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Benjamin Bloom (1956) developed a classification of levels of intellectual behavior in learning. This
taxonomy contained three overlapping domains: the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective. Within the
cognitive domain, he identified six levels: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and
evaluation. These domains and levels are still useful today as you develop the critical thinking skills of your

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking involves logical thinking and reasoning including skills such as comparison, classification,
sequencing, cause/effect, patterning, webbing, analogies, deductive and inductive reasoning, forecasting,
planning, hypothesizing, and critiquing.

Creative thinking involves creating something new or original. It involves the skills of flexibility, originality,
fluency, elaboration, brainstorming, modification, imagery, associative thinking, attribute listing,
metaphorical thinking, forced relationships. The aim of creative thinking is to stimulate curiosity and
promote divergence.

While critical thinking can be thought of as more left-brain and creative thinking more right brain, they both
involve "thinking." When we talk about HOTS "higher-order thinking skills" we're concentrating on the top
three levels of Bloom's Taxonomy: analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.


collect describe identify list show tell tabulate

define examine label name retell state quote

enumerate match read record reproduce copy select

Examples: dates, events, places, vocabulary, key ideas, parts of diagram, 5Ws


associate compare distinguish extend interpret predict differentiate

contrast describe discuss estimate group summarize order

cite convert explain paraphrase restate trace

Examples: find meaning, transfer, interpret facts, infer cause & consequence, examples

apply classify change illustrate solve demonstrate

calculate complete solve modify show experiment

relate discover act administer articulate chart

collect compute construct determine develop establish

prepare produce report teach transfer use

Examples: use information in new situations, solve problems


analyze arrange connect divide infer separate

classify compare contrast explain select order

breakdown correlate diagram discriminate focus illustrate

infer outline prioritize subdivide points out prioritize

Examples: recognize and explain patterns and meaning, see parts and wholes


combine compose generalize modify invent plan substitute

create formulate integrate rearrange design speculate rewrite

adapt anticipate collaborate compile devise express facilitate

reinforce structure substitute intervene negotiate reorganize validate

Examples: discuss "what if" situations, create new ideas, predict and draw conclusions


assess compare decide discriminate measure rank test

convince conclude explain grade judge summarize support

appraise criticize defend persuade justify reframe

Examples: make recommendations, assess value and make choices, critique ideas

Affective Domain

Domain Attributes: interpersonal relations, emotions, attitudes, appreciations, and values id

accepts attempts challenges defends disputes joins judges

contributes praises questions shares supports volunteers

Activities for Each Level of Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom's Taxonomy, created by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom in 1953, is a six-tier pyramid of
learning levels beginning with knowledge as the basis of learning. Knowledge is built upon by
comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation, with each skill increasing a student's
conceptual understanding of a topic or field of study and experience.


The first level of Bloom's Taxonomy refers to basic knowledge through defining, memorization,
duplicating and listing. Activities that exemplify this level include reciting the ABCs, tracing letters
over dotted lines, copying down the definitions of vocabulary words, listing spelling words
repeatedly, writing basic facts onto flashcards for memorization, copying teacher notes during class,
reciting a poem or listing characters' names from a story or book.


Comprehension is the understanding of material through discussions, explanations, classification,

descriptions, identification and reporting. Comprehension activities include matching letters to words
that begin with the letter, writing sentences that exemplify the correct usage of vocabulary words,
summarizing a story event verbally or in written form, identifying which formula to use to solve a
math problem and determining which locales are north, south, east or west.


Application means that a student can apply his knowledge. Classroom activities such as illustrating
or acting out a scene from a story, charading a vocabulary word, answering a multiple-choice
question based on a graph, writing a book report, creating a diorama that demonstrates an animal's
habitat or a biome and using a graphic organizer to brainstorm the plot of a fiction story exemplify
ways students can apply knowledge.

Analyzing requires students to distinguish, compare, contrast, examine and experiment to
understand similarities and differences. Activities include implementing Venn diagrams or T-charts to
compare and contrast concepts such as characters, animals, places, weather and shapes.
Analytical activities such as creating a survey question for a data analysis project, graphing
information, conducting hands-on science experiments, creating a timeline of events, investigating
topics on the Internet and writing biographical or expository essays allow students to test and
question findings.


Synthesis refers to the evaluation level of learning. Activities that implement evaluation include class
debates which require students to take a stance and defend a position with facts. Writing fact-based
persuasive essays using research such as statistics and persuasive vocabulary add to evaluation.
Students can support and defend the hypothesis of a science experiment or math probability
question through a presentation, charted outcomes or written essays. Students can create drawn or
acted-out advertisements for a product or campaign or can create a play or puppet show that
explores a given topic, fictional idea or historical event.


The evaluation step of Bloom's Taxonomy refers to a student's ability to use all levels of knowledge
gained to create, assemble or construct. Activities that exemplify this level include graphing the
responses to a survey question using various types of graphs, writing an article on a given topic with
research-based information and a bibliography, making a map of historical trade routes and
explaining the effect and implication of each route, creating wind-powered movement using fans and
matchbox cars to show a more economical and "green" form of energy and defending or speaking
against a school or societal practice on a panel, through debate or a written essay.

Story Time

Critical thinking occurs when teachers challenge their students. Teachers can teach higher-order-
thinking skills to their preschoolers through the questions they ask after reading a story during circle
time -- questions like, "Which part of the story did you like best," followed by "How come?" Another
question to challenge your preschool students is, "Can you think of another way the story could
have ended?" or "Do you like the way the story ended?" These questions encourage a deeper level
of thinking while keeping the activity age-appropriate and in line with the curriculum.

Hoop Game

Preschoolers can easily understand the concept of the hoop game, although finding a solution to
the problem requires deeper thinking and working with their classmates. Try to break your students
into groups no larger than six. Place two hula hoops side by side on the floor. Instruct your students
to put all of their orange dinosaurs inside one hoop and all the T-Rex dinosaurs in the other hoop.
Students will meet their challenge when they discover that one of the dinosaurs is an orange T-Rex.
Listen to the ideas your students come up with. Encourage their communication and suggestions
without directing. Ask your students, without giving the answer, if they can think of a way to put both
hoops together so the orange T-Rex is in both hoops. If needed, show them how to do this.

Which One's Missing

This game is best played one-on-one or in small groups. Another alternative is to divide your class
into small groups and play as teams. Place five or six objects such as colorful ducks or toy cars in a
row on the table. Have your students study the objects for about 30 seconds. Instruct them to close
their eyes and take one object away. As students improve, take more objects away. Push the
objects closer together to close the gap. The students' job is to tell you what is missing and where in
line it was.


Making patterns is an excellent thinking activity and can be used with individual students or an
entire group. If students become confused during the process, repeat the pattern then ask, "Now
what?" Colorful wooden blocks can be set up for students to continue the pattern, or verbal
directions can be given to make a pattern with blocks. Students can create their own patterns and
verbalize them to you. They can work in small groups to create complex patterns. Worksheets can
be used to color patterns. Felt boards with colorful shapes work well, too. Students can also create
jewelry patterns with multi-colored beads. These can serve as a wonderful gift for mom.