More Than English: Teaching Language & Content to ELLs

Resources for teaching English Language Development (ELD)

Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

What is Bloom’s Taxonomy?

Bloom’s Taxonomy in its various forms represents the process of learning.  It was developed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom and modified during the 1990’s by a new group of cognitive psychologists, led by Lorin Anderson (a former student of Bloom’s) to make it relevant to the 21st century.  

The revised taxonomy emphasizes what a learner “Can Do” so the stages are now represented as verbs:

We must remember a concept before we can understand it.
We must understand a concept before we can apply it.
We must be able to apply a concept before we analyze it.
We must have analyzed a concept before we can evaluate it.
We must have remembered, understood, applied, analyzed, and evaluated a concept before we can create.

So how do I use this in the classroom?

We need to “teach to the highest and scaffold the lowest”  students of all ages and levels of English proficiency.  Post large visuals of each stage with examples of the explanatory supporting verbs.  Click on any verb for ready-made posters that you can print out.  You can mount each verb on colored paper that matches the colors in the wheel below.  (Set printer on “landscape.”)

Remember       Understand       Apply       Analyze     Evaluate      Create

Model what each means for your students in the context of a lesson. I keep these sample questions and activities posted in my classroom as a constant visual reminder for myself and for my students.

It is useful to picture Bloom’s taxonomy as a wheel since all stages are not required for every lesson and every lesson does not necessarily lead to “Creating.”  You can print the “the wheel deal” for your classroom or student notebooks.


Bloom Wheel Deal w DOK thumbnailWhile you are teaching, get in the habit of pointing out how what your class is doing relates to Bloom’s. Pretty soon your students will do it themselves, “Look, we are working on this level!”

My fourth grade ELLs pulled together what they had learned about explorers (Sample lesson plan.) by creating a Bloom Ball, a dodecahedron made of 12 pentagons, two for each level of Bloom’s taxonomy.  I created a Bloom Ball Template for Explorers with instructions on how to complete each pentagon.  (You can enter your own instructions to customize the template.)  Then we made a movie about their project, “What in the World is a Bloom Ball?”

From the students’ point of view:  Engage me!

“Engage me!”  Pupils from Robin Hood primary school in Birmingham, (UK) worked with a film crew from the National College for School Leadership to express their desire to use their favorite technologies for learning in school.

For another take,  Homer Simpson Demonstrates the Six Levels of Cognitive Thinking.

From a teacher’s point of view:  Flip This!

Flip This! Bloom’s Taxonomy Should Start with Creating.  Shelley Wright writes convincingly that we are shortchanging students by starting at the bottom of the pyramid.  In this article, she explains how she begins lessons in graphic design, science, and language arts at the top  – by putting Creating, Evaluating, Analyzing, and Applying first.

Useful resources

Author: Samantha Penney,

What is Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK)?

DOK, based on the research of Norman Webb,  is a scale that measures the level of cognitive demand (thinking) or complexity of items on state assessments.  The intent is to ensure that teachers teach to the highest level of student achievement according to each standard, and that the assessment of student achievement matches the standard.  It is not about the actual verbs, rather the context in which the verb is used and the depth of thinking required to answer the question.
  • Questions at the lower levels are used for:  evaluating students’ preparation and comprehension; diagnosing students’ strengths and weaknesses; and reviewing and/or summarizing content.
  • Questions at higher levels are used  for:  encouraging students to think deeply and critically; problem-solving; encouraging discussions; stimulating students to seek information on their own.
DOK Bloom's Comparison

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