The Concept/Question Board, the second cousin twice removed, to the KWL chart, is a required component of the Open Court Reading program. Some teachers don’t use it at all. Others have gotten good at putting them up but then they just kind of hang there like wallpaper, barely touched until the end of the unit when it is taken down and replaced with a new design.
On one side are concepts (what students know about the unit theme) on the other side are questions (what students want to know about the unit theme). What’s missing is a column on what students have learned from the unit. Instead of moving linearly like a KWL chart, the Concept/Question Board is circular in nature (or it should be) with questions being answered and concepts being questioned.
Here’s another analogy that works for me in understanding and reimagining how the board could work. It’s a community edited public display of knowledge about a particular topic. Sounds like…Wikipedia.
What’s interesting about Wikipedia is that because it is user edited, sometimes the information posted there is incorrect. But that’s not the most interesting part. What’s really interesting is that the community does not allow incorrect information to remain there. Over time, users correct information, add and delete information, and give that information a structure.
Here’s a time-lapse video of a Wikipedia entry about the London Bombings recorded in the 24 hours after the bombing. You will not be able to read the text but what you’ll notice is how the information is structured over time and information appears and is removed as new knowledge is gained. Text here has a life. It’s a living, breathing entity.
How does this apply to the Concept/Question Board?
We want the Concept/Question Board to be a living, breathing entity too.
Instead of monitoring students’ entries before they put them up, why not give responsibility for monitoring and editing the board to students.
Instead of only answering questions, why not teach students to monitor concepts and other people’s answers to questions for correctness as well.
Throughout the course of the unit students concepts about the theme should be changing and growing. While the Concept/Question Board is certainly not the only way that knowledge can be constructed about a particular theme, it is a public display of community constructed knowledge.
If you can teach your students to use it in this manner it can be a powerful tool.