowed the children time to discuss and explain with pair partners what and why they had discovered what they had today in their results.
After viewing the clips provided by Teachers TV, I would say that three of the lessons I witnessed had very similar styles and one stood out very differently. Similarities of the other lessons being the lesson is teacher led, we have groups working together, a range of equipment relating to the topic of study, in one lesson the teacher is asking questions to elicit children’s understanding and in the other clip, older children’s explanations allow the teacher to gauge this. In clip three however, we have an outside expert providing most of the instruction, children are working individually making their own records, we have a competitive nature at the end of the lesson, seems to be no written work diagrams or discussion to conclude the lesson and its findings. The third lesson, in my opinion the most intriguing was extremely practical. Peacock et al. (2017, p.9) states that, ‘practical activity is understood to be the most effective approach in science education.’ Judging by the children’s response during the lesson, parents on the panel and my own response to this extremely hands on lesson, I would have to agree. However, Skamp (2007, cited in Peacock et al. 2017), has argued that as much as practical science is important it cannot solely solidify the required depth of scientific understanding and he argues that scientific teaching needs to include a , ‘hands-on , heads-on, hearts-on’, Skamp (2007, quoted in, Peacock et al. 2017, p. 9). Approach. Not all understanding can be achieved by practical activity alone.
With regards to Parents views, they are of upmost importance. In my opinion, the ideal learning experience will involve teachers and any adult in care of a child, collaborating in supporting and encouraging the learning in school so to be continued into the home and vice versa. The panel in this video was made up of two professional parents. Their views highlighted some of the issues that arise by not involving parents more or the danger of dismissing their views. They explain how parents not knowing scientific vocabulary for example, can intimidate them in to avoiding scientific discussion at home. By communicating with parents, perhaps sending them out a weekly newsletter with brief explanations of the current topic, I have the school run website by netmums is a great place for a parent to get a quick over view of what their child is learning, providing such aids and involving parents in their child’s learning invites science into the home and allows for understanding t