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What I KNOW, THINK I know and WANT to know charts
What I KNOW, THINK I know and WANT to know charts

These know, think, want charts are a great way to activate learners prior knowledge and encourage them to set their own learning goals.

Caitlin Foran avatar
Written by Caitlin Foran
Updated over a week ago

At the beginning of a topic, get learners to fill out a chart with three columns/areas:

  1. What I know

  2. What I think I know

  3. What I wonder

Why use know, think, wonder charts?

These are a slight change on the more widely-known Know, Want to know, Learned (KWL) charts. In know, think, wonder, we're more focused on the beginning of a topic, rather than being filled out throughout. Creating these charts helps learners build on what is known, set their own learning goals (and therefore also identify gaps). These charts can also help facilitators fine-tune their content and guidance to strategically give more time to the areas of greatest need.


  • To elicit prior knowledge, ask open ended questions about the concept, such as: What makes communication successful? What makes plants grow? etc.

  • If particular concepts aren't suggested by learners, you could follow up with a list of the concepts they’ll come across and ask them where to place those concepts on the chart as well. This also is handy for giving learners a quick preview of what is coming up in the course.

  • Lookout for misconceptions, they make for great learning opportunities. If "misinformation" is suggested. Support learners to reframe the statement as a question and write it in the think column.

  • Use the hint field within a task to provide further prompts and questions to help learners complete their tables. For instance, concepts their likely to know, experiences their likely to have had etc.


  • Make a list of 5-10 statements related to your topic. Be sure to include some commonly held misconceptions. Ask learners to say which are true and which are false.

  • Ask students to just free-write what they already think or know about the topic for 2-3 mins.

  • Create a quiz of set of short tasks related to the topic that learners should be able to complete based on the prior knowledge you think learners are likely to have. Be sure to make the connections between tasks and this new topic, for instance, via the automatic feedback in tasks.

  • Use a misconception or discrepant event. Something they might have put in their know column, but is actually "incorrect". For instance, you might show learners an event that is contrary to what they would expect. This sets up cognitive dissonance which is a great springboard for learning as they seek to understand what happened and why. It also stops learners slotting concepts into where you (as an expert) know isn't where it "should" fit for best understanding of a topic.

  • Ask learners to reflect on their know column. For instance to further elaborate on or explain one item in their know column. Or explain how they came to know this thing.

  • Ask learners to reflect on their think column. For instance, ask them: Why do they only think they know this thing? How sure are they? What could they do to verify/discount it?

  • Ask learners to reflect on their wonder column. For instance, ask them: What/who would be your first port of call to find out this thing? What is it that interests you about this thing?

Make it social

  • Have learners co-create a chart. This could be face-to-face, in a video conference or using a collaborative tool like Mindmeister or Google drawings.

  • Have learners share or present their charts.

  • Ask learners to find another learner who knows something they don't. Then learners should ask that person to explain that thing to them (and how they know it).

  • Have learners present one aspect of their concept chart and explain it in detail.

  • Get learners to share charts and look at things like: In what ways are they similar/different? Is there concepts they forgot they knew that they can add now? Are there any "disagreements" about knowns that need to be resolved?

  • Ask groups of learners to agree on ‘5 things you know about...'

  • Group learners who disagree on something in the know column and see if they can work it out.

  • Group learner who share similarities in the wonder column and have them formulate a plan or next steps.

  • Give learners a pulse to poll them about true and false statements.

  • Have learners discuss a misconception or discrepant event before revealing the "answer".

Know, think, wonder charts are just one way of activating prior knowledge, be sure to check out the rest of the articles in this set.

  • Concept maps - Reveal the structure of learners' schema.

  • Image prompts - Use visual decoding to help learners make associations and recall concepts.

  • Simple story prompts - Help make concepts sticky by connecting it to simple stories.

  • Brainstorms - Help showcase the range of concepts within a topic.

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