Improve Your Teaching with Bloom’s Taxonomy
Reading time: 14 minutes
This is a powerful tool you should be using to improve your homeschool teaching methods. This article will help you understand one of the fundamental building blocks used by expert teachers – learn about it and start using it. It will help answer these common questions:
- What are the best learning objectives for today’s lesson?
- What questions will I ask to promote deeper thinking?
- What level of thinking do I want to teach my child in this subject?
- What activities should I select today to teach higher level thinking?
Once you finish reading this, you will see learning differently and be able to make better decisions on learning activities and discussions you conduct. Use this as a template to periodically evaluate what and how you teach your lessons. Knowing this taxonomy will improve your confidence that you are teaching the right things in a proper sequence. This article also includes a fun memory exercise to help you recall the key points when you need them.
It seems that educators have an endless affinity for big words. A taxonomy is a nothing more than a classification system that arranges elements according to their relationships.
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a hierarchy of six thinking skill levels that describe Cognitive Development. The higher you take your kids in it, the more advanced their thinking. It has many applications.
Bloom’s Taxonomy provides a “quick reference” tool you can use to make decisions on-the-fly as you teach, and it can help you quickly decide what to do next to promote higher thinking.
- Use it to help you determine which level of thinking you need to develop next when you instruct; or use it to help you decide which questions you will be asking your kids as part of your next lesson.
- It’s also a helpful tool for planning your lessons and for deciding what kind of learning outcomes you seek. It’s an insightful and easy to understand tool that can make your teaching much more powerful.
- You can also use it to improve your everyday conversations with your kids. It can help uncover your child’s thinking about specific subjects. “What level of knowledge does my child have about something I want them to know?” It’s a great tool to better understand learning.
This model is not new, it originated in the 1950s, but it is still considered one of the most important conceptual tools for educators. What’s great about it is it’s easy to understand and use – you don’t have to be a professional educator to appreciate its value. Use it to guide your selection of classroom discussion techniques.
You can find the six categories of cognitive development in the pyramid below, starting from the simplest level of thinking at the bottom to the most complex at the top. This is an important sequence you should follow when teaching your children, with the bottom levels being normally mastered before you introduce the higher ones. In order to teach students higher order thinking skills, you must provide basic knowledge first.
For example, you shouldn’t ask kids to compare and contrast something if you have not taught them first to remember that information, understand it, and analyze it. Before you ask students to apply, analyze, evaluate, and extend what they are learning, you should make sure they have the basic facts, can clarify their understanding and practice recall.
This may seem intuitive, but you do want to use Bloom’s Taxonomy to pay attention to the progression as you teach up the pyramid. It can provide a good double check to your teaching plan.
Critical thinking exercises deepen students’ understanding and help them recall what they have learned. Bloom helps you determine when and how to promote this.
The two middle “A” levels are particularly important for promoting long-term retention by encouraging retrieval and recitation of information. Use the suggested activities to improve memory and recall.
I recommend you print out the Quick Reference Chart (also at the end of this article) and keep it as a handy reference when you are preparing for a lesson or trying to decide what types of questions you will be asking to promote deeper thinking. Feel free to share this with other parents.
Bloom’s taxonomy suggests you start at the bottom. Build knowledge and understanding of basic facts first, then progress upward. Examples are provided on the right of some of the things you might ask your child to do:
Note how the types of activities and questions change as you ascend the pyramid change as you promote and grow more advanced thinking in your kids.
How to Use Bloom’s Taxonomy
The list below summarizes the activities you encourage to stimulate learning at the six levels.
The Kitchen Journey – How to Memorize It
We think it is helpful to memorize the six levels so you can use the taxonomy without having to look it up – this gives you a way to “think on your feet” while teaching. Powerful teachers know how to deploy learning tools like this to improve their teaching.
To help you remember the six levels, I would like to take you on a Mnemonic journey through your kitchen to explore the six thinking levels from bottom to top. You can make this fun while you learn how to recall each level as a food item.
