KWL- A persistent challenge for teachers is to encourage students to be active thinkers while they read. Active readers make predictions about what they will be reading. Before they start, active readers consider what they already know about the story or topic. Then as they read, they confirm whether or not their predictions were on target. Active readers have an idea of what to look for, and when they are done, they evaluate what they have learned or experienced.

Many of our students are not active readers, and they are confused about what they should be thinking about as they read. KWL Plus (Carr and Ogle, 1987) is a technique that helps students take stock of what they know before they dive into a reading assignment.

Using KWL Plus with students will help them make predictions about what they will be reading by generating questions they would like to have answered. KWL Plus also helps students to organize what they have learned when they are finished reading.

KWL is an acronym which stands for Know, Want to Learn, and Learned. It involves using a three-column organizer with students, with a column for each category. The organizer becomes the students’ study guide as they read. The graphic organizer can be given to students as a worksheet or can be developed by the teacher on the chalkboard or overhead transparency.

Using KWL Plus involves the following steps:

SMART: (Self-Monitoring Approach to Reading and Thinking)
What is it about effective readers that sets them apart from students who struggle with reading? One major difference is that effective readers carry on an internal monologue while they read. It is as if effective readers operate with a split personality.

One personality is hard at work with the task at hand-reading a textbook chapter for instance. This is the personality concerned with cognitive activities such as selecting what’s important in that chapter, organizing this information in conjunction with what is already known, and preparing to answer a series of questions on the material. It is this personality that gets most of our attention as teachers. We are able to observe the student at work and assess the results. This is the student we see sitting at a desk, interacting with print.

But it is a second personality that separates effective from less effective readers. This second personality works in the background, directing and evaluating all those cognitive activities needed to successfully learn. This personality represents that “inner voice” that issues commands during reading: “Slow down! This is pretty tough going!” “Hold it here! This doesn’t make any sense. Better reread.” or “This stuff doesn’t look very important. I’ll just skim quickly over it and get into the next section.” Effective learners talk to themselves.

Researchers call this internal monologue metacognition-the ability to think about your thinking. Metacognition involves a self-awareness of what one is doing and how it is going. It also reflects an ability to switch gears and try something else when things break down, such as when a reading passage is proving particularly difficult. Ineffective readers approach print passively and continue to plow ahead, even if nothing is making sense. But ineffective readers can also be taught how to activate the control center in their minds that directs their learning.

For more information see Comprehension as Engagement.

SMART triggers students to think about how their reading is proceeding. (Vaughan and Estes, 1986). SMART is an acronym for a Self-Monitoring Approach to Reading and Thinking.

SMART is based on the premise that successful reading begins with the reader recognizing what he/she did and did not understand from a passage.

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