I'm sure as teachers we have all done the old standby KWL chart, in various forms. I've written students' ideas on chart paper, or had them write it themselves. The problem with this is that you can't easily manipulate their ideas after they've been recorded (although I have cut them apart and then sticky tacked them to another paper!). I've had them write on sticky notes so that we can rearrange the notes in a different layout later. The trouble with sticky notes is that they lose their stick after awhile, and the heat exchange system in my classroom created such a breeze that we were often collecting them from around the classroom! Padlet.com is the answer to these problems.
Padlet (used to be known as Wallwisher) is like chart paper for the web. Once you've created an account (it's free!), create a wall and give it a name, using the settings along the right hand side of the screen. If you like, you can customize the url so that students can easily type in the address. Or, if you prefer, Padlet creates a QR Code for your wall immediately, so you could just project the QR Code and have students scan it with their iPad or other smart device. I would have my computer hooked up to the LCD projector so that everyone can see what's going on.
Now students can add their own ideas to the wall by clicking somewhere on the wall. If you prefer, you can have students give their ideas to you and you type them (which may be easier for younger students). The picture above is the beginnings of our Arctic unit. I asked the students what they thought of when they heard about the Arctic. Once we have several ideas, the next step is to ask the students what they wonder about the Arctic. Then we sort our ideas. As the moderator, I have access to everyone's sticky notes, and can move them around on my computer.
Here is another wall that we worked on together when we were learning about Australia. We did a class wall together, and then the students each created their own in preparation for their partner projects. I like using the heading "What We Think We Know," instead of "What we Know," because sometimes students' ideas are incorrect. After we have the first two columns created, we do some research, and then revisit our wall. Now we look at our "What We Think We Know" sticky notes, and if we've confirmed that this idea is correct, then we move it to a new column entitled "Confirmed." If we discover that the idea is actually a misconception ("I hope we make some mistakes, because that's how we learn!), we correct it and add it to the "New Information" column. I love this KWL version. I read about it in Tony Stead's book Reality Checks: Teaching Reading Comprehension with Nonfiction.
Padlet.com has some other nice features as well:
Travelling Curriculum Support Teacher