When we use images to remember things, we should try to picture the image as a video, not a still image, and also combine it with at least one more of our senses. These two actions will greatly enhance your recall. For example, at the first level of thinking “Remember” you will create your own video in your mind of you interacting with the peanut butter cup in your kitchen, and at the same time you will imagine the taste of the peanut butter cup. This helps you commit it to memory. The familiarity of your kitchen provides a link to something you already know, which also benefits future recall. The more senses you involve, the better your recall. For each food – see it, touch it, smell it, taste it.
As you read this story, project yourself into the situation, and associate each food image with the level of thinking it represents. Try to make your journey as real as possible by making each a “movie in your mind.” Read – close your eyes – imagine it. Let’s do it!
The Six Foods in Your Kitchen
To begin this, imagine you are walking into your kitchen. Picture your own kitchen and imagine each object and connect it to a level in Bloom. This uses the linking method to help you remember each level in sequence.
ONE: On the counter you are surprised to see a Reese’s peanut butter cup in its orange wrapper and yellow letters. You are really hungry, so you tear it open and take a bite. Reese’s provide the first two letters to the first level of “REmember.” The first level is sweet and chocolatey. Picture it, taste it, try adding another sense where you feel a little sticky chocolate stuck to your 2nd and 3rd fingers! Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups = Remember.
Stop reading for a moment and take time to create your video in your mind.
TWO: After you finish the Reese’s, you are still hungry and now hope for something savory. You look to another counter in your kitchen and you are surprised someone has fixed you a big hot steaming bowl of fat Chinese Udon noodles! Yum! Smell the savory steam coming off the bowl. Picture a big spoon in the bowl just waiting for you to pick it up. The first letters of each word of Udon Noodles stands for the second level of thinking – UNderstanding.
If this does not resonate with you pick another food that has the two letters – Unagi or a U-No candy bar. You must find something you connect to and will remember. But still follow the rule of engaging several of your senses. Udon = Understand.
Again, stop reading, close your eyes, and create a video of this in your mind.
THREE: Now for the next level. After taking a few bites of the savory soup, you now crave something sweet! Now you notice a familiar smell, turn around and behold –someone has made you a fresh homemade hot apple pie! Bless their heart! It’s right there on the counter and it looks really great. Smell it. O-h-h-h-h yum! You take a bite and the you notice the taste of the fresh apples feels so luxurious, and you can also feel the flaky texture of the crust! Apple Pie = Apply. You got it!
You might be thinking – this is not only weird but really unusual. Does it seem like no one ever cooks for you? How lucky you are today!
FOUR: But your luck will change as you continue the kitchen journey, it’s going to get a little gross, but that’s OK as you will never forget the 4th level.
After pie, you somehow still crave something sweet. Now look what this mysterious person has prepared for you– chocolate covered ants! There’s a plate with four of them neatly arranged in a symmetrical pattern sitting right over there on your kitchen table. Yuk. But – go ahead walk over and pick one up. You feel how strange these tiny little bites are – even the little antlers are dipped in dark chocolate. Strange – the more vivid you make it the better. Maybe you take a bite – or – maybe not. You think – “How can anyone eat this?” This become our 4th level of thinking. Chocolate Covered Ants lying on a plate = Analyze.
If you can’t relate to this, then substitute something else. Try Robert DeNiro in the 1999 movie “Analyze This.”
Stop and create your video in your mind.
FIVE: So, you put down that remaining half of the little critter and you move on. Yuk. (Sorry I had to do one thing gross). You are now ready to find something healthy and normal that you really might want to eat later. The mysterious cook has left another gift for you. You notice a nice bottle of extra virgin olive oil. Find a place you can picture – maybe it’s sitting on your wooden cutting board. But it’s not any kind of oil, because you likely won’t remember that – it has to be something very special for you – it’s extra virgin! So, picture a big fancy and expensive bottle of extra virgin olive oil (maybe with a little Italian flag on it) – it has to be memorable! Extra Virgin Olive Oil = Evaluate
If you have a favorite olive oil, incorporate it into your video to make it more real.
