KNWS Chart


UDL 3.4 UDL 6.3

KNWS Chart is an organization tool in which students use a chart with four columns labeled "K, N, W, S" (i.e., K: “What information do I need to know?” / N: “What information is not relevant?” / W: “What is the problem asking me to find?” / S: “What strategy will I use to solve the problem?”) to break down word problems. First, the teacher models how to dissect information provided in a word problem using a large version of a KNWS Chart. After, students use personal KNWS Charts to analyze and solve a new word problem. Students fill in the chart after reading the problem, using the strategy identified in the “S” column to attempt an accurate solution. Lastly, students use KNWS Charts to discuss and compare solving strategies. Applying this strategy helps students learn and internalize an effective process while problem solving, and also provides support for visual learners or students that need help organizing thoughts.

Implementation Tips

KNWS Charts
Make or click [[ | here ]] to print a free version of a KNWS Chart for students to use. Prepare multiple copies of the chart so that students can use personal KNWS Charts to guide them while solving several mathematical or scientific word problems.
Create a large version of a KNWS chart on poster paper or on a whiteboard that will be visible to all students. Choose word problems that require students to think critically about the information provided (e.g., includes necessary and irrelevant information that students must navigate in order to solve).
Model this strategy using the large version of the KNWS Chart. Demonstrate using the chart as a step-by-step guide to analyze a problem (e.g., identifying criteria for the “K” column first, then the “N,” “W,” and “S” columns). Highlight the importance of rereading the problem and the information recorded on the chart.
Add guiding questions to each column of the KNWS Chart to provide additional support for students (e.g., Have you read the problem carefully? / Did you underline the facts that you need to solve the problem? / Does drawing a picture help you solve the problem?) or pre-fill some information on the chart.
Group Share
Allow students to share KNWS Charts in partnerships, small groups, or as a whole class. Highlight student exemplar charts and ask students to reflect on how the activity helped them understand how to solve a word problem. Have student brainstorm what other contexts KNWS Charts could be used for.
Building a Routine
Incorporate this strategy throughout math or science units to help students strengthen their problem-reading abilities and acquire efficient solving strategies. Encourage students to make inferences, predictions, and to ask questions while solving problems using a KNWS Chart.


Word Problem Analysis
To support students in reading and analyzing word problems, a teacher distributes KNWS Charts. Before beginning, the teacher reminds students to use the chart as a step-by-step process while solving the problem. Students work independently to identify what information is needed ("K" column) and what is not relevant ("N" column), adding these notes into the chart. Next, students individually decide what the problem is asking them to find ("W" column), adding this to the chart as well. Finally, students add the strategy they will use to solve the problem ("S" column). After students have solved the problem, the class regroups to share and compare their findings.
Modified KNWS Chart
In a science class where students are using a KNWS Chart to analyze how to calculate the number of neutrons in an element within a word problem, the teacher provides certain students with a modified version of the chart that includes some pre-filled information to offer extra scaffolding. In the “W” column, the teacher pre-fills information (e.g., “atomic number: \_\_\_\_” and “atomic mass: \_\_\_\_”) to guide students while filling in the information necessary to solve the problem. In the “N” column, the teacher includes two bullets to indicate that the student can omit two pieces of information while determining a solution to the problem.

Related Strategies