Schema Maps... a great alternative to KWL charts!

05 January 2016 / 2 comments
Hey everyone! Beth from Adventures of a Schoolmarm here. I hope you are enjoying your first week back in school. Show of hands... Who needed a NAP after work on Monday?!

Activating SCHEMA, or prior knowledge, is such a crucial part of helping students understand what they are reading about any topic. I have used KWL Charts many times to help my students record their thinking and learning about a new topic. But I've always had one issue with them...

What do you do when the kids think they KNOW something, but you happen to know it's totally wrong?!

Enter SCHEMA MAPS. I love schema maps for helping students record their prior knowledge and new learning. This tool helps students determine if their new learning is expanding on something they already knew or if it is brand new learning. They also help kids identify and address any misconceptions about what they thought they knew before the unit started. Schema maps have helped my students take their learning to new depths!

Schema maps are incredibly easy to implement. You don't really need any special tools other than sticky notes and possibly anchor chart paper.

Reserve a space for your schema map. This could be on anchor chart paper, your board, the wall, a window, etc. I love to include a picture of the topic with the map to help students visually connect their learning to the topic.

BEFORE reading anything new about the topic, record their schema on sticky notes. Write each schema statement on a new sticky note. This works best visually when all sticky notes are the same color. Make sure you write all of their schema statements on a sticky note, even if you know the statement is incorrect. This is not the time to address any misconceptions.

DURING the unit, record all new learning on a new color of sticky notes. Sometimes, their new learning is brand new learning and not connected to prior knowledge. However, other times the new learning will expand on their prior schema statements. In this case, you can move the schema statement under new learning, then attach the new learning sticky note to it.

DURING the unit, it is also important to constantly monitor and review the schema statements to look for misconceptions. Once a misconception has been discovered, move the sticky note to that part of the schema map and have a discussion with the students. What made that schema statement a misconception?

As you can see, schema maps are a really powerful tool to help students activate their prior knowledge, apply it to new learning, and synthesize it all together. It really takes their thinking to new depths! Go on... Give it a try!

If you would like to use the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. labels and photograph that I used in this activity, it is available as a FREE download. You may click here or on the photograph below.

If you are interested in more resources about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I have a set of leveled books that are perfect to implement in your guided reading groups. You can check them out here or click on the photo below! It has so many great resources that it is an absolute STEAL! 4 leveled books (color, black and white, and mini versions), graphic organizers, leveled flap books to differentiate, open-mind portrait, and more. Your students will be able to read about Dr. King no matter what their reading level.

Have a great month!


  1. Beth, Thank you so much for sharing! I can't wait to implement this with my first graders! I agree with you about KWL charts! It's always bothered me to write incorrect information on the chart. Thanks for you ideas!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! I love how the schema charts show the new learning and address misconceptions. It's also a fantastic idea to include a picture with your charts. I am excited to start using these ideas.


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