SIX: Last one. This is the highest level of thinking. You are almost at the end of your kitchen journey. It’s time for some dessert! You look around and someone has left you a Nestle Crunch candy bar! It’s the gigantic size. Picture yourself holding it in both hands. It’s not any candy bar – it’s the Crunch with the red letters and the blue and white wrapper. You need another sense to remember it – maybe you feel the bumps underneath the wrapper. Perhaps you open it and take a bite – remember the taste. But uh-oh, it’s the really big size – maybe you should hide it from the kids! After all, this is your own reward for this journey. You are at the top of the pyramid. Nestle Crunch = Create.
If that’s too many sweets in one day, you can try crackers. But you’ll need to picture your favorite crackers or otherwise you’ll have to work hard to find a memorable image.
After picturing this video, you can stop the exercise.
To help you start the transfer of this into long term memory, you will want to review what you just created. Go back and without looking, revisit your kitchen journey videos. Include all your sensory experiences. Do this several times and it will become a tool you can quickly recall. To help you add this to your memory – you start and end with candy. Review it several times today, and several time tomorrow, and you will have started to establish it into your long term memory.
Now you have a way to recall Bloom’s Taxonomy whenever you need it for your homeschooling! Using Bloom will help you be a better and more confident instructor.
See the Quick Reference Chart at the end of this article.
Let’s further illustrate the taxonomy by showing how it might be applied in a classroom situation. This idea was cleverly developed by another researcher, but I don’t remember the source. Review each and compare it to the pyramid chart.
Let’s take the classic – Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Hopefully you know this story, so I won’t have to explain it to you! If you were teaching a lesson on Goldilocks, you would select exercises that would focus on each of the six levels.
Remember, you would want to start building thinking at the R level and work up as you observe your child demonstrates thinking skills at that level.
Remember: Ask – where did Goldilocks live? What kind of house was it? What kind of animals did she run into? How many?
Understand: Ask – Can you summarize what the Goldilocks story was about?
Apply: Construct a theory of why Goldilocks went to the house. Ask – Why do the different bears prefer different temperatures of soup?
Analyze: Differentiate between how Goldilocks reacted and how you would react in each event. Ask – What would you do if you were Goldilocks?
Evaluate: Assess whether or not you think this really happened to Goldilocks. Ask – Do you think the baby bear was harmed by this experience? Why?
Create: Compose a poem, song, skit, or rap to convey the story in a new form. Identify other situations in life where there is too little, too much and just right.
Get the idea? It’s simple, but powerful. Some of the best teaching ideas are the easiest to learn. This is one of them.
Good ideas serve you only when you practice them. You’ll become a better instructor when you started using Bloom’s Taxonomy. Start now by taking your very next lesson and building a list of better questions and activities you will ask your child to do. Remember that each level builds on the knowledge you have established in prior levels, so you will want to use this in a building block approach.
Here’s your key points:
- There are six levels of cognitive development. Know them. Use them.
- You begin at the bottom and build higher levels on the knowledge and skills below.
- Thinking about the levels of the taxonomy will make you a better instructor.
- Blooms Taxonomy is useful for planning your lessons and preparing better questions.
- Blooms Taxonomy will help you plan for better learning outcomes.
- The taxonomy will help you “think on your feet” to better respond to teachable moments as you teach.
- Revisit your kitchen journey in your mind several times over several days until you commit it to long-term memory.
- Use your quick reference chart as a reference when you plan.
Benjamin Bloom and the educators he worked with in 1956 classified the behaviors associated with new information, defining what they expected students to exhibit at the conclusion of a lesson series. What they developed was a list of objectives that were arranged from the simplest to the most complex, or from factual to conceptual (Slavin, 2009, p.413)
Bloom’s Quick Reference Chart
This chart inverts Bloom’s pyramid – you start your memory journey at the top.